Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pumpkin Pie - a surprisingly un-pumpkin-y and easy to make dessert

Naturally, having an American Thanksgiving dinner meant pumpkin pie was an essential dessert. Most American recipes call for tinned pumpkin - something I've never seen on the shelves here. I found one which gave actual measurements for the pumpkin (not just "1 can pumpkin puree") and hacked up a pumpkin, which was the only even slightly difficult part of this dessert. And that can be made easy if you put the whole pumpkin in the oven for an hour or so - it'll soften up, the flesh will cook, and you'll be able to easily cut it open, scoop out the flesh, and puree it up.

Of course, if you're like me and don't think ahead about the fact that there's already a turkey in your pretty small oven that might not be an option, and you might have to take to the pumpkin with the biggest knife you have, and spend 20 minutes hacking it to bits. Still, once that's over you're 90% done. ;-) You could steam it - I just boiled it in a pot and drained it. To get it nice and smooth a food processor is almost essential - our little blitzer did a fine job though I had to do it in batches - but you want to break down all the fibres pretty thoroughly. Mashing then straining should also do the trick at a pinch. 

To make life easy I used pre-rolled pastry - although the sheets were a bit small so I still had to do a bit of rolling to make enough to line the tin.

 I used New Way pastry, which I haven't tried before, and I was a bit disappointed - it shrunk excessively. Now, I confess that on pie #1 I didn't chill the pastry, so expected some shrinkage, but I have been lax with pastry many times and this was well and truly the worst I've seen - and because I do actually learn from my mistakes, with the second pie I thoroughly chilled the crust first and it was still just as bad.

Pastry experts, do you have any clues? I know the normal reason for this is that the gluten hasn't sufficiently relaxed, but with pastry I barely had to roll anyway and then had chilled this shouldn't have been a problem!

Once the pumpkin is cool, pop it in a (big) bowl with eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, cornflour and some evaporated milk. And mix it together. Yup, that easy. Then you just pour it into your pre-baked crust and pop it in the oven.

It's essentially a custard tart - but with pumpkin - so it's done when it's got just a little bit of wobble left in the middle.

This is a seriously good dessert - I am proud to say that Mr Cake, who didn't think he liked pumpkin pie, gave it 8/10, and a lot of my colleagues were also pretty keen on it (I took the second one to work). It tastes very much like a festively spiced custard - the pumpkin gives it a slightly different texture and a sweetness, but it's not really pumpkin-y. In fact, because most of the creaminess comes from pumpkin it's pretty healthy on the scale of custard pies (which, let's face it, will never win awards for nutrition but hey, I'll take my veg any way I can!).

The recipe made two, and I've pared it back to just make one but if you are into custardy things you might want to double it. ;-) I served it with maple cream - just whipped cream with maple syrup folded in at the end - but it stood pretty well on its own, too. 

Pumpkin Pie (adapted from Martha Stewart)
1.5 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin - about 500g
2 sheets pre-rolled short sweet pastry
3 eggs
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cornflour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 180 C. Roast pumpkin on baking sheet until soft, 50 to 60 minutes. Alternatively, cut the pumpkin into small pieces and steam or boil until soft. Let cool completely. Puree in a food processor or mash then strain.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160 C. Cut one sheet of pastry in half and join one piece to the top and one to the side of the other sheet by dampening a finger, running along the edge of the pastry sheet, then rolling it until the pieces stick together. Fit into a 25cm pie dish, cutting off excess pastry. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Line the pie shell with baking paper and place pie weights, rice or beans into the shell to bake blind. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove weights and baking paper. Cool.

Combine pumpkin brown sugar, cornflour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, eggs, and evaporated milk in a large bowl; whisk until combined.

Place pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour pumpkin mixture into the shell. Bake until all but centre is set, 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely. Cut into wedges, and serve with maple cream.


  1. Pumpkin + microwave = cook. I was introduced to these at Teachers College. Important to get the right texture of pumpkin - not one that thinks is is half marrow.

  2. Good trick! Next time I'll try that. :-)

  3. I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie. I had Thanksgiving in the States once and I couldn't see what all the fuss was about - I didn't like any of the food!

    However I knew I'd seen an unshrinkable pastry recipe somewhere and here it is:

    I used to scoff at the pumpkin in a can thing but apparently most of the pumpkins here are too watery so don't make good pie (I would argue that neither makes good pie but there you go)

  4. I have had really average pumpkin pie and was happy this was so tasty - but I can see it wouldn't be everyone's favoured sweet. Thanks for the link - will try that pastry next time. :-)

  5. Life saver once again! We're having our (late) thanksgiving next Sunday, and I was having all kinds of trouble finding a recipe that didn't cheat with a can of pumpkin! I'll be trying this and let you know :D Is it sweet pastry that you need?

    Becs xx

  6. Yup, just regular short sweet pastry. :-)

  7. I accidentally bought the same pastry as you - and although I added excess around the sides and chilled it for over an hour, IT SHRUNK! I put some extra round the edges to make sure that it didn't spill over while cooking. I swore I used this pastry last Christmas and had no trouble - although I used a different dish, more of an American pie dish than a quiche pan, so might not have been as obvious...

  8. Oh no! I was really annoyed with it, will not be buying that brand again! Sorry to hear you had the same problem. :-(


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