Saturday, March 8, 2014
Rather than wait for the usual Wednesday food posting, I thought I would share a favorite recipe now to consider using in your holiday menu. Here is my Special Report: Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie, the one dessert made most often for this holiday meal.
There are many variations on pumpkin pie, but I think the classic pumpkin custard filling is often the most rewarding and the easiest to make. I do urge you, however, to make your own pumpkin puree. It’s not that much more difficult than opening a can of pumpkin puree.
Yankee bakers know that the best kind of pumpkin to use in pies is the long-pie pumpkin, which has been readily available at the farmer’s market. Rosemont is also a good source for these super pumpkins and have plenty available now.
The long-pie pumpkin
It looks like a giant, mottled zucchin. It's orange on one side and green on the other. When it’s fully mature it will turn all orange. It can also be stored for the winter if you have a spot that’s stays a steady 50 degrees.
What’s good about this variety is that it’s less fibrous than jack-o-lantern pumpkins and sweeter. One pie pumpkin about 12 inches long and 3 to 4 pounds will yield enough filling (2 cups) for a 9-inch pie.
Slice in half, scoop out the seeds and fibers and oil it lightly and set on a baking sheet, flesh side down
The best way to make the puree is to bake the pumpkin until the flesh is soft and slightly caramelized around the edges. To do this cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and fibrous center, rub some canola oil over the flesh and put each half on a baking sheet, cut side down. At 350 to 375 degrees it will be ready in about 45 minutes.
Judging when the pie is fully cooked can be tricky. Most recipes say that a knife inserted in the center should come out clean. This, however, is not the best guide when you perform the knife test because it may not come out completely clean even when it’s done. Another test recommended by baking guru Rose Levy Birnbaum is a better method (The Pie and Pastry Bible). She says that the knife should come out "almost clean." Further indications, according to Birnbaum, are, "The filling will have puffed and the surface dulled, except for the center. . .and the filling with shake like jelly when moved." I find that the "almost clean" knife test is a good indication that the filling is baked and fully set.
Most recipes for pumpkin pie filling call for evaporated milk. I much prefer the consistency imparted by replacing the milk with heavy cream. The filling is rich and creamy.
Old-fashioned pumpkin pie
Servings 6 to 8
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
1 long-pie pumpking to yield 2 cups fresh puree
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Salt, to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup heavy or light cream
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Bake the pmpkin as directed above. Scoop out the flesh and put in a large mixing bowl. Puree by using a hand-held mixer or i food processor, mixing until smooth and creamy. In another bowl mix the sugars, spices and flour until well combined.
Add the beaten eggs to the puree and mix well with a wooden spoon or whisk. Add the dry ingredients and the cream and mix until thoroughly combined. You can do this with a hand held mixer on medium speed, a whisk or wooden spoon.
Pour the filling into the pie shell and place on a large baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 to 60 minutes or until the filling has puffed up slightly and is dark in color; the filling with wiggle like jelly if you shake the pan gently. The knife test can also be done and should come out almost clean.
Let cool on a rack to room temperature. Slice and serve with a dollop of whipped cream with grated nutmeg or cinnamon sprinkled on top. The pie can be stored, covered with foil for 2 to 3 days on the counter. Or refrigerate.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.