Click to View Latest IssueClick to View Latest Issue

As Easy as Pumpkin Pie

By  0 Comments

You know you want to save those jack-o’-lanterns that the kids have carved up and left on the front porch to rot. There they will linger, drawing ants and attracting fruit flies, while they slowly implode. But what to do with them? Well, how about making pies? Now that the witches and goblins have slunk back to the dark side, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Imagine the ooohs and ahhhs when you bring out your own homemade pumpkin pie with freshly whipped real cream. Ahhh, yes, pie heaven at its finest. 

So grab one of those pumpkins out of purgatory, cut it in half, lay it open-side down, seeds and all, on a prepared baking sheet. Bake at about 350º for about one hour, or until you can stick a fork in it. Go do some laundry or make your Thanksgiving menu while it bakes and then cools to a handleable temperature. Scrape out and discard the seeds (my chickens love them and lay extra eggs for the pies). Scoop the pulp into the food processor, pulse and blend until smooth. Dump into a baggie and store in the freezer until ready to use, unless you want to take a trial run now.

Next, whip up your pumpkin filling and you’re ready to tackle the crust. It can be as easy as pie if you practice a few tried-and-true tips. My favorite pie crust recipe hails from the old Betty Crocker cookbook and uses simply flour, salt, Crisco® shortening and cold water. I’ve found that halving the Crisco with butter will make a richer, flakier crust. I can’t tell you if any other shortening works as well, but I would not want to sacrifice my efforts and fruit to find out. 

The real key to making flaky crust is to not over-mix the dough. It should be mixed just until it begins to come together after adding the cold water. It also helps if the butter and Crisco are really cold and cut into small pieces. I blend the ingredients in the food processor to save time and manual labor, but this was trial and error until I learned exactly when to cease with the pulse button. The dough can then be put in the fridge to chill and rest, although I have never been quite so patient.

Rolling the dough to make that perfectly round crust that fits precisely in the pie plate can be a bit challenging. Moistening your work surface before laying out a sheet of waxed paper will help keep it from slipping and sliding while you’re rolling. Plenty of flour on the paper, rolling pin and dough will keep it from sticking. Roll from the center outward until the crust is the desired thickness. If it’s not exactly round, don’t worry; it will be trimmed after it’s laid in the plate. 

Getting the rolled dough into the plate can be a nightmare if the dough is too dry, causing it to crack and tear. But again, don’t worry because the dough, at this point, is very forgiving and the finished pie will never reveal where you’ve pinched it together. Some cooks roll the dough over the rolling pin and unroll it over the plate, while others, like myself, use the wax paper to gently fold it into quarters, lay it, and then unfold. Now crimp the edges and you’re ready to pour in your own creamy pumpkin filling.

But first, place the pie plate with crust in an UN-preheated oven and then pour in the filling. I don’t think it makes a difference here if the oven is preheated or not, but it does make a difference if you try to fill the pie shell first outside of the oven. Good luck carrying it to the oven and trying to situate it without making a mess and burning yourself. Tried and true, trust me here. Bake at 425º 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350º and bake 45-50 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

Now sit back and wait for that autumn baking fragrance to permeate your kitchen. The only problem is, once you start making these fresh, homemade pies for your gatherings, your family and friends will be forever after spoiled. And BTW, don’t even think about humiliating your fresh pumpkin pie with anything other than real whipped cream.

Fresh Pumpkin Pie Filling
(makes one 9” pie)
2 eggs
2 cups fresh pumpkin purée
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 2/3 cups evaporated milk (1 12-oz. can) or light cream
Beat eggs and add rest of ingredients except milk. Mix well and then beat in milk. 

Flaky Pie Crust
(makes one 9” pie)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening (halved with butter for maximum flakiness)
4-5 tbsp. cold water

For daily garden goodness, join me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.