It’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving already! And when I start thinking about Thanksgiving, I start thinking about, and baking, pumpkin pies…
The Thanksgiving Without Pumpkin Pie
Every Thanksgiving when my family cuts into the pumpkin pie, someone cracks a joke about the time I threw a fit because there wasn’t any. It’s the dish I always looked forward to the most every Thanksgiving. We could skip the turkey and I would not mind, but a Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie would be like a Christmas without Santa Clause–and when I was nine years old, it was.
I was helping my grandmother set the table before dinner, laying out the food on the decorated buffet, when I noticed the missing dish. Where is the pumpkin pie? My grandmother had not made any pumpkin pie this year, and none of my aunts were bringing it. Shocked, I retreated into the back den for a private cry, not wanting my older (and cooler) cousins to see my tears.
As I heaved my sobs into the musty pillows of the green couch in the den, my sorrow soon turned to rage and I knew that action must be taken to show my large family how they had ruined Thanksgiving. I pirated some art supplies into the den and proceeded to make a large poster describing the rules of Thanksgiving, which I then hung prominently in the living room to catch the attention of the adults who were carrying on happily while sipping cocktails and munching hors d’oeuvres. I don’t remember the exact contents of the list, but I know it ended with PUMPKIN PIE, and perhaps began that way too.
After hanging my big poster, I snuck away to sulk and cry some more. If only someone had told me sooner, I would have made the pumpkin pie. I’d helped my mom make it in the past; I knew that it couldn’t be that hard. I stayed in hiding for some time that evening, humiliated, because despite my supposedly sneaky scheming I had caused quite the scene. My poor grandmother tried so hard to comfort me, and promised that we would always have pumpkin pie in the future. We could even make it tomorrow if I wanted. Although I now cringe each time one of my sisters inevitably cracks a joke about the missing pumpkin pie, at least I will never have to endure a Thanksgiving without one again.
This is my favorite pumpkin pie; subtly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and doused with a splash of brandy. I have found that using Libby’s or One Pie canned pumpkin puree produces the best results. I like to use an all-butter pie crust recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, but feel free to substitute it with your favorite pie crust. (I also have a very good gluten free pie crust recipe that I will post soon…)
For the crust:
1 ¼ cups all-purpose white flour
1 teaspoon sugar
a pinch of salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
¼ cup plus 1- 2 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
½ cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs. molasses
One 12 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
a pinch of salt
2 Tbs. brandy
One 12 oz. can evaporated milk
For the crust:
Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl, or pulse in a food processor.
Blend in butter with your fingers, or pulse in food processor, just until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Drizzle ¼ cup of ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork, or pulse in food processor, until just incorporated. Squeeze a small handful of the dough in your hand: if it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time and then test again. Do not overwork the dough, or your crust will be tough.
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With the heel of your hand, smear the dough a few times in a forward motion to help distribute the fat, and then gather the dough together and press into a ball.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day.
Let the dough stand at room temperature for 15min before rolling it out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.
To transfer the crust to the pie plate, carefully fold it in half, then place in a nine-inch pie plate and unfold. Trim and crimp the edges with a fork.
For the filling:
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Beat the eggs and both sugars together in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add the molasses, pumpkin puree, spices, salt, and brandy and mix thoroughly.
Stir in the evaporated milk.
Pour the filling into the waiting piecrust.
Bake the pie for 8 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F and continue to bake until the filling is set, about 45minutes.
Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes before serving.