Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fresh pumpkin pie

Remember those pumpkins that Ben and I picked when Crystal+Manasa were in Seattle visiting? They've been decorations for our house and Crystal's house up until Thanksgiving and Christmas, at which point they were turned into pies. Delicious pies!

In searching for the best fresh pumpkin pie recipe, I remembered my friend Heather posted on fb a link to this pie, proclaiming an exceptionally smooth texture and balanced flavor. For me personally, the pros: calls for cream/milk and sugar instead of condensed milk, and the cons: very labor intensive. First I washed the pumpkin, cut it in half, removed the seeds (and saved them for planting next year!) and roasted the pumpkin upside down at 400 for 45 minutes.
Cinderella pumpkin (brilliant red on the outside, although it doesn't turn up well in the photo)
Chop chop!

After the roasting, the flesh inside the pumpkin was really soft, but probably retained too much moisture for a pie. To fix this, I used a strainer and let the puree sit in the refrigerator for ~2 hours. As the puree was drying in the refrigerator, it was time to make the crust! My grandmother taught me to make pie crust, and I remember her constantly reminding me that the water needed to be as cold as possible so that the crust would be flaky. The way she did it (I do the same now) is to put ice cubes in a measuring cup with water, and then add a tablespoon at a time, usually adding less water than you think you would need. I have read blogs proclaiming the flakiness of dough made with vodka instead of water. Maybe one day I'll switch to that, but it would require keeping plain vodka in the house, which probably wouldn't be used. (Although after hard liquor group meeting, I have 3/4 of a handle of rum leftover...any ideas?). I was following the recipe exactly (used 1/2 whole wheat flour), and it calls for using a bowl 12" in diameter to cut the crust. Generally I just put the entire crust over the pan and cut to trim, but I was trying to follow the recipe exactly so I cut a 12" circle of crust and folded it into the pan.
See the wine bottle that I used as a rolling pin? Ben finally got so frustrated that I kept leaving tiny bits of flour on the wine bottles that he got me a rolling pin for Christmas :D.
Perfect circle - see those beautiful chunks of butter?
And shaped it in the pan.
I used pie weights to weigh the crust down and prebaked it. And... it was horrible. The crust sank to the point that I couldn't see the edge at all. It was essentially a flat layer of crust at the bottom of the pan. I was so sad that I couldn't even take a picture. But trust me, it was really sad. Although after all that work, there was no way I was going to make another one.

After the pie crust fiasco, at least the puree was straining properly in the fridge.
When it went into the fridge - I squished it down into the strainer.
Look at all that water! At least it isn't in the pie.
For the filling, the original recipe from Cook's Illustrated claims that cooking the pumpkin/candied yams together in a pot before going into the pie shell intensifies the pumpkin flavor. I don't have a great photo of this, since I was adding all the ingredients and heating/stirring. But here is my best attempt:

It did smell delicious as it was cooking, so I think it was worth it. After following the recipe exactly, are you ready for the part where I deviate? (You know it was going to happen). (1) I don't have a fine mesh sieve to press the mixture through and (2) even if I did, it sounds like such a pain that it was just not going to work for me. However, I do have a food processor, which I thought would work to smooth out the mixture. It was a bit of a messy process, but the filling came out beautifully smooth after 2 minutes or so in the processor! I'm really glad that I decided not to try the sieve. You know what this teaches me? Following the recipe can be a bad idea (crust), and using your experience/personal preferences usually works better (food processor). With the leftover crust I shaped different leaf shapes for the top (since I didn't have a crust edge to be pretty), although it really would have been easier with cookie cutters. And the pie? It was perfectly smooth and pumpkiny, worth the extra effort in my opinion.


2 comments:

Laineybug said...

Yay congrats on the rolling pin! My ex roommate stole mine, I have yet to buy another. =) How did you shape the pie crust so nicely? I wonder how it sunk into the bottom of the pan though! I haven't had that problem yet. And lastly, go Cutco! =D

Carolyn Valdez said...

I just used my finger and thumb to shape the crust, nothing fancy. I think it may have sunk to the bottom because it was too small - if it had an extra 1/2 inch or so on the edge, it probably wouldn't have. eeps!