Still life with pie

It’s almost shameful that I haven’t done a full post on pumpkin pie until now.  And now being almost six weeks post-Thanksgiving.
The almost stays as is because I could eat pumpkin pie all year long.  So there’s never a wrong time to post about my love for that most un-pretty pie. Yes, pumpkin pie.  That once-a-year treat made from a vegetable that rarely breeds excitement.  Except in me.
I can tell you exactly why:  it’s a pie, it’s basically a custard, it’s spicy, it’s not served hot, and it’s best served with whipped cream.  Oh, and there’s no chocolate.  I’m not sure why it took almost thirty years for me to realize that we were a match made in heaven.

With Disney’s version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow always being a favourite, I must have subconsciously been cultivating my obsession for pumpkin since the early 80s.  For soups, pastas, bars and muffins, I’ve been known to pop open a can or two or point my finger in that direction on a menu.  I always come back to the pie though.  And fall is the best season not (only) because of the return to coats and boots, but because from early October until late November, I’m pretty much guaranteed that pumpkin pie will be on every dessert menu. Yes. Please.

I’m always more than happy to eat someone else’s, especially if they’ve gone to the trouble of actually carving up a sugar pumpkin, but I’m also more than happy to make my own.  Over the past five years or so, the following recipe for the filling has been my standard.  It always comes out perfect and has a great texture, almost like a cheesecake.  As my pastry skills were non-existent back in the day, I’ve always done a crumb crust.  Sometimes with graham crumbs, other times with crushed ginger snaps.  Both are excellent and add an extra layer of flavour.

I had been pondering what an oatmeal cookie crust might be like when I came across a posting on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown pumpkin pie.  You know the show?  Slick Bobby (read: his two chefs) tries to outdo regular folk on their beloved classic recipes and never seems to win. *Cue producers’ credit.*  What intrigued me about his recipe was not that HE TOO does a crumb crust, but that he tops his pie with what amounts to a crushed oatmeal cookie.  I patted myself on the back for my good pondering.  Following a lovely dinner of Melissa Clark’s white bean and sausage stew, I would be serving up my pumpkin pie with some cinnamon crunch to a old friends.  Still November, still allowable without looking obsessed.

The crunch was exactly that and became a fourth texture to play off of the rich crumb, pumpkin middle and crown of cream.  The cream! I can’t forget to tell you about my Throwdown whipped cream.  Secret:  brown sugar.  A friend told me about the magic of brown sugar cream a few years ago, and I’ve never looked back.  Sometimes, I’d be alright just eating a bowl of the cream and saving the pie for another day.  But as that’s less socially acceptable than adoring pumpkin pie and I have jeans to fit in, it hasn’t happened yet.

In conclusion, I think as you are safe to make pumpkin pie for at least two more weeks without feeling weird about it, you should try my pie, with my cream and Bobby’s crunch.  I won’t hold it against you if you eat it at room temperature, but I think it’s best slightly cold and with as much cream as you can handle.

Breakfast of champions

Crumb crust

2 cups of graham crumbs, or crushed cookie of your choice (finely crushed)
1/2 cup  of melted butter
1/3 cup of sugar

Mix crumbs, butter and sugar together and pat onto bottom and sides of pie plate.  Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees or until lightly golden.  Cool completely.

Cinnamon crunch
adapted from Bobby Flay

1/4 cup of oats
1/4 cup of flour
1/4 cup of brown sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons of butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

Cut butter into flour, sugar, oats and cinnamon until coarse crumbs form (processor or fingers).  Pat mixture into a square about 1/4-inch thick on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cool “cookie” completely.  Break into small pieces with your hand.  Store for later.

Pumpkin pie
adapted from Bon Appetit

1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sour cream or plain full-fat yogurt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk pumpkin, condensed milk, sour cream, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and nutmeg in large bowl to blend. Whisk in eggs. Pour into crust (some filling may be left over).

Bake pie until filling is puffed around sides and set in center, about 55 minutes. Cool pie on rack. (Can be made ahead. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours, or cover and chill overnight.)

Brown sugar cream

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup of whipping cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

A few hours before you will whip cream, mix the sugar with the cream (I always put the sugar into the cream carton).  It needs time to melt into the cream.
Whip the cream and sugar until soft peaks begin to form.  Add the vanilla and whip to desired thickness.

Pie. Cream. Crunch.  Done.