No soggy bottoms!
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.
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 it out
- Dock it with a fork
- 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.
I admire anyone who loves roasting their own pumpkin to make a homemade pumpkin purée. Seriously. But I admit that I use canned pumpkin. If you are pressed for time, canned pumpkin does a great job, 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 Pumpkin Pie
- 1 single 9" pie dough, chilled
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly dust the countertop and pie dough with flour. Roll out the chilled pie dough to 1/8" thick, and gently drape into a 9" deep-dish pie shell. PRO TIP: If the pie dough is very cold and will not roll easily, tenderize it by banging it solidly with the rolling pin.
- Prick the base of the pie shell with a fork all over. Trim the excess dough so that there is only a small lip around the edge of the pie pan. Gather the pie dough scraps. Flatten into a round, and reserve, wrapped, in the refrigerator.
- With a pastry brush (or your fingers in a pinch), brush the surface of the pie shell with the beaten egg.
- Bake the pie shell on the center rack of the oven for 30 minutes. It will still be pale, but partly cooked. 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.
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.
- Pour the pumpkin filling into the par-baked pie shell. Decorate with the pie dough scrap shapes.
- Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until the pie does not jiggle in the center. Let cool fully before serving.