Special for you: My pumpkin pie recipe

Yesterday, I made two pumpkin pies. One recipe was from the Joy of Cooking and the other was from our 1957 Betty Crocker cookbook. Except I added molasses to the latter. They were both good, but not, in my opinion, amazing. Since I cooked two pumpkins last weekend I have, no kidding, something like a gallon of fresh pumpkin puree. I also had two extra pie crust balls since last night I made enough for 4 pies (assuming single crust.)

For that reason, I left the left over pies at my brother’s house, with the intention of making more. Which I did tonight.

A couple of things in advance. You can totally use canned pumpkin for this, but it’s really easy to cook and puree your own, provided you have a food processor. Pureed pumpkin freezes really well, by the way. You can also use a prepared pie crust. I use the Joy of Cooking pie crust recipe, with the exception that where it says to add water, use water from a cup you have a lot of ice in so that the water is really, really, really cold. This is the key to a pie crust dough that is not too sticky to roll out.

My pie crust was the two dough balls from last night which I had wrapped in saran wrap and left in the fridge overnight. At first I thought it was going to be way too difficult to work since it was no longer room temperature. However, I found that removing the wrap and microwaving my dough ball for 15 seconds returned to dough to malleability. Here’s the fascinating part: This pie crust dough was a billion times easier to roll out and get into the pan. It was really easy. Probably a real baker knows why that is.

Anyway. I used two nine-inch pans. I cooked the pie crust for 12 minutes at 450. I do have pie weights. (cover the crust with aluminum foil and put your pie weights on the foil.) Then, provided you have all the ingredients to hand, the rest takes about 15-20 minutes. When your pie crusts are done, remove to cool, then turn the oven down to 425.

Please note I’m giving you my best approximation of the amount of spices. Mostly, as long as you keep things proportional and don’t go crazy with something strong like clove, you really can’t go wrong. If you don’t have allspice, use nutmeg, but reduce the amount. Nutmeg is a strong spice. I just realized I omitted salt. I didn’t miss it at all. Probably you should use no more than a tsp. But I always under-salt as I prefer the taste of less salted food. You can adjust the proportions of the spices depending on your tastes.

The Pie

Ingredients – For Two Pies

4 cups of pumpkin puree
3 cups of heavy whipping cream
6 eggs – slightly beaten
4 tbs dark molasses
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
4-5 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp clove
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper

Put the pumpkin in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Stir it a bit till it seems like it’s getting hot. Add the spices only and stir your pumpkin for a bit. You want things to warm up and blend thoroughly. Add the molasses and keep stirring. You are not cooking anything, you’re just heating up the pumpkin and letting the spices absorb. If you use fresh pumpkin, you may need to stir a little longer as it will probably be wetter than canned. Regardless, this doesn’t take long at all.

Add the sugar and stir some more. Don’t let it sit, and do scrape the sides down often.

Add the cream and stir a lot, until blended.

Add a couple cups of the pumpkin mixture to your slightly beaten eggs and blend thoroughly. Pour this back into your sauce pan and blend thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into your pie pans. Cover the edges of the pie with aluminum foil and put in the oven. (Next time I might just lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the pies as I think it would be neater, less work, and also prevent hotter spots from developing on the surface.)

Cook for 15 minutes at 425 then reduce the heat to 350 and cook for 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Let cool.
My pies were done (both times) at exactly 40 minutes.

A Few notes

The consensus at my bother’s was that the pie with molasses was more flavorful, and it was. Molasses really compliments the ginger and clove. The other one was creamier, but, to be honest, I thought the spices were too subtle. I made both pies with half and half, and I felt that I should have used heavy cream or evaporated milk, the half-and-half was not quite rich enough. The difference between the two recipes from yesterday was 3 eggs and less cream, or 2 eggs and more cream. I felt the 3 egg version was slightly better in texture.

Neither of the other two recipes called for heating the pumpkin (but I did that anyway). The pouring some of the pumpkin into the eggs, mixing and pouring back, is so often done with custard-based pies that are cooked, that I figured I would play it safe and do that with this version. I didn’t with the others, and those pies were good. This pie was awesome, so I wouldn’t skip that part.

My challenge tonight was achieving a combination of the two recipes that would give me a richer, zestier flavor with a smooth texture. So, as you can see, I went with more eggs and slightly less cream. I also used heavy whipping cream, but evaporated milk would probably have been fine, as it, too, is very rich and flavorful.

Cayenne pepper is the secret weapon of pumpkin recipes. That wasn’t in either of yesterday’s recipes, but cayenne pepper is a wonderful compliment when you want subtly zippy flavor for a pumpkin pie or soup.

I also changed the proportion of granulated sugar to brown sugar. Both of yesterday’s recipes used more granulated sugar and less brown sugar. I swapped those proportions. The taste of brown sugar is what you want in pumpkin pie.

Cooking your own pumpkin

This is really easy. Preheat oven to 325. Halve and scoop out a pumpkin. Arrange, rind side up, on an oiled cookie sheet. One with a rim is best, as there will be some water cooked out. Rub some olive oil over the outside of the pumpkin. Cook for 1.5-2 hours, until very soft. The skin will peel off easily if you’ve cooked it long enough. Puree the pulp in a food processor. (Remove the skin!)

Voila. Done.

It will keep in the fridge for 5 days or so. Freeze in 2 and 4 cup amounts if you’re not going to use it all pretty quickly.

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6 Responses to “Special for you: My pumpkin pie recipe”

  1. Poppy says:

    Love your spice mix, especially the pepper.
    Pie crust is usually easier to roll the next day because the moisture has had a chance to disperse evenly throughout the dough. I use Julia Child’s recipe from Baking with Julia. I always did the food processor variation, but last year I was making a full recipe, which was too big for my Cuisinart, so I used the stand mixer variation and I’ve never made a better crust. I think the smearing action of the paddle works the butter better into the flour than the cutting action of the blade. I’m surprised your molasses version set properly. Usually molasses in a custard means curdled cream. I wonder if the pumpkin changed the chemical reaction? I’m definitely going to try yours next year!

    • Oh, thanks! I guess that means I should make all my pie crusts the day before. Someone else was telling me about the Child recipe. I’ll have to track that down. There are a lot of pumpkin pie recipes that call for molasses. For years, my mom made a great one. I need to ask her if she remembers which recipe she used. Her recipe, though, didn’t call for heating (until it was in the oven) so I wonder if the molasses just doesn’t interfere with the cooking the way it might if you were cooking a custard over the stove. I never did let mine get very hot.

  2. DawnD says:

    Lifesaver! I bake all sorts of things but never pumpkin from the gourd. Perfect timing.

    I have often heard that chilling the pie crust makes it easier to work with, although I myself am often too impatient.

    I use paprika instead of the pepper. No idea where or how I came up with that. In some areas I’ve devolved into one of those sprinkle, taste, modify and eat cooks. Every now and again my husband makes me write things down.

    Thank you again for the post. The gourd bakes tonight!

    • DawnD: I will have to try paprika in pie one of these times. You can quickly chill pie dough by wrapping it in plastic and putting in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. Just don’t forget it’s there! Using ice water when you make the dough should make it easier to handle.

      Good luck with your pumpkin baking. It’s easy, so you won’t have any trouble at all.

  3. Jill Hagerman says:

    Carolyn,
    Could this recipe be used as a pumpkin pudding – without crust? Suggestions for baking time, mold size?
    Thanks,
    Jill

    • Hmm. I’m not sure it would qualify as a pudding as it is firmer than a pudding after it’s baked. But I don’t see why you couldn’t bake them in ramekins. I think I’d try to find something that held about 1 cup. It would be really good without crust. That’s a neat idea. I’d follow the starting cooking time and temp and after you turn down the oven, check every 15-20 minutes, with subsequent times based on how close you think they might be to being done.

      Good luck!