Pumpkin pie is probably only second to apple pie in the hearts of Americans, dessert-wise. It’s the taste of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It gets name-checked in “Sleigh Ride” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” And it’s never been easier to make a top-notch pumpkin pie from scratch.
Pumpkin pie used to mean canned pumpkin. The grocery store variety was great for jack-o-lanterns, but come November 1, the only thing it was good for was being turned into a carriage by your fairy godmother. But nowadays, it’s a lot more common to see sugar pie pumpkins at the farmers’ market or in the produce department. This is an excellent development, because there’s nothing like a real pumpkin pie from scratch.
If you’ve been thinking of making a pie from scratch for the first time, this is a great one to start with. It’s pretty straightforward to make. The pumpkin takes a little time to prepare, but afterwards, it goes pretty quickly and relatively simple. The result is a pie that’s sweet and spicy with hints of fresh ginger and nutmeg and a smooth, custardy texture.
Classic Pumpkin Pie from Scratch
makes one pumpkin pie
for the pumpkin
1 large sugar pie pumpkin or another large winter squash, peeled and seeded
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the prepared pumpkin into 1” slices and lay flat on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle on 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes, until the pumpkin is cooked through and quite soft.
Remove the pumpkin to a bowl and mash with a potato masher, or puree in a food mill of food processor for a smoother texture.
for the dough (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/6 cup ice water
1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream
Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Cut in the butter by pulsing the food processor 4 or 5 times. The dough should be sandy and crumbly at this point. Stir together the ice water and the sour cream, drizzle over the dough, and pulse 4 or 5 times until the dough sticks together.
Dump dough onto a floured surface and press into a mound. If you need to add a splash more water, go ahead. Form the dough into a disc and then wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour, overnight, or up to 4 days.
Preheat the oven the 375 degrees. Butter your pie pan and set aside. Sprinkle flour on a large, clean surface. Unwrap the disc of dough and allow it to soften a few minutes. If you have parchment, roll the dough out on a lightly floured sheet, other wise just be sure to use plenty of flour and check for sticking. Roll the dough into a 12” circle. Fold into quarters and then carefully unfold into the prepared pie pan, pressing the dough into the sides. Put the pie shell into your freezer for 15 minutes, or the refrigerator for 30.
Remove the chilled shell, poke holes with a fork all over. Fold a piece of foil so that it will fit in the middle and place pie weights, rice or dry beans in the center. Then set on a cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5. Remove from oven and cool.
for the filling
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin puree)
3 room-temperature eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar (more for a sweeter pie)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
several grinds of black pepper (white pepper is even better if you have it)
In a medium sauce pan, whisk together 1/4 cup of the cream and the flour over medium heat. When the mixture is quite thick, slowly whisk in the remaining 3/4 cup cream, maintaining the liquid’s thickness. Stir in the sugars and spices and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs and the squash, whisking thoroughly. Fold into the custard and whisk. Gently pour the custard into the shell, place on a baking sheet, and bake for 45 minutes. Keep an eye on the crust, and if it starts to turn a shade darker than golden, shield it with thin strip of tin foil.
Remove from oven and cool completely for an hour or more. Serve with a heaping dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.