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Pumpkin Pie, Revisited

[Pumpkin pie, for the office, November 2008.]

In addition to baking biscuits on Sunday afternoon I also baked a pumpkin pie. I thought I’d deviate from my usual — using the recipe on the back of the can of pumpkin puree as my guide and no, in the interest of time I don’t usually roast a pumpkin and use it in my pie though I promise that would taste so much better, truly — and scoured gourmet.com for a recipe. In the latest issue there’s a recipe for a pumpkin tarte with an anise seed crust that I will file away for next year because yeah. But instead I went with a version from a few years ago that called for caramelizing the sugar before mixing it into the pumpkin puree, and used heavy whipping cream rather than evaporated milk. I was intrigued.

And, you know, it was pretty good. The crust especially was delicious, maybe also because I’ve not been making a butter crust recently (olive oil, most of the time), the filling smooth and sweet. I missed the taste of the caramelized sugar, though, and I don’t think it’s because I didn’t boil down the syrup enough, and if I made this again I’d probably up the spice quota a bit to give it more of a kick, but overall it was just fine.

I brought it in to work yesterday and my coworkers gobbled it up with no complaints which seems to me a good mark of success. Tonight I’ll make another pie the old-fashioned way, so I’ll have to taste-test and see which I like better. It could just be I’m used to the other recipe — or it could be that this one just wasn’t the very best. Either way though, you could definitely serve this pie at dinner tomorrow and end up with no leftovers.

You know how I feel about pumpkins so I don’t need to go on about them yet again, but suffice it to say pumpkin pie is one of my very favorite desserts and I don’t even like pie, really. I’m pretty excited for tomorrow. On my agenda for tonight is an apple pie and a pumpkin, vegetarian gravy, and cornbread for the dressing I’ll make tomorrow — which doesn’t sound too bad (mom’s doing the bulk of the cooking this year). The applesauce is taken care of and if the rain holds off I’ll be able to sneak in a quick 6 miles before all the feasting begins.

What are you making for Thanksgiving dinner?

Caramel Pumpkin Pie, from Gourmet

For pastry

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

For filling

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 cups heavy cream
1 (15-oz) can solid-pack pumpkin (not pie filling; a scant 2 cups)
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Make dough:

Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 4 tablespoons ice water and gently stir with a fork (or pulse in processor) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated, then test again. (Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.)

Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all of dough together with scraper and press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Chill dough, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14-inch round, then fit into quiche pan and trim excess dough flush with rim of pan. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Bake pie shell:

Lightly prick bottom of shell all over with a fork, then line with foil and fill with pie weights. Put quiche pan on a baking sheet and bake pie shell until side is set and edge is pale golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil and bake shell until bottom is golden, about 10 minutes more. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes.

Make filling while shell cools:

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 3- to 3 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup, washing down side of pan occasionally with a pastry brush dipped in cold water and gently swirling pan (do not stir), until mixture is a deep golden caramel, about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to moderate and carefully add 1 cup cream (mixture will bubble vigorously), stirring until caramel is dissolved. Stir in remaining cup cream and bring just to a simmer.

Whisk together pumpkin purée, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in hot cream mixture, then add eggs, whisking until combined well. Pour filling into cooled crust and bake until puffed 1 1/2 inches from edge and center is just set, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack, about 2 hours. (Pie will continue to set as it cools.) Remove side of pan before serving.

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