Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Anytime Pumpkin Pie

After the Thanksgiving and holiday rush on pumpkin pie, a few more months pass before we make it again. When it starts to feel like summer's almost here, we always realize we still have a few of last summer's pumpkins sitting decoratively on the counter, and we finally make the last few batches of pumpkin pie before the growing season begins anew. We love the vegetabley goodness of pumpkin pie with garden pumpkins absolutely any time of year, and this is my go-to recipe.

Pumpkins and squash sitting decoratively in the kitchen.

Pumpkin in the garden, Summer 2012.
We don't do anything unusual to store our pumpkins---we just leave them out in the kitchen, and they keep beautifully without any wilting or rotting until March. Our house stays a pretty consistent cool temperature, though, from 66 to 70 degrees all year long, which may help the pumpkins keep for longer.

Pumpkin as table decoration, Fall 2012.

This pumpkin was picked in October, butchered in March.

I had a little extra pie crust after making these 9" pies, so I made an impromptu blueberry pie with frozen blueberries. Note that it's not necessary to check for doneness by cutting into the pie, leaving behind a gash, if you don't want to spoil the appearance.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

This was originally adapted from epicurious.com. I should mention that I am baking at 6,900 ft, so all recipes are implicitly tested at this altitude and untested at low altitude. In the case of pumpkin pie, it might affect baking time but likely little else. 

Makes 2 pies

1 sugar pie pumpkin, kabocha squash, or other sweet winter squash
2 pie crusts*
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp Chinese 5-Spice (one of the dominant flavors in this is clove, so you can substitute ground clove if you don't have it)
1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 Tbsp dark molasses
1 Tbsp maple syrup
4 eggs, whisked
1 cup milk (any fat content; I often use nonfat)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut the pumpkin in half; clean out seeds. I don't worry too much about removing strings; it gets puréed in the food processor, and I haven't had any problem with residual stringiness. Set the pumpkin seeds aside (see below). Cut each half into a few smaller pieces and set skin-down on a baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes or until tender.

Allow the pumpkin to cool, and re-set oven to pre-heat to 450 F. Press your pie crust into a pie dish (I've used both 10" glass pie pan and 9" tin pie pans, both will work but the 10" should be shallower and cook for less time, obviously. Because the filling will be shallower, don't bring the pie crust all the way up and over the rim of the 10" pan, or the crust sticking up way above the filling will burn.) Overall, the pie looks better and has a better filling-to-crust ratio when prepared in a 9" pie pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, sugar, flour, salt, and the four spices.

When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and drop the flesh into the food processor to purée. If the food processor struggles to purée the pumpkin because it's too dry, add some of 1 cup milk. Purée until smooth.

Add the pumpkin, molasses, maple syrup, whisked eggs, and milk to the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter into the two prepared pie crusts. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 335 F and continue baking for 45-55 minutes. Check occasionally. The pie is done when it doesn't jiggle if you tap the pie tin. You can also check for doneness by inserting a knife but that will leave an expanding gash in the top of your pie, as in the picture above.

* Crust: I like Trader Joe's all-butter pie crusts so much that I don't bother making my own anymore, but you should go ahead and use whatever pie crust you desire. Really, truly, Trader Joe's pie crust blows other pre-made crusts out of the water (let me know if you find other amazing store-bought crusts, though!). I use them for making quick work of pies and savory quiches both. The TJ's crusts are defrosted before using and pressed into your own pie pan. The instructions on the TJ's pie crust box are terrible; it takes way longer than 1.5 hours for the crust to defrost from freezing to pliable at room temperature. Plan ahead and defrost the crust earlier. If the crust breaks as you press it into the pan, it's no problem; just stitch it back together with your fingertips and it will come out just fine.

If you have extra purée, you can freeze it, but I
find that stored pumpkin never tastes as
good as freshly puréed. 

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Toss the pumpkin seeds with 2 tsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, ground pepper to taste, and a dash of cayenne pepper to taste (about 1/8 tsp is spicy to my taste). Spread in a baking pan. While the pumpkin is roasting for your pie at 400 F, put the smaller pan of seeds in the oven as well. Set your timer for 13 minutes and begin checking every few minutes at that point, shaking the pan as you check; they burn easily. Cook for about 15 minutes total, or until just a few have begun to turn dark brown. If too many are browned, the batch will taste burnt.

Unshelled pumpkin seeds will be a little tough, but with just the right amount of salt and spice, they're still highly addictive.

Toasted pumpkin seeds.