Pie Therapy

Recipes and ruminations on pie.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Pumpkin Pie Challenge

We spend Thanksgiving generally with my husband's family, it is a elegant yet fun potluck affair. We responded to the call with a smoked ham and a request to make pies. I however, had some competition, one Aunt called the pies as her territory. I pleaded to make the pumpkin pie, as it is THE Thanksgiving pie. After reading the blog, she acquiesced and let me try my hand.

A triple-threat Ginger Pumpkin Pie was featured in the Post, they called it Trendy. I decided to try that, as well as a tradiitional version. I called my mom, she said she used the one on the back of the Libby's can.
Late Wednesday night, after I put my daughter to bed, and while my husband was out with a friend I began ..... The Pumpkin Pie Challenge.

I started with the traditional version. I made the crust, with butter. It rolled out well. I seemed to remember my mom's used allspice, but anyhow here is Libby's recipe:

  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can Libby pure Pumpkin (15 oz)
  • 1 9" pie shell

I beat the eggs and then stirred in the pumpkin and then the spices which I mixed together. Then I stirred in the evaporated milk. I poured it into the shell and stuck it in the oven. Three minutes in. I started to review the Ginger recipe.


I had forgotten the SUGAR! My grandmother did this one thanksgiving, apparently the pie looked beautiful. And, she tried to stir it into the cooked pie; that year the Day went pieless. With my husbands help (he had just arrived home) we whipped it out of the oven poured the batter out and stirred the sugar in. Noone was any the wiser. I cooked it for 15 mintes at 425 and then 45 monutes at 350.

So, back to trendy Ginger.... The differences between the two pies: fresh pumpkin in this one, the spices and I used the homemade pumkin from the soup described in the previous installment.

I started with the cream cheese crust. It was suppose to be easier. What a crock. It was a huge pain. You had to blend in the cream cheese, then refrigerate, then prebake it. I decided to forego the pie weights, because that is a PAIN. And then the crust also SHRUNK. Never again. And, the cream chees crust tastes thick and is greasy (and more full of fat). So I am not even going to provide the recipe.

The custard was great though. A real hit. 3 kinds of Ginger - fresh, powdered and crstallized.

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped

(from the post)For the filling: In a large bowl, combine the eggs and brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Add the cream, vanilla extract, grated and ground ginger, cinnamon and salt and continue whisking to combine until smooth. Add the pumpkin and stir until thoroughly combined, then pour into pre-baked pie crust. Bake until the filling is set in the center and the edges are firm (test by giving it a gentle shake), about 45 minutes (at 350). Remove from the oven and sprinkle the crystallized ginger over the center of the pie, if desired. Cool at room temperature for about 1 hour, then cover and refrigerate.

We walked both pies over, and in the baby carriage they got a little banged up. They tasted pretty good.

My husband thought the traditional pie was very good. But the ginger was the true winner. The fresh pumkin has a true depth. But we both thought that there could've been more ginger. The other guests too commented on the ginger being tasty.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Cinderella Story - Pumpkin Pie 1

We bought this 10 lb blue pumpkin at the farmers market this weekend. It was $10, I kid you not. Seemed a bit much for a pumpkin to me. But, hubby wanted to make a pumpkin soup for a dinner party we had last night.

He baked this 10 pounder. Used some of it in the soup and then used it to serve the soup. It was cauliflower and pumpkin soup with smoked ham and a lime & white wine sour cream garnish. Lovely, truly, but this blog is about pie.

So there was all this pumkin to be used. I rinsed off the soup and discarded the soupy tasting bits. And, then processed the pumpkin. I started out in the blender. Not working, so my mother-in-law suggested the food processor. It worked, and after a couple of batches I had over 6 cups of pureed pumpkin.

I have wanted to try to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. My mom and my mother-in-law say that the canned stuff is just as good. I wanted to prove them wrong. Or at least know for myself. My guess, anyhow, is that my mom has never processed a pumpkin.

We had a beauty, fit for Cinderella herself. It started out a lovely green blue and when cooked the skin turned a palish ghoulish green. And the flesh was just perfect, dense and tasty.

Here is the recipe:

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c of strained fresh or canned pumkin (the rest went into the freezer)
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t of ginger
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/8 t cloves
  • 1 t nutmeg (I grated this in)
  • 1 c evaporated milk
  • pie shell

Beat the eggs until the yolks and whites are incorporated and then add the pumpkin, brown sugar, and spices. Mix. Then add in the milk. Mix again and pour into a pie shell. I made a 9" as usual. This is more than could be held in a nine inch so I put the extra in a ramekin and made a pudding. Cook at a 450 degree oven for 12 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 325 and cook for another 35 or so until the middle only jiggles a bit.

I tried the pudding out of the oven. I think the fresh pumpkin does taste better. This could of course be that it is REALLY late, and I have a case of wishful thinking.

It is smoother and less thick. I would maybe cut back on the spices and sugar to allow the pumpkin to show through abit more. But yum. Will give you the husband's feedback tomorrow morning. And mother-in-law and friend are coming over tomorrow to watch the kiddo while we go out, so I will get their feedback as well.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Apple Pie

This of course is the quintessential American pie. And, as it is the season, I decided to tackle it. My mom makes an apple pie. That is my standard. Other apple pies generally suck, they are soggy, bland, too sweet, with lousy crusts and not enough apple taste. My moms is good, but I thought there were a few things I would do differently.

I went back to James Beard. I have been doing some other pie research. I have a White House Cookbook from 1897, and that provided some good insight. And I have been reading a few others, but Beard just seems to give the best basis. I will try other versions later.

On Saturday I went to the farmers market. One of the vendors splits their apple versions into eating and cooking at their stand. I inquired into the difference. Staymans, one of my favorite eating apples, is in the cooking category. They are an east coast heirloom apple, very crisp and not too sweet.
The farmer (she is a female who I have discussed pies with before) said that the cooking apples, while can be good for eating, keep their shape while cooked.

Ah hah. This is a key to what I would change to my mom's Apple. I think the apples are too soggy and not apply enough. My mom uses lamo Costco granny smiths, large and with a very lackluster taste.

I bagged a bunch (of both kinds of the farmers apples) but kept them separate: Stayman, Mountaineer, etc. That afternoon, we had a dinner party to attend, so I made the pie.

I chose to do an amalgamation of James Beard, my mother and Deborah Madison (my favorite modern cookbook author).

  • 6 medium sized mixed cooking apples (none Granny Smith) cored and sliced into decent but not too small wedges
  • 3/4 c sugar (I wanted to use brown - but we were out)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 c of butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 cup of oats
  • 1/4 c apple
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 a lemon

You make the crust (single) . I always do butter only, but will leave that for another day. Then cut up the apples. Place them in the pie crust (I always do 9 inch). Squeeze half a lemon over them. Add the remaining ingredients and cut the butter in. Sprinkle it over the top. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 50 minutes, until the apples are done and the juice is bubbling.

Interestingly I kept thinking the apples weren't done because they weren't as mushy as my mom's version. But it turned out they were. The pie turned out FAB. My addition was the oats and it made it more rustic and crunchy. The apples were excellent and apply.

I think it could have been less sweet. My husband remarked as such. And he said there could've been more lemon, maybe even somezest thrown in.

We brought it over to a friends who had just had a baby (another one, different then the lemon slice recipient). The new mom had made a request. And the pie got rave reviews.

Beard writes that, "So common has apple pie always been in this country that many old American cookbooks did not bother to give a recipe. It was taken for granted that every housewife had her own favorite."

Wow, how times have changed. I wonder how many women even know how to make an apple pie. And certainly none of them would want to be called housewife. As a mother, wife, business owner, MBA and friend I did enjoy the effort. I will continue to tweak the recipe until it is my own.