Perfect Pumpkin Pie

My pumpkin pie gets raves – yours will, too!

Perfect pumpkin pie is not just for Thanksgiving – Christmas is my family’s excuse to indulge twice in this hands-down favorite dessert!

It never seems to fail – another Thanksgiving has passed me by in a blur. As always, I created an imaginative holiday table in nearly restaurant scale. Each Thanksgiving I open my home to entertain between 16 – 23 people nearly single-highhandedly for under $250! Yes, I made that claim –  two turkeys, 6 sides, 5 desserts – plus self-devised recipes to accommodate a guest list inclusive of diabetes, food allergies and a couple of vegetarians! This would be fabulous fodder for blogging and be truly of use to loads of you who face aspects of my Thanksgiving challenges. The trouble is, that it is so much effort that I can’t slow down to photograph it all for your edification….

But I did manage to sneak into the kitchen when it came time to whip some fresh cream to snap some phone-shots of my famous pumpkin pie.

My mother began making this pumpkin pie when I was very young. I think she originally got the recipe from Family Circle or Ladies Home Journal and it was from a chef from the Nixon era White House.

But it was Dyslexia that made this recipe even better – I misread some of the ingredients list one year, and to my surprise and delight, made it even better! Here is the mixed up recipe….

But first things first – no pie is perfect without Perfect Flaky Crust –

2 c flour

3/4 c Crisco – There’s no substitute for Crisco!

1/2 tsp salt

about 6 tbsp ice cold water

Ice water is key – water should be so cold it nearly has a skin of ice. Mix the salt and flour together and cut the Crisco in with pastry cutter until is about the size of dry oats. Mix the water into the dry ingredient with a FORK; avoid fingers contact with the pastry until the end; skin oil makes crust tough.

I hate fighting with dough, and flouring surfaces makes a big mess and can also toughen crust. So I turn the pastry out onto parchment, then cover it with another piece of parchment. Work the rolling pin in a circle clockwise to roll the dough into an even circle. Remove top layer of parchment, and flip the crust face-down into a big Pyrex glass pie pan, and peel the parchment off the top – voila!

Pumpkin Filling:

1 can of pumpkin – yes, canned – sometimes the best things are simple.

1 c. of brown sugar

3/4 c white sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 can evaporated milk

3 tablespoons dark molasses

Combine everything except for the molasses and evaporated milk. I like to whisk it all together; it makes me feel like I am somehow more connected to the ingredients and the process of combining them.

Add the evaporated milk, folding in slowly.

Add the molasses and mix thoroughly.

Poor into an unbaked pie crust, and bake in an oven preheated to 450 degrees for 15 mins; reduce to 350 and continue baking for 45 more minutes. Remember – it’s not done until a butter knife inserted dead-center comes out clean.

Don’t fret about the knife incisions – whip cream hides all sins deliciously!

I don’t hyper-focus on perfectly crimped crusts – I love the slight imperfections implied in recipes hand-made with love. I serve my pie really cold and dress it up with whipped cream topped with hazelnuts for Christmas.

Handmade Whipped Cream:

Pour a pint of heavy cream into a chilled bowl.

Add 2 Tbsp of sugar and 2 tsps of pure vanilla extract, so that the cream is fragrant but not over-sweet. Chilling the bowl and the beaters helps the cream whip properly into good stiff peaks, if the kitchen is warm from baking.

Top with chopped Hazelnuts. Walnuts have bitter skins that meet the tongue with a tad of regret. If you are a true foodie (or walnut lover) you can always blanch your walnuts and rub off the skins to remove the bitter edge – but Hazelnuts have a flavor made to fall in love with pumpkin at first sight. I serve it cold because the medley of spices is most pronounced when the custard is not warm.

The finished pie – mmmm!

This pie positively dissolves on the tongue, and never, ever disappoints – one reason that my Thanksgiving guests seem to have to be rendered immobile to miss my Thanksgiving dinner…

Sometimes it is the simplest and least expensive traditions that best satisfy and leave the most indelible marks of your caring and generosity of spirit.

Think I’m going to head to the gym – the one draw-back of my perfect pumpkin pie!