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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Pies I: Maple Pumpkin Brûlée Pie

I am a staunch fan of Libby's basic pumpkin pie.  It's one of my favorite breakfasts.  I eat it by the quarter pie, and can put a whole one away in 2 days.  By myself.  But I do make some adjustments in order to manage such copious consumption.  My customary tweak is to use part-skim evaporated milk, and reduce the sugar by about half.  This greatly reduces the richness and intensity, without turning it into a mere shadow of itself.  The point of this story is to indicate that all other pumpkin pies are compared to Libby's.

With that in mind, this pie was quite good, but it's not one I'd be eating by the quarter pie.  It's basic structure was the same as Libby's -- eggs, dairy, pumpkin, and sugar were all fairly equal -- but this one uses heavy cream instead of evaporated milk, and includes brown sugar and potato starch, as well as the maple flavor.  The primary difference between the two recipes, though, was the quantity of spices.  This recipe uses more than twice the quantity of the Libby's recipe!  Coupled with the brown sugar, the result tastes exactly like gingerbread.

At Thanksgiving, this was delicious.  The next day at room temperature, it tasted too sweet and sticky, and overly spiced.  I had to scrape the sugar topping off.  The day after that, cold, it tasted delicious again, but rich.  Certainly more dessert than breakfast.  The brûléed topping was a nice touch, but doesn't survive -- it became soggy overnight.  (It also served to cover nicely an otherwise unattractive pie.  It doesn't have the beautiful orange color of most pumpkin pies, but rather a dull brown.)

Baked, but not yet brûléed.

I find Saveur recipes a little sketchy on direction.  For example, this one starts, "Whisk sugars and eggs in a bowl until pale and fluffy."  What I had in the bowl was dark from the sugar and very liquid -- I didn't picture it ever becoming pale and certainly not fluffy.  My hostess, however, said she would consider the ribbon stage "fluffy".  I would not.  So perhaps I didn't beat it long enough, which might have contributed to the watery batter.  (Whisk?  Who hand whisks eggs to the ribbon stage these days anyway?  Who do they think I am, Aunt Jemima?)  The other contributor to a watery mix was the pumpkin -- normally I use Libby's, but this time I used Trader Joe's organic, and it was not as good.  It was very pale, and very thin -- much higher water content.  Where the recipe says, "using a spatula, spread into an even layer," what I had was pure liquid, sloshing about in the bowl.  I was thankful for the potato starch, and could only hope that that, and the 2 eggs, were enough to pull this together.  They were, although I did bake it a little longer just to be sure.  (How much jiggle is acceptable?  I don't know. I wasn't comfortable with the amount of movement at 50 minutes, so I gave it an extra 5.)

Here's what I used:

For the crust:
I used this basic recipe, adjusted for 1.2 times the half-quantity (a 9" deep-dish single crust) and prepared as a mealy crust.

For the filling:
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 15-oz. can pumpkin purée
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup maple syrup
2½ tablespoons potato starch
2½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground clove
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup Demerara sugar

Heat oven to 450°. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12″ round and fit into a 9″ pie plate. Trim edges and crimp; chill 30 minutes.  Using a fork, prick dough all over. Line dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans; bake 15 minutes. Remove paper and weights, and gently press closed any prick holes.  Return to the oven and bake another 5 minutes, covering the edges if they're getting too brown.  Let cool while you make the filling.

Whisk sugars and eggs in a bowl until pale and fluffy.  (I've left this direction as is, in case it means something to someone.  I might have changed it to "creamy" rather than "fluffy".)  Add pumpkin, cream, syrup, potato starch, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and salt; whisk until smooth. Pour filling over dough; if necessary, spread into an even layer. Bake until just set in the center, 45–50 minutes. Transfer pie to a rack; let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Sprinkle Demerara sugar evenly over surface of pie. Guide the flame of a blowtorch back and forth over surface until sugar caramelizes. Serve immediately.

Conclusion:  Very good -- sweet, rich, and highly spiced.  Definitely best served cold.  It won't become my standby, but it makes a nice fancy alternative.  The jury is still out on the spice and sugar quantities, since I went back and forth depending on the moment.  Perhaps it's all about the temperature.  Regardless, it was a big hit at dinner.  Homemade whipped cream recommended for serving.

Recipe:  Maple Pumpkin Brûlée Pie via Saveur

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