Friday, December 4, 2009

Not My Mother's Pumpkin Pie

Everybody seems to have their favorite holiday treat. That one thing that they look forward to all year and which makes the stress of relatives, meal planning and shopping malls seem to be worth the trouble (I personally feel that shopping malls are never worth the trouble, but I know I'm in the minority in this country). For me, that special food, that wonder of wonders, that oh-please-give-me-more-mouth-watering-deliciousness is none other than my mother's pumpkin pie. So creamy, so spicy, so flaky in the crust... I could conquer a nine inch round of that orangey goodness in one sitting without a second of regret. Could you hand me a fork, please?

My passion for this pie began long, long ago in a faraway place called Ohio. There, in our family's kitchen, my mother and I would labor to create goodies for the upcoming holiday celebrations. Well... she would labor. I would stand by, the ever-faithful sous chef, prepared to pour, dump, stir or taste whenever given the opportunity.

Pumpkin wasn't the only flavor that my mom's pies came in, but in my mind, it might as well have been. Pecan, apple... what did those taste like? I didn't know. I was too busy shoveling pumpkin into my mouth to be bothered by those other pies.

This year I decided that it was waaay past time for me to learn the ins and outs of pumpkin pie bakery. My imagination was flooded with images of the conversation that my mother and I would have. Whispered, of course, because pie that good surely must be born of some recipe masked in secrecy...

I was sorely mistaken. "Oh, it's just the recipe from the can of Libby's brand pumpkin," she informed me. The words were like poison-tipped darts to my ears. What?!! All these years I thought this pie was a gift from the gods, and it turns out that it was just a gift from some canned pumpkin manufacturer. I felt jaded.

I decided to put my disillusionment aside and do the right thing. Taking pencil in hand, I copied down her instructions for both crust and pumpkin filling.

Crisco shortening? Evaporated milk? How much sugar? The kale-and-quinoa-eating voice inside me screamed in agony as I listened to the ingredients list. Sorry, Mom, but the most perfect pumpkin pie in the world was obviously in need of a makeover.

Here is what I came up with:

Not My Mother's Pumpkin Pie
makes 1 - 9" pie

Preheat your oven to 425 F.

1 1/2 generous C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 C. organic, non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
2 1/2 T. ice water
1 egg
1 tsp. cider vinegar

In a large bowl, mix flour and salt together. Then, cut in the shortening in small pieces with a pastry blender until the mixture is in pea-sized clumps. It will kind of resemble cornmeal.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the water, egg and vinegar. Add this mixture slowly to the flour, using a fork to stir and mix everything together. Its good to get in there with your hands to form it into a ball.

Be generous with the flour when you roll this dough out. Flour your work surface and your rolling pin, and then roll a few times and flip the dough so it doesn't stick. This dough can be worked pretty heavily without fear of poor texture. Roll it out into a circle about 1/8" thick if you can get it that thin. My mom thinks that it's possible to get two crusts out of this recipe, but she's apparently got skills that I am lacking.

So, once your crust is rolled out, transfer it to a 9" pie plate, trim off any excess from around the edges, and you're ready for filling.

2/3 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 heaping tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2+ tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15oz.) pure pumpkin
10 oz. milk or milk substitute (I used rice)

First, mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a small bowl. Whisk the eggs in a separate, large mixing bowl, and then stir in the pumpkin and the sugar/spice mixture. Gradually stir in the milk. Pour this pumpkin mixture into your pie shell, and you're ready for the oven.

Bake the pie in the 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 350. Bake an additional 40 to 50 minutes (50 was my magic number) or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool your pie on a wire rack for 2 hours, and then dig in!

1 comment:

  1. If you're coming to Christmas in OH this year, you should make one of these. I'd eat it (not the whole thing - I like to branch out a bit more than you do).


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