Solid Pack Pumpkin. Solid. Pack. Pumpkin. If you’ve been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for years (or in my case, helping to cook Thanksgiving dinner with my mother for years), you’ve probably seen those words. Solid. Pack. Pumpkin.
When I was growing up, it was Libby’s solid pack pumpkin or nothing at all. There was a store brand, at one point, but I remember mom trying it when dad couldn’t find Libby’s and she hated it. It just wasn’t the same. Dad, of course, had to go right back out to a different store and buy more Libby’s solid pack pumpkin.
Ok, so this is sounding a bit like a rant against solid pack pumpkin. And I promise it really isn’t. What it is however, is a plea to just once, try making a pumpkin pie from scratch. I tried for the first time this year and now I’m sold. You can really tell the difference in taste and texture and other than taking a bit of time, it is very easy.
I’ve included two different pie crusts. The first crust is the one I took from The Art and Soul of Baking. It was good, but it was more complicated and I don’t think it was as flaky or as robust as the second one. This second one is the crust I’ve been using for years. It’s the crust my mom makes. It’s from Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook. Yep. The red checkerboard one. I get compliments on it all the time. If you want a flakier crust, substitute 1/3 cup of lard for 1/3 cup of the butter.
Roast Your Pumpkin
Roasting a pumpkin is very simple. Cut the pumpkin in half horizontally. Scoop out the pumpkin seeds and reserve. You can roast them later for a delicious snack.
Turn the pumpkin halves cut sides down on a cookie sheet and roast at 400 for 30-40 minutes, or until you can stick a fork in the outside of the skin and have it pierce easily.
Let the pumpkin cool and scoop out the insides. Process the pumpkin innards in a food processor until smooth.
You can freeze the pumpkin or refrigerate it for up to 7 days.
One medium pumpkin will yield enough pumpkin puree for two batches of pumpkin hazelnut bread and one pumpkin pie.
Pie Crust – Take 1
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 3-4 Tbsp cold water
- 1.25 cups (6.25 ounces) all purpose flour
- 1.5 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Freeze the butter pieces for 20 minutes and refrigerate the water for the same amount of time.
- In a food processor or stand mixer, pulse the flour, salt and sugar for 10 seconds.
- Add the frozen butter and pulse another 5-10 times until the butter is the size of peas.
- Transfer the mix to a large bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the cold water over the mix.
- Using your hands, fluff the water into the flour mix.
- Repeat twice (so you’ve added in total 3 Tbsp of water).
- Now test the dough. Take a handful of dough and make a fist. If the dough falls apart when you open your fist, add another tablespoon of water and start again. If it is moist enough, then turn it out onto a floured counter.
- Knead 3-6 times.
- Flatten the dough into a disk (about 7 inches in diameter) and wrap in plastic wrap.
- Chill for 30 minutes.
Pie Crust – Take 2
- 2/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 cups of flour
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp sugar
- 6-7 tbsp cold water
- In the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor, pulse the butter, flour, salt, and sugar until the butter is the size of peas.
- Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, while mixing on low.
- When the dough just barely starts to come together, turn off the mixer and stop adding water.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead briefly until the dough is cohesive.
- Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.
- Chill for 30 minutes.
Pumkpin Pie Filling
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1.5 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1.5 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2. cups pumpkin puree
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Roll out the pie crust and place in a 9-10 inch pie plate.
- Fill with aluminum foil and add pie weights on top of the foil.
- Bake on the middle oven rack for 20 minutes.
- Remove the pie weights and the foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until the crust is a nice golden brown.
- Remove the crust and turn the oven down to 350.
- Place the beaten eggs into a large bowl.
- Add the spices (cinnamon through salt) and mix well.
- Whisk in the cream, brown sugar, granulated sugar, until well mixed.
- Strain the mix through a sieve into a medium saucepan.
- Add the pureed pumpkin and mix well.
- Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.
- Continue to cook for 8-10 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and reads 150 on a candy thermometer.
- Pour the pumpkin puree into the pie crust.
- If you have leftover filling, pour it into ramekins.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the custard is set.
- Cool and serve with whipped cream.
Notes: This was pretty much the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had. I think in part that was because it wasn’t heavily spiced. You could really taste the pumpkin flavor and the texture couldn’t be beat. It was firm and rich. In part I think the heavy cream was significantly better than the Libby’s recipe that calls for evaporated milk. I’ve made this pie twice and I was very satisfied both times. When I make this for Thanksgiving this year, I’ll add just a pinch more of all of the spices. If you wanted to make the pie even fancier, get some candied ginger from Mair Taki at the University District Market and mince that up and spread a layer on the bottom of the crust before filling. Or mince the ginger even more and mix it in with the whipped cream.