No soggy bottoms!
My Rules of Thanksgiving:
- Sweet potato casserole requires marshmallows on top,
- Pumpkin pie must be served, and,
- The bottom of said pumpkin pie should not be soggy.
While I recognize that point 1 might cause some debate, I am willing to bet a turkey leg that most of American can agree that either pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie is a mandatory Thanksgiving dessert.
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.
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.
You may also enjoy: How to Make a Perfect Pie Crust and Honey Maple Granola With Pumpkin Seeds
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.
*Important non-sequitur: The label’s original 1950s recipe recently changed to incorporate and additional Nestlé product, sweetened condensed milk. Smart sales move, no? The results have been good thus far.
But here’s the thing: It is no trouble at all to par bake the pie shell. Just 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 it up. Done. Pumpkin pie, but better.
PRO TIP: Do not bother going through the trouble of roasting your own pumpkin and making your own puree. Seriously. Canned pumpkin does a great job, and is arguably better because it 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. Yes, I think one whole pie is an acceptable portion size.
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.