Pumpkin Pies – that taste good even though they aren’t perfect

I made this last week for the annual Thanksgiving family night dinner at my church. In preparation, I looked through several of my recipe books for a good one.

They all had the basic same ingredients except for one, which actually called for canned candied yams. Yep. Candied yams, which a good Ag woman knows that a yam is really just a sweet potato. Real Yams are imported from the Caribbean or Africa.

I’m a big fan of Cook’s Illustrated. It is by far one of the best producers of recipes in the U.S. They have new recipes but they also reexamine old favorites to get the best version of, say chocolate brownies. They definitely have a flog-it-to-death approach when it comes to research and trials and tasting. These magazines and cookbooks aren’t cheap but they don’t have any paid-for promotions, product endorsements or advertising.

Cook's Illustrated rocks!

I was feeling very sassy and took their recipe and deviated from it. (This is a big-time no-no. Baking is a science but it’s also an art—so until you get a feel for what you are doing, stick with the recipe.)

Pumpkin pie ingredients.

2 C. cream (you can use half n half)

3 Large eggs + 2 egg yolks (you will need a total of 5 eggs)

1 tsp. Vanilla

1 Can or (15 oz pumpkin puree)

1 Can candied yams (15 oz.)

¾ C. sugar

¼ C. Maple syrup

2 tsp. Grated fresh ginger

½ tsp Ground cinnamon

¼ tsp Ground fresh nutmeg

1 tsp Salt (use table salt)

1 Pie crust (see Never Fail Pie Crust or you can use the refrigerated, pre-made dough)

  1. You have to bake your crust a little before you put the filling in. Use pie weights or you can do what I did and line the pie crust with foil and throw a few pennies in as weights. Bake pie crust in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. After the crust bakes for a 15 min, remove the foil and weights then place pie shell back in the oven to cook for 10 more minutes. Remove crust from oven when it just starts to brown.

    No pie weights, no problem. Lots of cookware is made from copper, so why no pie weights?.
  2. Whisk cream, vanilla, eggs and yolks and set aside. While your crust is baking, make the filling. Combine the pumpkin, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a pot. Heat it until it gets to a sputtering simmer. Continue to let it simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Mash it with a potato masher (or a fork). Stir constantly for another 5-10 minutes.
    Pumpkin, yams (aka sweet potatoes), sugar, syrup, spices.
    Keep stirring until it's done. It will get all creamy, sticky and thick.

  3. Remove from heat and let mixture cool for 5 minutes. Then add the cream mixture and whisk together.
    Let it cool before you add the cream and egg mixture. You don't want eggs to scramble.
    Whisk together cream mixture and pumpkin mixture.

  4. Strain mixture thru a fine mesh strainer. Use a rubber spatula to push solids through to make a smooth, creaming liquid. When all the solids thru you can, give it one more stir then pour into the pie shell.

    Mr. Potato head helped me strain the solids thru a sieve.
  5. Pour into the warm pie crust. Place in the hot oven (400 degrees) and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees and finish baking for 25 to 30 more minutes. When the center is set (or the instant thermometer reads 175 degrees), remove from oven and let cool at room temperature for 2-3 hours until custard set.
Nearly perfect pumpkin pie -- just put a dollop of whipped cream on that little hickey.

Tah-dah … And there you have a pumpkin pie that tastes good even though it’s not perfect.

Buttermilk Pie

Buttermilk pie is a real winner at any function. It’s old-fashioned goodness. And it’s so easy and non-fussy, I’m almost ashamed to share the recipe, (almost, but not quite). This is easy to double too, then you can take two yummy pies to grandma’s for Thanksgiving. This is another recipe that is hard to mess up and very novice-baker friendly.

A buttermilk pie in all its glory!

Ingredients:

2 C. Sugar

½ C. Butter (one stick)

2 tbs Flour

1 C. Buttermilk

3 Eggs, beaten

1 tsp Vanilla

(One pie crust in a 9 inch pie pan/plate.)

Mix sugar and flour then beat in the butter.

Add the buttermilk …

then the eggs and vanilla and stir it all together.

Get out your wonderfully prepared pie crust (see Never Fail Pie Crust). If you’re in a bind, the refrigerated pie dough will work fine. Pillsbury is my favorite brand. Pour the sugary goodness in.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until your pie is GBD (Golden Brown Delicious).

This is actually a pumpkin pie, but the image makes me laugh with Elvis Parsley and Days of our Chives standing guard over the baking pie.

Never Fail Pie Crust

Literally a page from my grandmother's cookbook.

In 1975 my grandmother published a cookbook titled Food for Body and Soul. In it are some wonderful recipes that are passed down for generations. (more about my grandmother’s cookbook in another post).

The Never Fail Pie Crust is one of those great recipes. This crust is easy to handle and doesn’t require a lot of precision, like most baking does. It’s always soft, yet flaky. Because this recipe uses shortening instead of butter, it comes together very easily. It’s Never Fail, because anyone can pull this off, regardless if you’ve developed a “feel” for the dough.

Pretty standard pantry ingredients for a pie crust.

Ingredients:

3 C. All-purpose flour

1 tsp salt (use table salt)

1 ¼ C. shortening

1 egg, well beaten

1 tbs vinegar

5 tbs water

All in.

Put them all into the food processor, and let it rip.

[If you don’t have a food processor, cut in the flour and shortening. Then add the wet ingredients.]

When it comes together in clumps, it’s ready.

Pretty much flour and lard.

Pull the dough out and shape into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make your pie filling. This dough doesn’t need to be chilled necessarily, but it is easier to work with when it’s cold/cool.

Hanging out in the fridge, waiting its turn.

When you are ready for it, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. This recipe makes enough for a double-crust, deep-dish pie or two single-crust pies. This can be rerolled without toughing and it keeps in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

A beautiful pie crust.

Happy Pies, Y’all.

 

(buttermilk pie recipe coming next.)

Sometimes things don’t turn out … And I’m talking about Pies

Tonight I worked my tail off to make two different pies for my church’s family night. I planned to blog about it and include several recipes – Buttermilk pie, Pumpkin Pie and Never Fail Pie Crust. The pies turned out great. However in my documentation process, I missed a few key steps in the photography … So I’ll have to go through the process again to fill in the gaps.

I hate it when this happens! I had a little imperfection, then I tried to fix it, but made it worse!

I had a few distractions:

My sweet little kid with his butter knife ready to slice open the pumpkins
  • A helper, who needs a lot of help
  • Burned-out light bulbs, making my photos look really off tonight, way more than usual
  • And a malfunctioning iPhone
  • Kid homework that ended up not getting done – thank God he is only in preschool.
  • Time change … just thought I’d throw that in too

The pie recipes will come later this week. Hopefully it will inspire you to make one of these pies for your family’s Thanksgiving.

Here’s the teaser:

Buttermilk Pie (with the Never-fail Pie Crust) Recipe to follow.
Days of our Chives and Elvis Parsley keeping watch over the pumpkin pie baking.