Monday, November 17, 2014

classic pumpkin pie with pecan praline sauce

classic pumpkin pie with pecan praline sauce

Given that finishing off the month November without a single slice of pumpkin pie is, for me, practically a crime against the season, it’s rather sad that this 8-plus year old site has only a single iteration of it, that it’s from 6 years ago, and not even the one I make on an annual basis. The 2008 recipe hailed from Cook’s Illustrated, those clever chefs that always push the envelope, this time in the name of the silkiest pumpkin pie they could come up with. It involved canned yams. It required a fine-mesh strainer. Three whole eggs and two yolks. It was lovely, but if you’re someone who actually adores the classic taste of pumpkin pie above all else, it probably didn’t fill the pumpkin pie void in your life.

one-bowl pie crust: go! cut the butter into the flour, sugar and salt
bring the dough together with your hands always make 2 doughs, even if you just need one

This, I hope, will. I’m not terribly revolutionary in my go-to pumpkin pie but I also don’t think the Thanksgiving demands it. I’ve said this before, but I don’t think we travel by buses, trains, cars and planes, often during inclement weather and even more brutal traffic because we’re secretly hoping our family ditched the known-and-loved standards — yes, even the green bean casserole with crispy onions — for an edgy new recipe someone found in a fancy food magazine this year.

spices, old and new

pumpkin + sugar and spice
cooking the filling, just a little

And so this is a pumpkin pie for those who love the classics; there’s no cardamom, no crystallized ginger, five-spice powder or coconut milk, although you’re welcome to doctor it up as you please. I don’t stray terribly far from the back-of-the-can standard, but I nix the canned evaporated milk, add an extra egg to firm it up, make it a touch less sweet, and I’d like to think it’s spiced just right, with no heap of allspice or aggressive level of cloves clanking you in the kisser when you were hoping to mostly taste pumpkin. I keep the CI technique of precooking the pumpkin for a bit on the stove, which reduces moisture and improves texture. My recipe accommodates both home-roasted pumpkin or squash, or the canned stuff. Pumpkin pie doesn’t judge.

roll out your dough fold gently, without creasing
unfold and trim i've got very little crimping game

But I couldn’t resist one extra flourish, as can happen when you’re looking at Joy Wilson’s decadent recipes. The pumpkin pie in her new book includes a pecan praline topping, perhaps a nod to her new home base, New Orleans, and it’s wonderful. You can pour it over the whole pie, but I think it’s even nicer as a ladled finish on top of a slice. Purists can skip it; they’re just leaving more for the rest of us.

ready to bakeclassic pumpkin pie
classic pumpkin pie + pecan praline sauce

Lazy pumpkin pie: Pumpkin Puddings! No crust, but a lovely sweetened sour cream finish. Huzzah!

Choose your own SK adventure: So, I’ve got another pie and a vegetable dish to share before Thanksgiving. Which first? What’s more urgent for you?

A Fall/Winter Holiday Frenzy on Pinterest: The Smitten Kitchen Pinterest page is all decked out for November and December. Need more Pumpkin ideas? Savory or Sweet Thanksgiving ideas? Homemade Food Gifts? Or maybe just All The Cookies? So do we, and we’ve got you covered.

One year ago: Apple-Herb Stuffing For All Seasons
Two years ago: Spinach Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette
Three years ago: Gingersnaps
Four years ago: Creamed Onions with Bacon and Chives
Five years ago: Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie
Six years ago: Chocolate Toffee Cookies, Chickpea Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Meyer Lemon and Fresh Cranberry Scones, Winter Fruit Salad and Mushroom and Barley Pie
Seven years ago: Pumpkin Waffles, Creamy White Polenta with Mushrooms, Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookies (though these are still our house favorite), Brussels and Chestnuts in Brown Butter and Nutmeg Maple Cream Pie
Eight years ago: Sundried Tomato-Stuffed Mushrooms, Jacked-Up Banana Bread, Lattice-Top Pie Tutorial

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Five Egg Sandwiches
1.5 Years Ago: Japanese Vegetable Pancakes
2.5 Years Ago: Vidalia Onion Soup with Wild Rice
3.5 Years Ago: Rhubarb Streusel Muffins

Classic Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Praline Topping
Topping adapted from Joy The Baker: Homemade Decadence

Yield: 1 standard pie or about 8 servings

Crust
1 1/4 cups (155 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea or table salt
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup (60 ml) very cold water, plus an additional tablespoon if needed

Filling
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree, from a 15-ounce (425 gram) can or homemade
2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea or table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
A few gratings of fresh nutmeg (or a pinch of ground nutmeg)
1 1/3 cups (315 ml) cold heavy cream
3 large eggs

Topping
1/2 cup (95 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons (45 ml) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, or a little less of a coarse salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (85 grams) pecans (I coarsely chopped 1/2 cup, left the last 1/4 cup in halves)

Make the pie dough:

  • By hand, with my one-bowl method: In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. (Some people like to do this by freezing the stick of butter and coarsely grating it into the flour, but I haven’t found the results as flaky.) Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water.
  • With a food processor: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and pulse machine until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. Turn mixture out into mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water.
  • Both methods: Wrap dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours, or you can quick-firm this in the freezer for 15 minutes. Longer than 2 days, it’s best to freeze it until needed.

Form the crust: On a floured counter, roll the dough out into a 12 to 13-inch circle-ish shape. Fold dough gently in quarters without creasing and transfer to a 9-inch standard (not deep-dish) pie plate. Unfold dough and trim overhang to about 1/2-inch. Fold overhang under edge of pie crust and crimp decoratively. Return to fridge until ready to fill. (See Notes below for par-baking directions, if desired. I rarely desire this.)

Heat oven: To 400°F (205°C).

Make the filling: Combine pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a sputtering simmer and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Scoop cooked pumpkin filling into bowl, and whisk in cold cream until smooth. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Pour filling into prepared pie crust.

Bake pie: For 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F (175°C) and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, until only the center barely jiggles and a toothpick inserted into it comes out pumpkin-free. (Damp is fine, but the toothpick shouldn’t have loose pumpkin batter on it.)

Let pie cool on a rack completely, if you, like me, prefer your pumpkin pie cool. You can hasten this along in the fridge. This pie is now ready to serve, but if you want to gild the lily a little, make the topping as well.

Make pecan praline topping: In a small/medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, combine the brown sugar, butter, cream and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick and bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla and pecans.

Serve pie: In wedges, ladles with pecan praline sauce. Extra pie (an unfamiliar phenomenon) keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

Notes:

  • For the crust: I use a half recipe of my go-to pie crust here; you can read this post for more details. You can also use any crust of your choosing, even store-bought. It’s really all about the filling.
  • Par-baking your crust: Once you’ve settled that, you get to choose whether you want to par-bake it or not, and decision comes down to how crispy you want the base of your pie. I do not par-bake pumpkin pie crusts, but I’m pretty lazy. If you’d like to par-bake your crust, once you roll it out, prick unbaked crust a few times with a fork, line it with lightly buttered foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dried beans or pennies. Bake at 400°F (205°C) on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove paper or foil and weights, and bake 5 to 10 more minutes until crust is golden brown and lightly crisp. Keep oven on (you’ll need the same temperature to begin baking), fill pie and finish baking as instructed above.
  • Buying canned pumpkin: If you’re using canned pumpkin, make sure you buy pumpkin puree, and not pumpkin pie filling, which will come already aggressively sweetened and spiced.
  • Making pumpkin puree: My directions are here, but keep in mind that both butternut and kabocha squash also make very smooth, lovely fillings for pumpkin pie. You can use the same directions to prepare them.
  • Heavy cream: You can replace half of the heavy cream with milk, although there’s less fun in that; you can also replace the whole amount with a half-and-half, which always seems to be around when you’re entertaining, right?
  • Praline sauce: The pecan praline sauce, not unlike the sticky date pudding toffee sauce from two weeks ago, is best when it’s first made, and tends to become grainy when it’s reheated. Nobody complains, but if it’s going to bug you a lot, I recommend making it right before you serve the pie. You’ll only need 10 minutes and a small saucepan.


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