Now that Halloween is over, we can start worrying about Thanksgiving. Even if you have a relatively small family, the problem is always the same...the venue and the participants! When my children were little, it was great, we went to my mother's and that was the end of that. Now that some of them are married and have families of their own or live far away, it is always a hassle. The one thing that is for certain, as far as I'm concerned, is the menu. That is what I like the most about this holiday...no surprises on that front, except for a few variations, from time to time. And no choices, except when it comes to the pies...
I am always surprised at how many people, faced with the choice of apple, pumpkin or pecan pie, will more often than not choose the apple pie. Why?? You can have apple all year long, pecan as well, but pumpkin! To me, pumpkin pie, next to the turkey, is the essence of Thanksgiving.
The poor pies never get the respect and attention they deserve. Let's face it, we are so stuffed and comatose after the meal that nobody wants to hear about pie. The whole thing is a cardiac arrest waiting to happen. Think about it...it's all carbs, except for the little pieces of turkey that are the excuse for everything else. I, for one, could do without the turkey and just concentrate on the side dishes and dessert. I usually do!
This time, I am giving the pies the respect they deserve. They are first on the lineup so you'll have plenty of time to think about them. By the way, no apple pie in this lineup... that's for another day!
The perfect pie begins with the perfect crust—one that is tender and flaky. Cutting the butter into the flour mixture is a key step. The butter must be cold and hard; if it warms up and softens, the flour will absorb it, become sticky and yield a dense, tough crust. I recommend mixing the ingredients in a food processor. It allows you to work quickly so the butter doesn't have a chance to soften. And by running the machine in short pulses, the processor won't heat up and melt the butter.
This year I have tons of fresh pumpkin puree waiting in the freezer. As a matter of fact, I already have the pie filling also frozen and ready to go. That way one of the desserts is out of the way and now all I have to decide is whether to bake pecan OR chocolate pecan pie for a second dessert. What a dilemma!
For the dough:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose ﬂour
3/4 tsp. salt
3 tsp. sugar
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter,
cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 1/2 to 6 Tbs. ice water
1 egg, lightly beaten
For the ﬁlling:
2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (from about 1 1/2 cans, each 15 oz.) or fresh
3/4 cup ﬁrmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. all-purpose ﬂour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. brandy
Lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving
To make the dough, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar and pulse to blend. Add the butter and process in short pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3 Tbs. of the ice water and pulse twice. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water, 1 tsp. at a time, pulsing twice after each addition.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Cut off one-third of the dough and shape into a disk. Shape the remaining two-thirds of the dough into a disk. Wrap the disks separately with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Position a rack in the lower third of an oven. Place a cookie sheet on the rack. Preheat to 400°F.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand for 5 minutes. Place the large dough disk between 2 sheets of lightly floured waxed paper and roll out into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Brush off the excess flour. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch Emile Henry deep-dish pie dish and fit the dough into the dish. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold under the excess dough and, using your thumb, decoratively flute the edges. Using a fork, gently poke holes in several places on the bottom of the crust.
Place the small dough disk between the same 2 sheets of waxed paper, flouring the paper if needed, and roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Using a 1 1/2-inch leaf cutter, cut out about 32 small leaves. Using the back of a paring knife, score leaf veins on each cutout. Brush the edges of the pie crust with the beaten egg, then arrange the leaves on the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes.
Line the pie crust with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill with pie weights. Place the pie dish on the preheated cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and bake until the crust is light golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.
Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs and egg yolks and whisk until combined. Add the cream, milk, vanilla and brandy and whisk until smooth. Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust.
Place the pie dish on the preheated cookie sheet. Bake until the filling is set, about 1 hour and 15 minutes, covering the edges of the crust with foil if they get too brown. Transfer the pie dish to the wire rack and let the pie cool completely, about 4 hours, before serving. Accompany each slice with a dollop of whipped cream.
Serves 8 to 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.