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!