Friday, December 16, 2011

Smooth and Creamy Pumpkin Pie

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Way way back in November, I heard a women at the checkout comment  to the checker that she wanted to make a pumpkin pie, but she didn't feel like she was ready for it yet.

You know you're a devoted food-lover, or just a highly obnoxious person, when you desperately want to interrupt conversations like this and explain how easy making pumpkin pie is and that she really must give it a try because it really is so much better, yada yada yada, weird stares from strangers.

I managed through sheer force of iron will (what will I be wanting to do next--tell people what their best color is or how to fix their hair or that their children's feet must be freezing in those shoes--let's hope not) to keep my big mouth shut.

But now, since this is my blog, I don't have to anymore. Pumpkin pie is easy. It can be really really easy. If it's the crust scaring you, start with a store bought one (or skip it altogether) and just do the custard-y part of the pie from scratch. For years, I've made the very pumpkin pie recipe that comes to you on the Libby's cans of 100% pumpkin and it's always been delicious--so much more delicious than a store-bought pie that it could make you weep. I highly highly recommend it if this is your first experience with pumpkin pie because it is almost too easy to mess up. You take the ingredients, you dump them in a bowl, you beat them for a minute, you dump them in your crust (you might have a little left over; it seems like I always did--put it in ramekins and bake up little custards if you don't wish to waste it), and you bake it just like they tell you to.

And then 2 years back, I decided to try the much fussier version in The New Best Recipe Cookbook

(America's Test Kitchen). I de-fussied it a bit because it really was just over the top in fuss (you warm and/or cook all the ingredients first and then pour them into a hot crust; you food process the pumpkin beforehand, etc.) and I did already have a version of pumpkin pie I was very happy with so I wasn't willing to expend a whole lot of fussy. However, even with my small changes and their recipe, I have to say, it came out even better than the Libby's. Creamy, smooth, and wonderful. I made it again this year and did a few more of the fussy things and found it to be...just the same.  Moral of the story: more fuss does not always (usually) equal better. The best news, however, is that I feel that I discovered the one trick that makes it truly better (well, maybe two, but one of more importance), which is that you must take it out of the oven when the center is still a bit jiggly (jiggly like Jello, not sloshy like eggnog) and your husband thinks you're nuts for removing it. But you'll know you're not nuts because you'll use your instant read thermometer and know you're between 165 and 175 (or 180 if you're just not sure) degrees. Totally safe, and it really will set up. It might even crack a bit (sorry, mine did), but it will be super creamy and smooth nevertheless.  

The other tip I have is to heat the pumpkin with the sugar until the sugar has melted. I did this in the microwave and it only took a minute or two, so I consider it a bit of fuss worth giving a try. But even if you don't. Even if you completely ignore the  following recipe and make the perfectly delightful Libby's version, do yourself a favor and take it out when the center is a bit jiggly. Take it's temperature (right in the middle). Shoot for something between 165 and 175. And then have a little faith. It will continue to cook a bit out of the oven and will set up beautifully. 

Smooth and Creamy Pumpkin Pie
adapted from The New Best Recipe Cookbook
makes 1 9-inch pie
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Cost: $2.40
(pumpkin: .99, sugar: .30, milk: .10, cream: .60, eggs: .40)

1 pie crust, uncooked
2 C plain canned pumpkin puree (Test Kitchen calls for 16 oz, which is 1 oz more than the standard cans, which is classic over-fussy that drives me bonkers; just use a can if you've got a can)
1 C packed brown sugar (I used light)
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C heavy cream
2/3 C milk
4 large eggs

Combine pumpkin, sugar, spices, and salt in microwave safe bowl. Microwave at 45 second intervals (mixing in between) until the sugar is melted and it's thick, shiny, and fragrant. This took me a couple minutes.

Beat in cream and milk (which should cool your pumpkin enough for the eggs). Beating constantly, add the eggs. (Alternately you can pour it all in a food processor and do it that way, bit I didn't find it necessary.) This mixture should be somewhat warm, but not super hot.

Pour into pie crust. It's gonna be nice and full. That's okay.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes and then turn oven down to 350 and bake for another 20-25 minutes. The filling will be puffed, slightly cracked at the edges, and the center should wiggle like gelatin (not slosh about like eggnog, mind you). Insert instant read thermometer and if it's between 165 and 180, go ahead and take it out.

Let cool and serve with whipped cream. Yum.


Linked up with Sweets for a Saturday.

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