Pumpkin Pie, perfected!

I’m not much for cooking repeats. Its not an option really if you’re trying to keep posting new and original things with some regularity on a web site and all. Given that, I’m even more averse to going so far as posting a repeat on here, but I just couldn’t help myself. I’ve come a long way in the kitchen in the past year, so I just wasn’t thrilled looking at my original pumpkin pie post. I knew I could do a whole lot better, so I sought to really make an awesome pumpkin pie. Something I’d eagerly repeat verbatim again next season. And here we are.

I chose to go with a graham cracker crust for this pie rather than the more traditional pate brisee. Given the spices inherent in pumpkin pie, a totally unspiced crust just seems like an almost bland supporting character in the pie, right? Plus, making a fresh graham cracker crust is more fun.

With that established, my wife made it clear that I was not to mess around with the pie by adding other frivolous things to it like nuts or some other topping (it took a lot of restraint not to, lol!) as this was solely to be about the pumpkin. I didn’t want the usual cast of spice characters to overwhelm the pie as many pumpkin pies are prone to doing, so I took an approach I’ve really come to love: slowly infusing cream with the flavors from whole spices rather than just sprinkling in ground versions of the same spices. As simple as it sounds, the quality of flavor is tremendously different and more refined–subtle, less sharp, but still pronounced and distinctly identifiable. Cinnamon becomes this, dark, sultry, sweet, spicy flavor that teases you rather than overwhelms you…spice foreplay rather than just hopping right in the sack, if such barely relevant metaphors help my case. And while we’re talking about more refined flavors (ahem), I also used creme fraiche in place of some of the heavy cream for a slightly tangier, nutty note, also complimented by a splash of cognac.

So with my hoity toity intentions for pumpkin pie, how was it? It was a delight. The filling was delicate, like a mix between a pudding and a mousse while the flavor was not overly sweet and not overly spiced–just the right mix to compliment the pumpkin while letting it be the star of the show. It had a tinge of a tangy/nuttiness about it that rounded out the flavor quite nicely, and I was definitely pleased having this in the graham cracker crust. Plus, check out that gorgeous color!

  • 1 graham cracker crust
  • Spiced cream
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 6 whole ~3 inch long cinnamon sticks
    • 5 whole cloves
    • 3 cardamom pods
    • Optional: pinch of saffron (to help make the color really pop)
  • 3/4 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream, or just more heavy cream)
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • dash ground cardamom
  • dash ground allspice
  • 1 Tbsp cognac
  • 3 eggs

First, prepare your pumpkin puree (since of course you’re making it fresh, right? Right?!). Then, while you let that strain, prepare the graham cracker crust (but do not do the final step of baking it blind).

The next thing to knock off: infuse the cream with spices. In a saucepan, scald (but don’t boil) the cream and sugar, and as that warms up, smash the whole spices in a plastic bag (just to coarsely break them up), and dump them into the cream. Remove from heat, cover the pan, and give this an hour.

While you’re waiting on the cream, put the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt, eggs, and ground spices in the food processor (you might want to tweak these spices later once you taste the cream, adjusting them to taste. These aren’t meant to be the backbone of the spices–more just to finish off the spiced cream).

Finally, with the cream ready to go, preheat the oven to 350°F and bake the crust blind for 5 minutes. This is to ensure it stays crisp once you pour the pie filling in. While that goes, warm the cream back up over medium heat, pour in the cognac, and strain it into the food processor, discarding the whole spices left behind in the strainer. Add the creme fraiche and give things a whirl to mix the filling nicely.

With the crust ready, take it out of the oven and raise the temperature to 425°F. Quickly pour in the pie filling, smooth it out and ensure there’s no big air bubbles, and get this right back in the oven.

After 15 minutes, the top layer of the pie filling should have formed a nice skin, so drop the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to bake for 35 minutes. Once time is up, give the pie a gentle jiggle and watch the center. It will look a little wet and it should jiggle a bit like jello–this means the pie is done. If it looks liquidy, give it some more time and keep your eye on it. Don’t wait until it becomes totally solid or you’ll have a bone dry pie.

With the pie cooked, give it some time to cool down a bit, and then transfer it to the fridge for at least an hour (or two) so that the filling firms up just enough so that you can cut the perfect slice. Enjoy!

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33 Responses to “Pumpkin Pie, perfected!”

  1. linda Says:

    Love that you infused the cream instead of adding the spices just like that. Never had pumpkin pie (something unknown here), maybe I should start making them 😉

  2. sunita Says:

    That is one gorgeous pie..makes one want to dig in starightaway :-)

  3. kittie Says:

    It is a gorgeous colour indeed!

    If I admit I have never tried pumpkin pie do I get sent to foodie coventry??

  4. Y Says:

    It looks so smooth and creamy! I’ve made pumpkin pie before, but because I didn’t grow up with it, I didn’t really feel terribly fussed about the end result.

  5. ruhama Says:

    You know, last year my sister and I did a green bean casserole taste-off… we may have to do pumpkin pies this year, as this sounds and looks great! And this looks like the type that is fab without Cool Whip or whipped cream.

  6. clumbsycookie Says:

    Perfected and perfect! Wonderful step-by-step pictures. I love that filling, looks so creamy and smooth! I’m having tea right now, and I would love to eat that first slice to go with it!

  7. EAT! Says:

    What beautiful pictures! It seems that the simplest foods make the best pictures. Pumpkin pie is one of my favorites – thanks for the new recipe.

  8. Sandie Says:

    I’m a big fan of “perfected” recipes. Isn’t it wonderful when you take a good recipe, and make it great? Such a feeling of accomplishment, not to mention dining delight!

  9. Hélène Says:

    Beautiful pie! Great idea to infume the spices. I like the thicknest of the pie. I’ll keep the graham crust idea if I make one. I love anything made with graham crust.

  10. Coffee and Vanilla Says:

    Beautiful, I see that is not the first one you made 😉
    I must admit I have never tried to use pumpkin in a sweet dish, but I may try it very soon :)

  11. heather Says:

    that looks lovely! i really like the addition of saffron… that sounds tasty :) i love the graham cracker crusts, too. they’re so good :)

  12. Marie Says:

    It looks like a creamy pumpkin mousse! How did you ever come up with saffron? You gave it such an exotic little twist, love it!

  13. Peter Says:

    I’m with you on the graham cracker crust and the wife steered you in the right direction. Make a pumpkin pie simply and make it well.

    Also, you’re alliteration here ain’t bad either!

  14. Sam Says:

    I love the colour, this recipe is one for saving.
    Now all I need is a pumpkin!

  15. Jan Says:

    That is one good looking pie Mike!

  16. Joan Nova Says:

    The moistness is apparent and adding saffron to the mix genius. I’m guessing the other spices over-powered it and it didn’t taste like paella. :)

  17. grace Says:

    gorgeous pie, mike! i think using a graham cracker crust is wonderful idea, and i, for one, enjoy being teased by cinnamon. :)

  18. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    I always substitute squash puree for pumpkin puree, as I’m not crazy about the flavor of pumpkin. But luckily the squash (I usually use butternut, but sometimes mix in some acorn, too) takes to the same seasonings.

  19. ingrid Says:

    Yum, I’d love a slice. Your graham cracker crust is beautiful! Terrific photos, too!

  20. pam Says:

    Wow! What a pumpkin pie. I love the idea of infusing the flavor of the spices. Spice foreplay sounds good to me!

  21. noble pig Says:

    What a great idea with the crust! I love this becuase it cuts out the trying to be pretty part…I must do that.

  22. Alexa Says:

    This is the type of repeat I don’t mind indulging in… Your recipe looks perfect: great crust and wonderful creamy filling.

  23. Aparna Says:

    Looks absolutely delicious.
    We are used to cooking pumpkin in savoury dishes and I have somehow not been able to reconcile myself with pumpkin in sweet dishes so far. :)
    I should try making pie, though, I think.

  24. Kevin Says:

    It is always fun when you think of new ways to make your favorite recipes even better Great looking pumpkin pie!

  25. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy Says:

    Gorgeous pie! I love your method of infusing the spices into the cream. I also love that pie crust! I wonder if it would work as well with crushed gingersnaps?

  26. Recipe Round-Up ~ Thanksgiving Inspiration! — Sugared Ellipses . . . Says:

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  27. Choosy Beggar Tina Says:

    This looks like it might just be the best pumpkin pie ever. My favorite part? The graham cracker crust….because I’m learning disabled when it comes to pate brisee. I just can’t make it, despite how hard I try. That, and homemade pasta. And omelets. Okay, now I’m just feeling sorry for myself, so I’ll focus on thinking about your pie again….

  28. Nicisme Says:

    That looks fabulous, it’s got great colour!

  29. Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Southern Inspired Thanksgiving from Mike's Table Says:

    […] never had sweet potato pie before, I promise you, you are missing out. Its kind of similar to pumpkin pie, but well, uses sweet potatoes rather than pumpkin, not to overly trivialize it (because trust me, […]

  30. brittany Says:

    I made this pie and it turned out great! I used less sour cream though. Also instead of cardamon I used a vanilla bean in the cream (omitting the vanilla extract) and it balanced the spices really well. On top I accompanied it with a homemade vanilla nutmeg whip cream with 3 parts heavy cream, 1 part vanilla coffee creamer and 2 tsbp nutmeg.

  31. brittany Says:

    I baked this pie and it turned out great! I used less sour cream though. Also instead of cardamon I used a vanilla bean in the cream (omitting the vanilla extract) and it balanced the spices really well. On top I accompanied it with a homemade vanilla nutmeg whip cream with 3 parts heavy cream, 1 part vanilla coffee creamer and 2 tsbp nutmeg.

  32. Thanksgiving: Part II | Gourmet Veggie Mama Says:

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    I’ve learn a few just right stuff here. Definitely value bookmarking for risiveting. I surprise how so much effort you set to make any such excellent informative website.

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