Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hurray for the Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and I am thankful that we've the makings for a feast that will keep me cooking for two days!

Honestly, I cheat a lot due to a very small kitchen. I use instant mashed potatoes, Stove Top Stuffing, and other things that help me get it all on the table at the same time while it's still hot. A lot of my Thanksgiving cooking happens in that 30 minutes when the turkey is resting before carving. But one thing that cannot be done right ahead of dinner is pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin pie is a custard, which means it cannot be eaten hot. You need to give it a couple of hours to cool or chill it in the fridge. So the day before Thanksgiving I make pie. A couple of years ago I blogged pumpkin pie from scratch, but this year let's look at the pumpkin pie recipe as defined in the U.S.: The Libby's Pumpkin Pie Recipe. This recipe has been on the back of the Libby's pumpkin can since the 1950's, and in some ways has defined how we eat the vegetable.

Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie
MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Of course you can adapt this; it's pretty forgiving if you keep the basic ratios consistant. Use pumpkin pie spice instead of the cloves, ginger, and cinnamon if that's what you have. Heavy cream will stand in for evaporated milk. One 12 ounce can of pumpkin happens to be 2 cups: any winter squash would work (except maybe spaghetti squash) if you wanted to bake it and pulp it. I find myself wondering if the basic recipe would work for sweet potato pie.

If there's a trick to pumpkin pie, it's to make sure the filling is very well blended, which is why the recipe has you beat the eggs separately and stir the rest into them. Use a scraper to be sure there's no pumpkin trying to evade you on the bottom of the bowl. The first picture is the filling all ready to go (it doesn't look orange because the bowl is reflecting the flash and washing it out).

With custard pies I recommend putting the pie pan with the prepared crust on a baking sheet on the oven rack and then pouring the filling in. Carefully put the rack in and close the oven door gently. I've slopped filling over the edges getting the pie in the oven, and the filling will scorch and burn on the crust, spoiling the taste. The second picture is the filling in the prepared crust just before I put it in the oven.

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