Anyone can be "the family chef". You just need good recipes and techniques! Chef Amy Fothergill shares her best recipes with you for quick and easy dishes with an emphasis on gluten-free.

Get information here about her cookbook, The Warm Kitchen: Gluten-Free Recipes Anyone Can Make and Everyone Will Love.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pumpkin Pie

When I was younger, I loved baking. Ok, younger I mean like in my twenties! I stopped for a while but always kept my favorite equipment (and maybe even upgraded along the way). I tend to bake pies in the autumn. So my point is (oh finally, here it is) I have had a lot of experience with pies. Here is what I think is most important:

  • A great pie crust
  • A great recipe for the filling
  • The right equipment
  • Time to do it right
The best pie crust techniques came from Martha Stewart. I have to give her credit. And although she has been accused of many things, her cooking and baking skills are really the best for the home cook. She also has recipes for tarts and other crusts which are outstanding.

The following recipe for the pie crust makes more than plenty for a 9" pie. I cut off the extra and threw it in the freezer. Hopefully at some point in the next year, I'll remember it's there. I also used the scraps to make some cute little leaf cut outs. Extremely easy but it really adds to the Wow factor. You'll need to plan ahead and make the crust at least an hour before you want to bake.

Now there are times when, yes, even I buy a pre-made pie crust (really?!) but when you have the time, make it from scratch. There is no substitute. If you don't have a food processor, you can do this by hand but boy, does it take a long time! This is the basic recipe:

Pie Crust
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted, very cold butter, cut into cubes
3 Tbl very cold shortening, cut into cubes (if you don't have shortening, you can use margarine. If you have neither, use more butter)
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Note: I like to take the eggs for the pie filling out of the fridge when I start the dough so that they begin to come to room temperature. It's a good practice so that your food is not too cold. If you are making the pumpkin pie below, do that now.

Add flour and salt to the food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until crumbly. Pulse for as short of time as possible. The less time you handle the dough, the more flaky and delicate it will be. While pulsing, add water, a small amount at a time until dough forms. Carefully remove dough from bowl and form into a disc with a little indentation in the middle. Wrap in plastic and place into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to one day. Or, you can freeze and save for later.

Once it is chilled, remove from fridge and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Get your pie dish ready and some flour. I like to keep a small jar of flour on the counter by the stove for making rouxs, etc so I don't have to lug the big jar out of the cabinet. Roll out the pie crust into a circle. Make sure it is wide enough for the pie dish. Here's a little trick: put flour on the top of the crust. Using your rolling pin, roll the pie crust onto it to remove from counter and then place over your pie dish. This way is does not crack. Ahh, what a great tip! Thanks ATK. Press dough into dish. Cut extra dough, leave a 1/2 inch border. Fold dough under to make crust. Place back in fridge while you prepare filling.

To make pastry leaves: With some of the extra dough, roll out. Using mini leaf cookie cutters (or your paring knife skills), cut and place on metal pie dish or baking pan. You can use a knife to simulate the pattern of the leaf. Brush with an egg wash (1 beaten egg and save this for later). Bake at 400 degrees until golden, maybe 7-10 minutes. Allow to cool for a minute or two. Remove and cool on a rack. Save for later and make sure to tell the family these are off limits!

Pumpkin Pie
Now that you have made the dough and it is getting nice and cold, you can prep the filling. Now, when it comes to certain recipes, just use what works. I like my pumpkin pie pretty basic. What makes this special is the perfect pie crust and of course the pastry leaf embellishments. I'm also going to add a yummy whipped cream that will rock your world (also great for a pumpkin cheesecake).

  • 1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove crust from fridge. Combine ingredients in large bowl and pour into shell. You can also brush some egg wash on the crust so it browns nicely. Mine started to brown a little too quickly so I had to place foil around the edges about half way through. The result though was perfect. You can try it either way but always keep an eye on it.

Bake 15 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking 35-40 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once cool, place leaf cut outs on top and serve with cinnamon whipped cream:

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbl sugar
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together, preferably in a cold stainless steel bowl. With cold beaters or a whisk, whip cream until thickened. Serve a dollup on top of each piece of pie served.

After serving, if there are any leftovers, place pie in fridge.

The Right Equipment
When making this pie, there are some essentials. Here's my list:
  • Large food processor to make pie crust
  • A good pie dish like Emile Henry. For this recipe, you'll need at least a 4 cup capicity
  • A bowl for mixing the filling, preferably one with a spout for easy pouring
  • Large whisk for mixing the filling
  • Pastry brush for the egg wash
  • Immersion blender fitted with the whisk attachment to make the whipped cream
When my friends sank their teeth into the pie, I knew it was worth it. Yes, it took longer than buying a crust or even (gaffaw!) buying the pie from the store. There is a cost-time-convenience factor that only you can determine.

However, if you are looking for a great tasting pumpkin pie, invest the time. It will be worth it. I made the crust the day before and had all of my ingredients ready when I started the baking process. I made sure this was a few hours before my event started as well.

I hope you enjoyed my commentary. It took me almost as long to write it (well I did it over the course of a day) as to make the pie!


dick said...

Tip from my dad who was an outstanding baker. When you make pumpkin pie filling add the spices to the pumpkin and mix thoroughly first. Once you have all the pices evenly distributed, the beat the eggs a little and mix them until funnly and completely distributed. after that add the condenses milk to it and mix it up. Small thing but it do make a difference in getting the flavors fully integrated with every bite.

The Family Chef said...

If you want to add your own sugar, use this for the filling instead:
1-16 oz can pumpkin puree (or 2 cups fresh), 3/4 c half and half (or 1/2 c heavy cream and 1/4 c whole milk), 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, 1 rounded tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp each ginger, nutmeg and salt, and 3/4 c sugar. I used 1/2 c natural sugar cane (similar to brown sugar) and 1/4 c organic white sugar. This is a great alternative.