To me, Thanksgiving is not complete without pumpkin pie. I prefer it to most varieties including chocolate or cherry, which some people might find strange but it is what it is.
Overall, I had a way easier time making pumpkin pie than I have in past years. One Thanksgiving a couple years ago, I tried to make the crust from scratch the day of the holiday. I refrigerated the dough for a couple hours and when I took it out, it was a solid, impenetrable lump. I tried rolling it out with a rolling pin and it fell apart. I ended up using a frozen crust and passing it off as my own when my grandma asked who made it. It wasn’t a proud moment, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
This year, I started early and made everything from scratch. I used my foolproof recipe to make the crust. I put the dough in the fridge overnight and the next day when I was ready to use it, I let it sit out for an hour to come to room temperature. Then I rolled both of the dough balls, one for the bottom crust and one for the fall leaf border.
I’d highly recommend investing in these leaf printers if you’re into baking and you want to make pretty pies. I only paid $8 on Amazon for them and the result was professional quality. People thought that I hand designed the leaves, which I probably could have done but who has time for that?
Some words of advice for making pumpkin pie: If you mix up the custard filling and let it sit overnight in the fridge, it will give the spices a change to infuse the milk and eggs and make the custard more flavorful. Also, when you’re making the leaves for the crust, roll out the dough pretty thin. You don’t want it so thin that the stamps rip the dough but you want it thin enough to balance the leaves on the edges of the pie tin. They will puff up as they bake.
One last word of advice is, put your leaves on the edge of the pie tin BEFORE you freeze the bottom crust. When you bake pie, it’s smart to put the bottom crust in the freezer before you bake it. It does two things: It makes the crust more buttery and less soggy when it bakes, and it gives you a chance to add decoration and not have it fall off during the baking process.
I’m not going to lie, I had a mini heart attack when I looked inside the oven 10 minutes into pie baking and saw some of the leaves slipping in the pie filling. I had to do an emergency rescue mission and fish them out with a fork and press them into the crust. If you don’t want this to happen to you, I’d recommend attaching them to the crust, softly but firmly, before you freeze the bottom layer of the pie in the tin.
Another problem I ran into while making the pie was after it came out of the oven. The surface was perfect and smooth, but 20 minutes into cooling, it got a big crack in the middle. It’s not a big deal and it doesn’t affect the flavor at all, but it’s just a bummer if you had your heart set on a smooth pie. I googled the problem and I found some ways to avoid the crack. One baker said to open the oven when the pie is done baking and let the pie cool in there with the oven off. Another said to use a metal pie tin instead of a glass one. You can also try to avoid the crack by taking your pie out when the center is still pretty jiggly. The crack can come from over baking the pie.
In the end, I was satisfied with what I made. I brought the pie to my boyfriend’s Thanksgiving dinner and most of it disappeared by the end of the night. I had a piece when I got to his house and it was spicy, fragrant, and delicious. It was like eating my favorite scented candle, except better because it was edible.
I’ve included the recipe below. And here’s a song to get you started on your pumpkin pie journey.
for the crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
20 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
8 Tbsp ice water
1 egg, lightly beaten (for brushing the crust later)
for the filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups (or one 15-oz can) pumpkin
1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
First, make the crust. Pulse together the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor until pea-sized balls form. Then pulse in a tablespoon of ice water at a time until the dough comes together in a ball. Remove it from the food processor and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough a couple times then divide it in two and form it into two balls. Wrap each ball tightly with plastic wrap and place them in the fridge for two hours or overnight. I prefer to leave them in the fridge overnight. Don’t worry if your dough is a little wet and sticky at this stage. You can sprinkle a little flour on the dough later when you’re rolling it out.
Make the filling by whisking together the flour, sugar, salt, and spices. Beat together the eggs, pumpkin, and milk in a large measuring cup. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Store the bowl with the filling in the fridge overnight to give the flavors a chance to settle.
When you’re ready to make the whole pie, take the dough for the crust out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. This takes about an hour. Grease a 9-inch pie tin that’s at least 1 1/2 inches deep. Place a large baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out one of the dough balls into a 13-inch circle and place it in the greased pie tin, pressing it onto the top edges and trimming the excess. Roll out the other dough ball and stamp it with your leaves. Place the leaves on the edge of the crust in whatever pattern you desire. Put the bottom crust in the freezer. Wait until it’s frozen to add the filling.
Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell. Brush the crust with the egg wash. Place the pie on the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the center is jiggly but the pie is set two inches from the edge. Allow it to cool in the oven with the door open and the heat off, or place it on the counter on a wire rack to cool. Allow it to cool completely before serving or placing it in the fridge to store. Enjoy!