A Perfect Slice

29Nov08

imgp1999I’m a bit obsessive about pumpkin pie.

Every year I try out dozens of new recipes, trying to recreate a pie from Plato’s World of Forms: custardy but not eggy, creamy, smooth, uniform texture throughout, and just a hint of spice. The kind of pie that you bite into and your mouth thanks you for enveloping it in a mixture of every major food group. The kind you eat for dessert, then breakfast the next day, then for 2nd breakfast, and so on until it’s time to make a new pie because you just ate a whole pie yourself and you have nothing to share with the friends you invited over to try your delicious pie.

You’d be surprised how elusive my dream is. I thought I was close enough with a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Cookbook. Last month I got my November issue of CI in the mail and saw their new pumpkin pie recipe.

I barely glanced at it. I was skeptical that fresh ginger could make any real difference. I was even more skeptical that canned sweet potatoes could hold my interest. Maple syrup? Fresh grated nutmeg? I’d seen all those tricks before.

Yesterday I decided to give it a go, even though I just hate messing up pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. Just in case this turned out to be a good one.

This is not your whip it up in ten minutes pumpkin pie. It is, however, totally and completely 100% the best pumpkin pie you will ever make. And for that reason, why shouldn’t it be as time consuming as a fancy roast? It’s certainly as acceptable as a main dish at supper.

Can I emphasize that again? THE BEST PUMPKIN PIE EVER. Do not doubt, ye seekers of pastry paradise. Your search is over.

Pumpkin Pie (from Cook’s Illustrated Nov & Dec 2008)

  • dough for one 9 inch pie crust (see note below)
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 1C whole milk
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 C drained canned yams (candied canned yams, if available)
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 C maple syrup (the REAL KIND, PEOPLE!)
  • 2 t grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg (less than half of this for fresh ground nutmeg, since it’s stronger)
  • 1 t table salt
  1. Roll out dough and put in pie plate. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and place rimmed baking sheet on rack. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Remove pie pan from fridge, line crust with foil and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake 5-10 additional minutes until crust is golden. Remove pie plate and baking sheet from oven.
  3. While pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
  4. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5-7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10-15 minutes.
  5. At this point, I had to actually blend up my mixture in the blender. I pureed it until smooth and then returned it to the saucepan.
  6. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Transfer to warm pre-baked pie shell.
  7. Return pie plate with baking sheet back to oven (on the lowest rack) and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set (the middle will jiggle slightly when moved), 20-35 minutes longer (instant read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees). Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Note: If you’re not into making your own dough, pillsbury pie crusts are CI’s best of the convenience products winners. I make the crust from CI’s baking cookbook myself. On this note, the huge difference between most crust recipes and CI’s: 1/2 butter, 1/2 chilled shortening, and a little sugar. Add the shortening first, incorporate it, and then the butter. Don’t overwork the dough. And always chill the dough for about 20 minutes before rolling it out.

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3 Responses to “A Perfect Slice”

  1. Oh. my. heavens. You SO speak my language!

  2. Yeah, I’m down with everything here except for making my own pie crust. I like to bake, but not if it involves rolling things out.

  3. Sounds like a great pumpkin pie recipe.


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