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Practicing the basics: pumpkin pie

Another American classic. This is a straightforward, simple pumpkin pie recipe; once you’re comfortable with it, you can experiment with it in all sorts of interesting ways, including changing the amount of sugar and adjusting the mix of spices.

Don’t try using fresh pumpkin — Google it if you want to understand the reasons why. Just buy the canned stuff.

Pumpkin pie filling is essentially custard: eggs, sugar, milk, flavored with pumpkin and spices. The crust is a basic pie crust, which you can make yourself or buy in a grocery store. You only need a single layer; no top crust required.

Normally for pies with liquid filling we want to blind-bake the pie crust so that it doesn’t get soggy. In this recipe, the liquid filling is already pretty thick and the baking starts with ten minutes at high temperature, so blind baking is optional (and some would say not recommended). Just make sure that if you don’t blind-bake the crust, your oven is preheated before you pour the pumpkin filling into the pie crust so that you can move it into the oven immediately; if the pie is sitting on the counter for ten minutes before you start baking it, then the bottom crust will get soggy.

Suggested reading:

Makes one 9-inch diameter pie. Time required: about 1 hour 15 minutes, excluding time to make the crust (if you’re making it yourself).

Ingredients:

  • 9-inch pie crust dough, bottom crust only (store bought or make it yourself)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 15-oz. can canned pumpkin
  • 12-oz. can evaporated milk

Roll out the pie crust dough, and lay it into a 9-inch pie pan, taking care not to stretch it. Place the pie pan on a half-sheet baking pan. See here for details on how to prepare and trim a pie crust. Pumpkin pie can bubble over the side of the pie pan, so baking it on a half-sheet pan will prevent any spillage onto the bottom of your oven.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a small bowl and stir to mix. Classic recipe instruction: combine the dry ingredients first before combining them with the wet ingredients.

In a medium bowl beat the eggs and sugar until well combined, about 2 minutes. Stir in dry ingredients. OK, we’re changing things up a bit; normally we might expect to combine all the wet ingredients an then bring the dry and wet together. And you could do that here, and it would probably be fine. But in desserts we also commonly see eggs and sugar beaten together separately. It gives you a chance to see that the sugar is dissolved, so that you don’t end up with clumps of it in your batter. And because the pureed pumpkin in the next step is very thick and can be a bit of a chore to work with, we’re combining the dry ingredients now to make sure they are also well distributed.

Add pumpkin and stir to combine. Gradually add evaporated milk, stirring until mixture is well-combined and a uniform texture. We’re not kidding about adding the milk gradually. If we stuck all the milk and all the pureed pumpkin in a bowl together and tried to get them to mix together, it would be difficult and very messy.

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pie crust. You might not need all of it, depending on how deep your pie pan is.

Place the pie pan (still on a half-sheet pan) in the oven and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature setting to 350 degrees and bake until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. The exact baking time will depend on a number of factors, several of which are out of our control.

Remove from oven and let cool on a rack until it no longer jiggles when you shake it (1-2 hours). Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to three days.

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