Thanksgiving pumpkin pie
I have just experienced my first autumn (or “fall”) in the United States. And something I’ve learned is that American autumn simply would not exist without pumpkins. There are pumpkin festivals, where the prized vegetable is celebrated with cook-offs, hundred-pound weigh-ins and all sorts of pumpkin paraphernalia. Then there are the pumpkin spice lattes, a strange concoction of ultra-sweet orange liquid purportedly containing some sort of fluid resembling coffee (“latte”? really??) And finally the ubiquitous Halloween pumpkin carving, where stores are stocked with barely-edible pumpkins and specialty tools to create ghoulish gourds. Yup, pumpkins sure are a core aspect of American fall culture!
I just so happened to sample a pumpkin pie a few weeks ago. Despite my skepticism, I was pleasantly surprised by its balanced, earthy combination of sweet, spicy and creamy. The closest thing I could relate it to was chai tea, which brings the same comfort I crave when the cold starts setting in. With a new-found appreciation for baked pumpkin goods, I set about baking my very own pie for Thanksgiving.
This recipe starts with making the shortbread crust. In my opinion, this is the trickiest part. The fate of the pie rests on the crust (literally!), so making sure you have the right balance of flour, water and shortening is essential. Too dry and your crust will crumble, too wet and you will end up with a soggy bottom. I find the best way to achieve the right consistency is to gradually add the water to the mixture until you feel it is moist enough to stick together but not so dry that it will crack when being rolled out. Feel free to add a tablespoon less water or a tablespoon more flour than the recipe suggests, but I’d be wary of venturing too far from the recommended ratio. Also, it is important to ensure the fats in the crust stay cold until being baked, as this allows the crust to develop that delectable flakiness that everyone loves. For this reason, be sure to use chilled ingredients, mix them with a utensil and put the dough in the freezer for a short time before baking.
Once you have the crust in the pie dish, it’s mostly smooth sailing. Blend the filling ingredients and fill the pie carefully. Avoid dripping the filling on to the crust edge, as it will burn and make your pie less visually appealing. This is sometimes easier said than done! The filling for this pie is very watery and I highly recommend using a ladle or similar utensil, and wiping the bottom before transferring to the dish. You can probably spot my little slip-ups in the pics. I’ve learned for next time!
I stuck to very minimal decoration in this trial, as I wanted to focus more on the quality of the crust and filling. But pie decorating is super fun, and I love to see ways in which people make their pies so unique. If you want to decorate your pie with extra crust, be sure to make double the amount stated below. I’d love to try a simple plait or cookie-cutter shapes along the rim in the future. Let me know if you have any other ideas!
90 MINUTES + COOLING TIME
9 inch pie dish
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup iced water
1 egg (for egg wash)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 large eggs
1 can (12 fl oz) evaporated milk
425g (15 oz) pumpkin puree, or 1 x 15oz can of Libby’s 100% pure pumpkin
- Lightly spray pie dish with olive oil
- Place flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add shortening and butter and mix ingredients with a fork until they start to resemble crumbs.Add the chilled water gradually until the crumbs start to stick together. If the recommended amount of water results in sticky dough, add a tablespoon or two of additional flour
- Shape the dough into a ball, cover in cling wrap and place in freezer for 30 minutes
- Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C)
- Tear off a large piece of baking (parchment) paper and lightly flour. Place dough on top. Lightly flour rolling pin
- Roll the dough out into an even circle, large enough to cover the bottom and sides of your pie dish, with about an inch to spare. Carefully flip your dough into the pie dish and remove the baking paper. Trim and tidy the edges of the crust
- Mix sugar, salt and spices in a large mixing bowl. Beat eggs and add to bowl. Stir in pumpkin. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie dish, being careful not to drip any mixture onto the outer crust
- Decorate crust (be creative!) Beat final egg to create egg wash and cover crust
- Bake for 15 minutes. Change temperature to 350°F (175C) and bake for a further 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean.
- Cool for 2 hours before serving or refrigerating.