No soggy bottoms!
For those who pour their pumpkin pie into an unbaked pie shell and bake, take heart. A simple tweak or two to this method will guarantee a custardy, delicious pie with a crisp crust. Here’s how to make a better pumpkin pie.
My Rules of Thanksgiving: 1) Sweet potato casserole requires marshmallows on top; 2) pumpkin pie must be served; and 3) the bottom of said pumpkin pie should not be soggy. This is a recipe for better pumpkin pie. One that is silky and rich, with a crisp crust on the bottom.
While point number one, above, might cause some debate, I bet you a turkey leg that most of American agree that either pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie is a mandatory Thanksgiving dessert. Here’s my best, perfected recipe.
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How to Bake a Better Pumpkin Pie (Hint: It’s the Crust!)
I came to love pumpkin pie a little later in life. Something about the cool, earth-toned plainness did not call to me the way warm, mile-high apple pie always did — and still does. But at some point in my late teens, probably because I was hungry and it was lying around on the counter after Thanksgiving, I gave pumpkin pie another taste, and was hooked. I loved the custardy softness scented with baking spices, and the mild sweetness of the pumpkin.
I loved everything about pumpkin pie, except for one thing: the crust.
The Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe has always been my go-to recipe. The problem is that Libby’s calls for pouring the custard directly into an unbaked pie shell. This often leads to a soggy, underbaked bottom crust.
Here’s what to do instead.
Better Pumpkin Pie: Pro Tips
In pastry school, we learned in no uncertain terms that, sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, custard tarts and pies must be baked in a par-baked shell, and not a raw one. The reason is obvious: raw custard is a liquid. That liquid will soak into the raw crust and prevent it from even remotely browning.
Strangely, the pumpkin pie Bible (i.e., the original Libby’s canned pumpkin label*) says to pour the pie mix into a raw shell. I strongly suspect that the good folks at Libby’s are going for ease for harried cooks above all else.
But here’s the thing: It is no trouble at all to par bake the pie shell. Just do this:
- Roll the pie dough out and drape it into the pie tin. Trim the pie dough so that there is still a small lip over the rim of the dough.
- Dock the pie dough with a fork.
- Let the dough rest, covered, in the fridge for about an hour.
- Brush it with egg wash, and
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Then, pour in the pie filling and bake the whole pie. Done. Pumpkin pie, but better.
Canned vs. Fresh-Roasted Pumpkin
I admire anyone who loves to roast their own pumpkin to make a homemade pumpkin purée. But I use canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin does a great job, tastes creamy and smooth, and will save you cutting, scooping, roasting, peeling, pureeing, draining . . . you get the idea.
This recipe serves anywhere between one and 8 people, depending on portion size. One whole pie is an acceptable portion size in my book!
What is your favorite Thanksgiving dessert? Share in the comments, below.
Better Libby's Pumpkin Pie
- 1 single 9" pie dough, chilled (recipe below)
- 1 egg, beaten
Pumpkin Pie Filling
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
- 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
For the Pie Dough
- Lightly dust the countertop and pie dough on both sides with flour. Roll out the chilled pie dough to 1/8" thick. (The rolled dough should be about 10" to 11" in diameter.)PRO TIP: If the pie dough is very cold and will not roll easily, tenderize it by banging it solidly with the rolling pin.
- Gently drape the pie dough into a 9" deep-dish pie shell. Trim the dough so that an even 1/4" lip hangs over the edge of the rim. Gather the pie dough scraps. Flatten into a round, and reserve, wrapped, in the refrigerator.
- Loosely cover the pie dough with plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove the chilled pie dough from the fridge. Prick the base of the chilled pie dough with a fork all over. PRO TIP: Pricking the bottom of the pie dough with a fork (called "docking" the dough) helps air escape during baking, preventing large bubbles in the pastry.
- With a pastry brush (or your fingers in a pinch), brush the surface of the pie shell with the beaten egg. Reserve the remaining egg for later.
- Bake the pie shell on the center rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. It will still be pale, but partly cooked. It should have a dry appearance. While the pie shell is baking, roll out the round of pie dough scraps and cut into decorative circles, leaves, or other shapes using a paring knife or small cutters. Chill on a sheet pan.
For the Pumpkin Pie
- Raise the oven temperature to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, two eggs, and pumpkin puree. Stir in the evaporated milk and mix until everything is emulsified.TIP: The pumpkin pie filling can be made while the crust is par-baking.
- Pour the pumpkin filling into the par-baked pie shell. Decorate with the pie dough scrap shapes, and brush lightly with the remaining the egg wash to give it a nice gloss.
- Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until the pie does not jiggle in the center. Let cool fully before serving.Pumpkin pie can be made up to two days in advance of serving. Store, uncovered, in the refrigerator. Covering with plastic wrap will cause condensation to form on the top of the custard, which will not look as nice!