Archive for January, 2015

Nutty pumpkin/squash pie

January 29, 2015

Tony asked me to share the recipe for the pie I baked for the winter get-together at Stroudwater last weekend.  First some thoughts on pumpkin pie in general:

  • Nowadays I always make 12″ pies, in a deep ceramic dish my mom gave me.  Go big or go home.  Cut the filling recipe in half if you want a 9″ pie, and make a 1-stick-of-butter crust.
  • Butternut squash is my standard for ‘pumpkin’ pie.  As best I can tell, squash is in every way superior to traditional round pumpkins, which give coarse, loose, watery pulp.  Reading online, it seems that the canned stuff they sell at the grocery is probably actually squash.
  • To avoid a watery pie, the squash should be roasted or steamed, with roasting giving better flavor but taking longer.  If steamed, it should be left to drain in a colander for a while after it is stripped out of the skin.  I usually use fresh or frozen Stroudwater butternuts, since we always grow lots, but this is one case where canned is fine (though I’d steer clear of the pre-mixed pumpkin pie filling; I’ve never used it but pre-made pie filling usually sucks).
  • Once all the filling ingredients are together, they should be blended vigorously with a hand blender to shred the fibers of the squash and get a good mix.  I would say this is the main secret to making a really luscious pie from homemade squash.
  • Another secret is to use coconut milk in place of some of the evaporated milk.  Coconut is basically magic in baked goods, I picked this up from Kelsey and don’t know why we don’t use coconut for everything.
  • After all kinds of attempts including pre-baking the crust, I have basically given up on getting the crusts of pumpkin custard pies to come out crispy/flaky.  The time it takes to cook the filling will saturate the crust anyway.  So I am gravitating toward nut crusts that are tasty and have some crunch even when saturated. This was a definite improvement, but I was not entirely satisfied, and will probably go further in the nut direction in the future.

All that being said, first the crust, which is approx 3/4 of a two-crust 9″ pie (for a single 12″ crust):

  • Mix together:
    • 1.5c white flour
    • 1T sugar
    • 1/2t salt
    • 1/2c almond flour (TJs has)
    • 1/2c unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Cut in 1.5 sticks of cold unsalted butter with pastry blender until largest chunks are pea-sized (I used a food processor for the first time last weekend and it worked fine, but it’s easy to overdo it and smear the butter hopelessly.)
  • While mixing continuously with a fork, sprinkle with ice water until it’s not powdery and seems like it would form a mass when pressed.  I don’t measure how much water it is, and you shouldn’t either – it’s too dependent on the flour.  If it won’t roll, use more water next time.
  •  Form into a disk and refrigerate for a while, if not in a hurry.  If refrigerating for a long time, wrap in waxed paper or the like
  • Roll out and transfer to pie plate.

For the filling:

  • Blend with a hand blender for a better part of a minute:
    • 4c well-drained squash
    • 5 eggs
    • 1 can thick coconut milk or cream
    • 1 can evaporated milk
    • 1c white sugar
    • 2/3c brown sugar
    • 2t cinnnamon
    • 2t ginger
    • 1t nutmeg
    • 1/4t allspice
    • 1/4t cloves
    • 1t salt
  • Pour into crust.  Usually it doesn’t quite all fit, so I take the scrap crust and press it into a small ceramic cereal bowl and bake it, it cooks quicker than the big one and you can eat it while preserving the virtue of the the big pie for whatever social affair you have in mind.
  • Bake at 375 till the center is no longer liquid-y when you nudge the pie plate in the oven.  This will take a good long time -seems like over an hour though I never time it.  It’s OK/good for the center to still be jello-like, but by the time it gets there the periphery will have risen and have temporary holes in it.  There is probably some way to prevent it from cooking from the edges in, but the end result is fine anyway.
  • The edges of the crust should be protected once they approach the desired state of brown-ness.  Alexis got me some reusable silicone rubber thingies to do this, but aluminum foil is traditional.

Let it cool. That’s it.