Sunday, November 1, 2009

Home-made Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie is a problem.

Problem #1: Every decent recipe I found in my recipe books and online called for evaporated milk or dry-milk powder (which, as far as I know, doesn't come in a lactose-free version). Then there's the issue of store-bought pumpkin purée, which just doesn't taste the same. Fortunately it turns out (Thank you "Food Substitutions Bible") that evaporated milk is just milk that has had some of the water evaporated from it so it reduces in volume, making what it's added to less soupy than if you used regular milk. So I put 2-1/4 cups of almond milk on the stove to reduce while steaming the pumpkin.

Problem #2: The recipe I found online for pumpkin pie:

said that steaming would be faster than roasting. I always roast. I'm a good roaster. I should have stuck with what I knew. Steaming ended up taking a ridiculous amount of time because all the pieces of pumpkin didn't fit in my steamer and the lid couldn't fully close. It also added more liquid to the pumpkin that you just have to drain off later. I skipped the suggestion to use a cheesecloth overnight and stuck with paper towels. You might be thinking, why didn't you do it in the microwave? Well, paranoid me decided that since most of the nutrients in squash are lost when you boil them, the microwave would probably suck those nutrients up just as fast. So my only options were to steam or roast.

Problem #3: My blender once steamed I hand-blended the pumpkin, leaving me with a little more texture in the squash than a traditional pumpkin purée. That's not the problem. That was fine. It was getting pumpkin EVERYWEHERE that was a problem. The recipe is huge. It makes tons and tons of pie filling, so my largest mixing bowl wasn't big enough to hand mix the pumpkin with the evaporated milk and all the other fillings without it getting all over the kitchen and my clothes. I don't own an annoying 'Kiss the Chef' apron, so that didn't save me either. Combine the handmixer with the soupy-ness of Problem #2 and pumpkin flew everywhere. Fortunately I was by myself and no one saw this disaster and I 'forgot' to take a picture. I did have a great moment where I stopped what I was doing, stood back, and realized how ridiculous the situation was.

The recipe:


  • a pie pumpkin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • one half teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • one half teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups pumpkin glop (ok... "sieved, cooked pumpkin")
  • 1.5 cans (12oz each) of evaporated milk (I use the nonfat version) for best results.
    If you can't get canned evaporated milk, make your own from nonfat dried milk and make it twice as concentrated as the directions on the box call for!
    If you can't get nonfat dried milk, just use milk.
    If you are lactose-intolerant, use lactose-free milk.

One pie pumpkin ended up giving me six cups of pumpkin purée, so I double the recipe. Seemed like a good idea to make double and freeze extra pies for when they're needed most. You never know when you will desperately want a piece of home-made pumpkin pie. Or when you won't have time to make dessert for a special occasion. Or perhaps, like the Montreal Gazette, it makes a great gift? Maybe not such a good Hallowe'en costume (see previous post), though you would make a lot of friends by covering yourself in pie.

I digress...

The only changes I made to the recipe (I was a pumpkin pie novitiate) were to adjust the spices. I ground my own cloves and cinnamon. I usually triple the cinnamon no matter what but the fresh spice was more pungent. I may have also killed a lot of the fluffiness of the recipe by having to separate the batter into separate bowls and move the hand-mixer between bowls. I don't think starting and stopping the mixer is good for keeping air in the batter.

Anyway, then I made my mom's recipe for pie dough. It hasn't failed me yet. The trick is to have the butter or margarine at room temperature before you cut it in:

Pie Crust Recipe:

For a double -crust 9" pie (or two double-crust smaller pies):

2 c flour

1 tsp salt

3/4 c shortening (margarine or butter) at room temperature (1.5 margarine squares)

5-6 Tbsp cold water (I always use 6)

Blend flour, salt and shortening until particles are the size of small peas. Add water. Shape dough into a two balls with hands. Roll out one ball on a clean surface covered in flour. Turn the pastry as you roll so it forms a circle. Re-apply flour to rolling pin (or wine bottle, or water bottle, in my case) as you go. Lift from surface and place on pie plate. Repeat with second ball and place in second pie plate or on top of fillings of first pie.

I made three pieces and then froze pie filling in containers to make three more pies at a later date!!! The recipe also says you can just cook the pie filling and have a crust-less pie, which I later tried and was pretty happy with. I think I under-filled the pie plates. You don't have to worry about overflow as the pie didn't get any bigger in the oven, so fill it right to the top.

So pie got made, eaten, enjoyed, and tons got frozen. Now I won't have to make another pie filling for...well, I'd say at least Easter, which is probably when I'll start craving it again.

Lessons learned:

1. Roast the pumpkin!

2. Evaporated milk is so easy to make, so don't be dismayed by recipes that call for it

3. Get a food processor...

4. Pumpkin doesn't stain, which is super.