Pumpkin Pie and Easy Variations
Pumpkin Pie in a Tart-Type Crust
Face it–pies are not that hard, but they have a way of going all wrong when you are under stress or distracted or the ingredients for the filling are unpredictable, such as peaches and other fruit being too juicy or going too soft before the crust is done baking.
Pumpkin pie filling, however, is pretty reliable, especially if you start with regular canned pumpkin and don’t try to get fancy with it. It’s easier than pudding. Here’s the recipe that never fails for homemade pumpkin pie filling:
- 1 15-oz can packed pumpkin–this is plain pumpkin, not the “pie filling” pumpkin (check label carefully)
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 3/4 of a 12-oz can of evaporated milk
Stir everything together until it is uniform in color and pour into a 9″ pie crust
Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, the reduce heat to 350F and bake for 40 minutes more, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
That leaves the crust as the big problem, especially if you need to bake the pie in a slow oven along with the turkey, or if you need to make a pie crust when time and space are at a premium.
If you have a food processor, whipping up a crust from scratch is easy, especially a tart crust, which can be pressed into the pie pan, no rolling out or fussing required. As an experiment, I tried to make the tart crust without a food processor, simply cutting the butter into small pieces, and mixing in into the flour in regular increments. It was messier to press into the pie plate than it would have been if it has been made in a food processor, but it is doable. Here’s the recipe:
Tart-Style Crust for 9″ Pie Plate
- 1 cup flour
- 3 Tbs brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 egg
Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the butter into thin slices and mix into the flour. Then, with your hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture some more, breaking it down into tiny bits. Take your time, work steady, and the flour mixture will look nice and crumbly. Lightly beat one egg and pour it into the flour mixture. Stir thoroughly to moisten the flour as much as you can–not all of the flour will be incorporated, but try to get as much as you can mixed in.
Empty all of the crust mixture into a 9″ pie plate. Start in the center of the plate and distribute the crust mix evenly toward the rim, so that there is enough around the rim to go up the sides of the plate. Press the crust mix firmly into the plate, especially in the corner where the sides go up. Firm but gentle pressing and squeezing will shape the crust into the plate.
Pour in the filling and bake as per the recipe or prebake the crust by itself at 400F for 10-12 minutes. This makes a tasty crust for quiche, too.
You can also buy your crust, with ready-to-bake crusts in the freezer section or graham cracker crusts in the baking section. And of course you can make and roll your own, preferably the night before a lot of cooking.
How about pumpkin pie with no crust at all? Seriously. Mix the pumpkin pie filling as per my recipe above, then pour it into a baking dish and bake for an hour or so, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Scoop into individual dessert bowls. Or pour the filling into individual custard cups if you have them, or other oven-proof dessert dishes. Bake in the same way. When they’re done, take them out to cool, and top with lots of whipped cream for dessert. This would be a much lighter dessert after a rich meal than pastry, but still brings that good old familiar pumpkin pie taste