Pumpkin pie is probably one of THE desserts a lot of people would think of if they were asked to name a typical American dessert, and not so surprising when it’s a traditional part of thanksgiving for many. In fact according to an article (and pie chart, quite literally) I recently came across, pumpkin pie is the third most popular in the country for the big feast. I don’t know what others think, but my impression is that as a reputation outside of the US, it is probably top or at most only beaten by apple pie. Either way, pumpkin pie is undisputedly a classic and tasty at that. While it might look a little odd to a newcomer and have you wondering what is in it, the smooth texture, sweetness and warm flavors or cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg coming through in each bite win you over.
Despite it being tasty, there’s still a bit of me cringes a little when I think how much sugar has gone into it, and I know I have reduced a bit from my original recipe and probably include a lot less than many pre-made varieties. So it is probably fair to say this breaks the blog rules, if there are any, on being good for you. But, now and again an exception is no bad thing. Maybe next year I will try to work on a healthier version but for now, let’s not mess with a classic. Mind you, I can’t help wonder who came up with the idea of making basically a sweet pumpkin custard and baking it in a pastry shell. Another one to look into for next year, maybe.
The whole pie can take a bit of time to make if you do it all from scratch, which I describe below if you are up for doing them. You can make things a little easier for yourself in parts by either using a pre-made pastry shell and/or buying ready-made pumpkin puree. Like most good things, though, they tend to taste better when you do it yourself so I would encourage you to give them a try. Neither are really that hard. It was probably harder explaining to my son why we had to sacrifice the pumpkin he scribbled on, sorry, decorated that he had been greeting each day on our doorstep.
You can also do things in stages – I roasted the pumpkin the night before while I was making dinner then had the pastry chilling while I made the filling so that helped save it seeming like it took all that long. Anyway, on with the recipe. I did find this years ago on the internet I think, but it’s such a long time I am not quite sure where and I have made a couple changes along the way, so apologies for not properly referencing, if appropriate.
A couple of tips before I start – if you are making your own pumpkin puree, unless you are using pieces from a big carving pumpkin which can lie almost flat (which is fine, though some people would say it isn’t as good but I am not convinced it makes much difference), keep the half pumpkin intact and put it on the tray cut side down to roast. Having tried both as a half and cut up, it cooks much more evenly and quicker when left as a half – I suspect being a semi-enclosed space it almost steams the inside as it cooks. On the pastry – the key is to use cold butter and cold water then chill before you roll out and put in your dish/tin. Then when you trim the top of the pastry in the tin, cut outwards so it almost sticks the edges to the tin. Both will help stop the pastry shrinking too much. Finally, try not to cut and serve it on a table low enough for a toddler to reach, it might go before you get a chance to try it yourself…
- 1½ cups pumpkin puree (see below)
- ¾ cup sugar (I usually use ½ light brown, ¼ granulated)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup milk
- 1 unbaked pie case (see below), approx 9in diameter
- Pumpkin puree - you can use canned but fresh is better. To make fresh, cut a pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and roast in oven 375-400F/190-200C with cut side down on a tray, around 40mins until tender. Scoop out the flesh and puree with a blender. This can be done a day or two ahead.
- Pastry for pie case - to make from scratch, mix 1½ cups/200g all purpose/plain flour with 1 stick/4oz/110g unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks, and 2tbsp confectioners/icing sugar, in a food processor until like breadcrumbs. While pulsing the mixer, slowly add some cold water until the dough just comes together (around 2-3tbsp, see picture above). Form dough into a ball, cover in cling film and chill for 30mins before rolling out.
- Preheat oven to 375F/190C.
- Mix together the pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together.
- Combine the egg-milk mixture with the pumpkin mixture - best to gently whisk then let it settle.
- If using homemade pastry, roll out dough and line a pie dish or tin. Press gently into dish to ensure there are no air bubbles underneath and trim edges.
- The pastry case can be used uncooked, but I tend to bake blind (prick base with fork, fill with parchment/greaseproof paper and beans) for 10min first as I don't find my dish heats through enough to cook the base otherwise. A metal tin is probably OK without this.
- Carefully fill the pie crust with the filling mixture and bake for approx 40min until the filling is set.