Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Signature Pumpkin Pie Recipe

This Thanksgiving, I didn’t cook a turkey. I never do. Our 2009 holiday celebration meal consisted of sautéed Kale with cranberries and roasted chestnuts (find the recipe at Elana's Pantry), and for the main course: Pumpkin pie!

Pumpkin pie is my one culinary “specialty”. I didn’t learn how to make a traditional pumpkin pie from my mother, I have pursued and developed my own signature style of pumpkin pie making. In my 20s and 30s, I would buy pumpkins in the fall, cook them up, and go into pie production. Sometimes I gave pies away or brought them to holiday pot-lucks, but mostly Ion (my spouse at the time) and I just ate them. We would cut a pie into quarters and each have a quarter-pie for breakfast. After work (yes, I did used to have a “job”) we’d each have another quarter, finishing off the pie. That’s one pie per day. Now you see the need for pie production! I’d mix up filling for 4 pies at a time and buy frozen crusts (making pie crust always seemed like a poor expenditure of my time). I had a full size oven in those days. But I didn’t believe in “kitchen appliances”, so the pumpkin didn’t get pureed, just kind of mashed up. The texture of “real” pumpkin is quite good, and gave the pies a very interesting “signature style”.

My pumpkin pie’s signature style has evolved over the years, as any artist’s work will. Now, I have a stick blender that makes the mixing go much faster, and my pies have a smoother texture. My current kitchen is very tiny, and the oven is a miniature convection oven with barely enough room inside for a pie pan. Fortunately, over the years I have also lost the desire to have a quarter of a pumpkin pie for breakfast, so the oven’s size is not too much of a limitation. I do still usually refuse to spend my time making pie crust. The store-bought ones (organic ingredients, real butter) come in packages of 2, so my recipe makes 2 pies. My sister, Sue, periodically inspires me to try making pie crust. She makes an awesome, great tasting crust! Her secrets? Three things: King Arthur flour, real butter, and room temperature ingredients.

Pumpkin pie is healthy food. Vegetables are good for us, and my pies are heavy on the squash. I always use fresh organically grown pumpkin, acorn, butternut, or any other kind of squash. Any squash will do. I’ve even made good pies with carrots when our garden produced an abundant harvest. Eggs are from local farms where the chickens really do run free and eat bugs. Extra eggs make this pie “low carb”, and a good source of protein. Yogurt is home-made (by me) from fresh, raw, local goat milk. Local honey is supposed to be healthy, in moderation, and I do prefer a less-sweet pie.

There is nothing quite as good as a warm piece of pumpkin pie with melting vanilla ice cream! So much for the “moderation”….. Life is short – eat dessert first!

CD’s Signature Pumpkin Pie

Makes 2 pies

4c pumpkin or other squash
8t spice* (mix below)
6 eggs
1t salt
2c yogurt or 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk (full fat, low fat, goat, cow, etc)
1 – 1 1/2c honey, agave, maple syrup, barley malt syrup, etc**
1/4c molasses
2 unbaked pie crusts of choice

mix spices with pumpkin, then mix in everything but the milk or yogurt. Add milk or yogurt last. Mixing can be with fork (for lots of pumpkin texture), egg beater, or an electric mixer (for smoothest texture).
Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350ºF for 40 – 50 minutes (until pie is solid when jiggled). In my oven, I need to cover the edges of the crust with foil (not the filling of the pie, just the exposed edges of crust) to keep the crust from burning. Baking time and crust burning tendencies seem to vary widely according to the oven in question. I hear that some folks need to start the baking with the oven at 375º for 15 minutes to brown the crust. I seem to have the opposite problem.

Keep in mind that I am used to baking at 5300’MSL. Lower altitudes might have different results (let me know if you find this to be true….).

*spice mix:

1 part Nutmeg
2 parts Cloves
8 parts Cinnamon
8 parts Ginger (powdered)

**The amount of sweetener is a matter of personal taste. Some like a sweeter pie, some don’t. I like it less sweet, planning to add sweetened whipped cream, yogurt, or ice cream. I currently use 1 cup of honey for the sweetener in this recipe.

Barley malt is less sweet, so more is needed. With maple syrup, it is a good idea to eliminate the molasses so it doesn’t overpower the maple.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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