It's that time of year again: Autumn, my favourite season! I love the smell of Autumn, and watching the leaves turn bright colours, feeling the air grow chill and cuddling with my hubby. And with Autumn comes pumpkin pie! I love pumpkin pie! This is quite unusual for someone who lives outside of the USA, I make pies and dish them out everywhere I go, and most people have never tried them before. But I spent my first 8 years of my life in Boston, so I grew feasting on delicious pumpkin pie every Fall. I can still picture my Mom, in the kitchen, making pumpkin pie, spooning the thick orange filling from a jar. So, a few years ago, having lived, from the age of 8, in South Africa and now, as an adult, in the UK where pumpkin pie was all but unheard of in either place (and you certainly can't buy bottled filling) I decided to try and make my own. To be honest, my first few tries were terrible, inedible in fact. But I persevered, longing for that smooth spiced pie that I remembered and finally I had it! And now I am going to share it with you.
Until this year, I generally have had to make my own pumpkin puree from scratch, but now Tesco has started stocking canned pumpkin, so my recipe calls for canned pumpkin. If you would like to make your own pumpkin puree, just substitute it in weight for weight. My favourite way to make the puree is as follows:
Chop pumpkin up into large wedges and remove seeds and stringy bits. Place, shell down, on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes at 180C, until you can quite easily stick a fork through the flesh (don't add any oil or butter). Peel the skin off (or scrape the flesh off the peel) and bung it all into a food processor or blender, with just a little bit of water to get it going (or do in batches if you have a lot of pumpkin) until you get a reasonably smooth puree (don't worry if it isn't perfectly smooth, we are going to cook and blend it again later.)
Another alternative it to peel and chop the whole raw pumpkin up into smallish bits, removing all seeds and stringy bits. Put it in a large pot with a little bit of water and cook it until it becomes soft (only enough water to steam the pumpkin as it cooks, you don't want to boil the pumpkin) then blend it as above or with a stick blender. This method can be quicker, if you are good at peeling pumpkins. You can also move straight on to the pie recipe with the pumpkin already in the pot, cooking.
Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Makes 2 10" pies or 3 dozen mini pies.
Prepare sweet shortcrust pastry (see recipe below). You can also use ready rolled shortcrust or sweet shortcrust pastry, or even use pre baked shells.
For mini pies:
Grease 3 muffin trays and line with pastry (either roll out pastry and cut discs to fit cups, or take a ball of pastry and press it into the cups). Put in the fridge for about 30mins. Do not blind bake. (You can do one tray at a time, just repeat the process once you have completely finished a tray of pies.)
For 10" pies:
Grease 2 pie dishes and line with pastry. Place baking paper over pastry and fill with baking beads. Blind bake pastry for 10-20 minutes at 200C, until it is just cooked, edges only slightly golden in colour.
Prepare the filling:
822g Pumpkin puree (large can)
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup soft dark brown sugar
1 cup demerera sugar
360ml double cream
Set oven to 200C
Put pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mixed spice and salt in large pot, over medium heat. Beat together with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until the pumpkin begins to bubble.
Mix in the dark brown and demerera sugars, scraping down the sides of the pot. Once it begins to bubble add the milk and double cream, mix thoroughly and scrape down the sides of the pot. Once the mixture begins to bubble again, remove from heat.
Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and blend with a stick blender until they are pale and creamy. Pour the hot pumpkin mixture in to the eggs while blending. If you couldn't get all of the pumpkin mixture in to the bowl, return it all to the pot and continue blending until the mixture is very smooth. (If you wish to use a jug blender, do this step in two parts, first with 4 eggs, then with 3, and mix it all together again once blended.) A bit of food colouring can be added to get a more orange colour.
Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pie cases, just below the top of the pastry, and bake (the mixture can be used hot or cooled).
For mini pies: 15-20 minutes
For 10" pies: 25-30 minutes
Pies should be baked until they are set, but still a bit jiggly in the middle (like a jelly). The surface of the pie puffs up and gets little cracks in it.
The large pies can be chilled in the dish, but it is best to remove the mini pies from the muffin pans while they are still hot (but handle-able), the filling should have sunk down below the top of the pastry. Make sure that they are free all around the edges by running a knife between the pastry and the pan. Either carefully lift them out of the pan with a blunt knife, or gently place a board over the muffin pan and flip it round, upending the pies on to the board. Quickly move the pies on to a cooling rack (right side up) so that they can cool without becoming soggy.
Pumpkin pie is best served chilled.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry Recipe:
Makes enough pastry for 2 10" pies or 3 dozen mini pies
450g plain flour
100g icing/powdered sugar
220g stork margarine or butter
2 large eggs, beaten
pinch of salt
Combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut in the stork/butter with a pastry blender or your fingers, until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Mix in the eggs until it forms a smooth and very soft dough, don't overwork it. Flatten into a rectangle, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling out and lining pie dish. Put in the fridge to chill again for 30 minutes, before baking.
I hope you enjoy your delicious pumpkin pies as much as I do!