Pumpkin Pie Fest part II: the pies

Eight recipes, seven cookbooks, six piesOn Sunday, I baked five of the six pies. I ran into two issues that prevented me from baking pie #6 on Sunday: I ran out of both pumpkin and eggs. (This was perhaps because my shopping list was based on making four rather than six pies.) So today — Monday — I delivered the first five pies to the refrigerator at work (throwing away some clearly spoiled vegetables in the process of making room), then went grocery shopping so I could finish pie #6, Pecan Pumpkin Pie, about which more below.

As I mentioned in part I, the pies varied quite a bit in their construction. Some called for blind-baking the pie crust, either fully (as with Joanne Chang’s recipe) or partially (the Elsens’ and Richard Sax’s recipes). The butter content of these pie doughs made the whole process a bit of a challenge, and those crusts that were not blind-baked definitely did not perform as well as those that were (see in particular the Moosewood recipe below). Four of the recipes I initially identified as having potential got left out: Alice Waters’ recipe was very plain, so I figured that someone else would probably be bringing something very similar; Richard Sax’s pumpkin chiffon didn’t interest me very much, but I gave a photocopy to Dorothy Curtis; Alton Brown’s recipe was one that I had done before, and with three cheesecakes contributed by others, I did not think there was a need for another crumb crust; and I didn’t like the idea of using yams, called for in the Cook’s Illustrated recipe from 2008. (Jason Miller made that recipe, however, so tasters will get a chance to try it anyway.)

Starting out, I tried to overlap some of the cooking steps, so that one pie could be in the oven alongside the crust being blind-baked for the next pie, but after the first two pies I found that this was too much to juggle, particularly as the recipes called for different oven temperatures (and in some cases, changing oven temperatures). The first pie to be completed was Honey Pumpkin Pie by David Page and Barbara Shinn, from their cookbook Recipes from Home:
David Page and Barbara Shinn's Honey Pumpkin Pie
Although this pie is called “Honey Pumpkin Pie”, only a third of the sweetener is honey; I used McLure’s orange blossom honey. (The “Golden Pumpkin Pie”, below, from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking is sweetened entirely with honey.) As I mentioned in part I, I did not use their pie crust, but instead used half of a double-crust recipe from Richard Sax’s Classic Home Desserts which Sax attributes to Nick Malgieri.

The second pie to be finished was Joanne Chang’s Super-Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie, from her cookbook Flour:
Joanne Chang's Super-Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie
Chang’s recipe is the only one I made that calls for the traditional combination of evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk (I used Carnation for the former and Eagle Brand for the latter) in addition to heavy cream. Additional sweetness comes from brown sugar, which is cooked with the pumpkin for a fairly long time to concentrate its flavor. Chang’s crust is enriched with egg, and unlike all the others is fully blind-baked. You can see the difference in this photo, which shows the first two pies side by side:

Two pies side-by-side

Honey Pumpkin Pie (l) and Super-Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie (r)

The third pie to be completed was Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie, from Emily and Melissa Elsen’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book:
Emily & Melissa Elsen's Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie
As you can see from the crack in the center (which grew even more in cooling), I somewhat overcooked the custard. The brown butter in the title forms part of a butterscotch, which is the only sweetener for this pie, which has the most unusual ingredients list of the six pies, including both lemon and carrot juice.

Pie #4 was King Arthur’s Golden Pumpkin Pie. As noted above, the custard is sweetened entirely with honey (nine ounces of non-varietal honey from a local apiary); the crust is made with ground rolled oats and traditional (red) whole wheat flour, and it’s sweetened with brown sugar (I used India Tree dark muscovado):
King Arthur Flour's Golden Pumpkin Pie
Beyond the honey, the other unusual ingredients in this custard are dark rum and a tablespoon of melted butter. The recipe called for half-and-half, but since I had plenty of milk and cream, I made my own rather than buying an additional dairy product I wouldn’t be able to use for anything else.

Sunday’s fifth and final pie was “Best-Ever” Pumpkin Pie, from Richard Sax’s Classic Home Desserts. He had an unusual blind-baking procedure which I don’t think worked very well — it didn’t involve using weights, so even after docking, steam from the butter lifted the bottom crust off the surface of the pie plate, and the edges of the crust slumped down in the extra-deep 9½” pie plate specified for this recipe:
Richard Sax's Best-Ever Pumpkin Pie
While making this recipe, I ran out of my homemade pumpkin purée and had to substitute some canned pumpkin (actually Dickinson squash) to make up the difference. This recipe calls for rum as a fairly significant flavoring — three tablespoons — but only two eggs (all the other custards used three or four eggs), and brown sugar is the primary sweetener.

Finally, the straggler completed on Monday was Pecan Pumpkin Pie from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts. This pie is an interesting concept: a full-blown pecan pie on the bottom, with a pumpkin custard on the top (“so your holiday guests don’t have to choose”, say the authors). Unfortunately, it is marred by a number of execution difficulties — it calls for a ten-inch pie plate, which is not a normal size, and does not call for blind-baking the crust, leading to slumping, as seen here:

Moosewood's Pecan Pumpkin Pie (pecan layer)

Before the pecan layer went into the oven, the crust was sitting on the rim of the dish. Now it’s barely above the surface of the pecan filling.

The fluted-edge ceramic plate was the only one I could find that actually claimed to be ten inches, but I have a suspicion that it actually isn’t, and that this recipe was written for a wider, shallower pie plate. That seems to be borne out by the instructions, which claim that the pecan filling should be set after only 20 minutes of baking — I found that it took 30 minutes. But the pumpkin custard was done (indeed overdone) well before the 40 minutes called for:
Moosewood's Pecan Pumpkin Pie
This will clearly be a challenge to portion and serve, with the crust buried well below the top of the filling. If I decide I want to make this pie again (keeping in mind that I haven’t tasted this or any of the others yet), some changes will clearly be required — reducing the quantities to fit in a normal pie plate, blind-baking the crust to keep it from slumping, or making smaller (individual- or two-serving) pies using the same procedure. (Perhaps it would work better in an extra-tall-sided tart pan?)

Sorry folks, I’m not compiling nutrition information for all of these pie recipes! Any that I make primarily for myself, I’ll post again with more pictures, and give the nutrition results then.

This entry was posted in Food and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.