Autumn Leaf Pumpkin Pie has enriched our Thanksgiving celebrations for years. It all goes back to 1996, which was the year of pumpkin pie tests. After each, Mark asked for more spices and a deeper dish. After this version, there were no more requests other than I make it more often! It is especially delicious when topped with homemade whipped cream. Growing up, we lived in a world where Cool Whip was all the rage. No one in our family was making whipped cream the old-fashioned way. Then one year, Mark’s mom started serving it at family gatherings, which was the end of the tub.
Autumn Leaf Pumpkin Pie Recipe
|WHAT YOU NEED||WHAT TO DO||WHY|
|Place a rack two-thirds down in oven; preheat to 400°F Convection (verify with an oven thermometer). Meanwhile…||Internal oven thermostats are often improperly calibrated.|
||Spice mix: Sift all together into a 1-cup bowl; whisk until corn starch is no longer visible. Set aside.||Sifting removes starch and spice clumps, as well as nutmeg grit, which is most unpleasant in the finished custard.|
||Filling: To take the chill off the eggs quickly, soak in a bowl of hot tap water for 5 minutes. In the order listed, add all to a blender or food processor. Follow with the spice mix. Cover and pulse to perfect smoothness (~1 minute), scraping down sides with a silicone spatula as needed. Set aside at room temperature.||Adding eggs first helps blades draw in other ingredients. Room temperature ingredients blend easily. Blending does not remove graininess from cream cheese.|
|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 under ragged edges. Pound with the rolling pin to flatten; roll to 1/16-inch thickness. Cut 30 small leaves with a 1 ½-inch cookie cutter. To attach each leaf to the crust edge, lightly brush backside with water, position, and then press in “veins” with a knife edge. Overlap each leaf by ⅛ 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 lower edge of leaves; set aside excess to use for Pumpkin Custards (see below).||The filling swells about ¼ inch during baking.|
|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 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.|
Additional 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.
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