AUTUMN LEAF PUMPKIN PIE
Fall of 1996 was the year of pumpkin pies. After each test, Mark asked for more spices and a deeper dish. After this version…there were no more requests, except that it should be made more often!
It is especially delicious with homemade whipped cream. My mother-in-law, Mary, started making it for us at family gatherings years ago… now we won’t even consider purchasing pre-made. There is just no comparison.
|WHAT YOU NEED||WHAT TO DO||WHY|
|2 cups dark brown sugar,
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
|Filling: Place sugar and cornstarch in a 5-quart bowl, sift spices over top. Whisk until cornstarch is no longer visible and no brown sugar lumps remain.||Whisking cornstarch into the sugar prevents clumping during baking. Sifting removes spice clumps and nutmeg grit, which is most unpleasant in the finished dish.|
|3 large eggs
1 cup half and half
29 ounces canned pumpkin
|Whisk eggs into sugar mixture to eliminate egg clumps (30-40 seconds). Whisk in half and half and pumpkin until uniform in color (50-60 seconds). Set aside at room temperature.||Taking the chill off promotes even baking.|
|Position a rack two-thirds down in the oven; preheat to 400°F “Convection” (verify with an oven thermometer).||Ovens often run hot or cold, or preheat slowly.|
|1/2 recipe Flaky Pastry||To shape bottom crust (1-crust pie): Fold the pastry round in half and in half again to transfer to a deep dish pie plate (9.5-inch, 6 cup capacity). Center the point; unfold and smooth without stretching or pulling. Trim overhang to match edge of plate. Mend any splits or weak spots with scraps.||Stretched dough shrinks in the oven. Mending prevents filling from leaking during baking.|
|To shape autumn leaves: Neatly stack dough scraps, tucking ragged edges under. Pound with the rolling pin to flatten; roll to 1/16-inch thickness. Cut 30 small leaves with a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter. To attach each leaf to the crust edge, lightly brush back side with water, position and press in “veins” with a knife edge. Overlap subsequent leaves by 1/8 inch; Set aside spare leaves to use for Pumpkin Custards (see below).||Stacking scraps creates additional layers, whereas working pastry dough destroys flakiness.|
|Fill crust with custard to the lower edge of the leaves to allow for 1/4 inch swelling during baking. Set aside excess to use for Pumpkin Custards.|
|Bake pie promptly. When filling swells almost to the center (35-40 minutes) confirm that a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or that an instant-read thermometer registers 175°F. The center will still be “jiggly”. Promptly shut off oven and crack door open to allow the center to gently cruise up to 180°F. Leave pie in oven 1 hour to cool slowly, and then age in the refrigerator 12-24 hours before serving.||Baking promptly avoids a soggy bottom crust. Overcooking or quickly cooling custards causes contraction and cracking. Aging promotes smoothness in custards.|
Testing Notes: Baking at 400°F for 25 minutes and then 350°F for 30 minutes does not reduce cracking. Additional cornstarch does not reduce cracking. Adding extra egg or extra yolks increases swelling/contracting.
These can be baked in a little toaster oven. Pour leftover filling into 1/2-cup capacity ramekins. Space ramekins on a quarter sheet pan (for easy handling) along with spare pastry leaves. Bake 10 minutes at 400°F; remove from oven to arrange leaves decoratively on custard/s. Return to the oven to bake just until custard swells to the center (about 10 minutes). Transfer to a wire cooling rack.
WALNUT PUMPKIN PIE
In 1-quart bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup diced walnuts, 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted butter; whisk until there are no dry areas. Distribute evenly over pie filling after the first 20 minutes of baking (filling must be partially set, or nuts will simply sink); finish baking as directed.
PECAN PUMPKIN PIE
In a 1-quart bowl whisk together 1 cup pecan pieces, 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted butter; whisk until there are no dry areas. Distribute evenly over pie filling after first 20 minutes of baking (filling must be partially set, or nuts will simply sink); finish baking as directed.