Ultimate Pumpkin Pie
How to make the ultimate pumpkin pie with the perfect pie crust from start to finish.
As a self-diagnosed dessert-o-holic, I’ve probably attempted to make every dessert you could possibly think of. This list includes pumpkin pie, an American favorite especially around this time of year. I made this pumpkin pie in 2012. Obviously I was happy with the way it tasted since I posted it on this blog, but I’ve grown as a baker and new times call for new measures.
In the old recipe, I used ingredients like shortening and canned pumpkin purée which are common items in the US, but are scarce in parts of Europe. Because I’ve hopefully matured as a baker, I cringe when I think of using canned pumpkin purée to create fall-themed desserts instead of making my own pumpkin purée out of fresh, wholesome pumpkins. Especially since pumpkin purée is so easy to make.
Also shortening: There’s a reason shortening is never mentioned in French pastry- only butter (and we all know that French patisserie is undoubtedly the best, or at least of of the best).
Butter is better. Always.
So this new, updated pumpkin pie recipe has been created out of two key components. Plus the optional third, decorating.
The leaves for topping
Shortening is typically added to pie crust as it yields a flakier texture. But I definitely think you can obtain a crisp, flaky, golden brown, perfect pie crust using 100% butter. I got the original pie crust recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who has reliable, delicious recipes. I was more than happy with the results of this one.
Here’s the secret to a flaky, delicious pie crust: Cold, even frozen butter, and no food processor.
Puff pastry is made up of thin layers of butter between layers of dough that result in its flakiness. Likewise, pea-sized morsels of dispersed butter in this dough creates “pockets” while baking, and results in layers of crisp, flaky pie dough. Think somewhere between shortcrust pastry for tarts and puff pastry.
Using a fork or a pastry blender will help keep the butter in small chunks. A food processor will incorporate the butter into the flour finer than it ought to be, and won’t give you that beautifully puffed, flaky pie crust.
In order to keep the flour and butter chunky, you need to ensure that the temperature of the mixture is cold, so that the butter can hold its shape. You can do this by using ice water and chilling the dough whenever possible.
I didn’t think much of pumpkin pie until I had my neighbor, Katia’s pumpkin pie with possibly the best filling. It pairs so well with the all-butter crust. Katia’s recipe lends a perfectly spiced, creamy filling that takes only seconds to make. Last week, I made oatmeal cookies with Katia, and so I had to invite her over again to share her delicious recipe for pumpkin pie filling. What I love about her recipe is that it’s sort of a heirloom recipe and comes from her family, which makes it special (so thank you, Katia and family, for the delicious recipe!). You could obviously use canned purée for filling, but we like to make it with purée from scratch. Sure, it takes a little longer. But it’s worth it.
However, if you’re looking for a quick pumpkin pie fix, just use either ready-made puff pastry or shortcrust pastry and store-bought purée for the filling. The entire pie will be done in under an hour this way.
The pie crust recipe I’ve provided for you below yields enough dough for two 9 inch pies. I usually make the entire quantity for a 10 inch pie and use the leftover dough for decoration. I bought some leaf cookie cutters and thought it would be really fun to top the pie off with little leaves. They make a great snack as well. I’ll have instructions for you on how to make those below. I also use some cranberries and pumpkin seeds for a final finish, which I think complement the pie beautifully aesthetically and taste-wise.
You can serve the pie plain. It tastes great warm with some ice-cream or whipped cream. I made my own- and honestly, there’s nothing more satisfying than making this entire pie from scratch (crust, purée, filling and even the whipped cream). This pie tastes wonderful cold too. A delicious, festive dessert for a festive occasion.
For the crust:
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 cup butter, cubed and chilled
- 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup ice water (water with some ice cubes to keep it cool)
For the filling:
- 2 cups (15 oz) pumpkin purée (I use homemade)
- 360 g evaporated milk
- 1 cup sugar (brown, white or a combination of the two is great)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground all-spice
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves (optional if using all-spice)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla (not in the video but always nice to add!)
- 1 egg mixed with 1 tsp of water for egg wash
- sugar for sprinkling
- Pie crust leaves* (see note below)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Cranberries (dried or fresh)
For the crust:
- To make the crust, mix together the flour, sugar and salt, using a fork or pastry blender.
- Next, add the butter. I like to cube it and then pop it into the freezer for about 30 minutes before using.
- Cut the butter into the flour mixture until you're left with small, pea-sized bits of butter. The mixture should resemble the texture of breadcrumbs.
- Mix in the ice water using a fork. Add the 1/2 cup first, and then 1 tbsp at a time until the mixture comes together into a ball. You'll form the dough into a ball using your hands, but be careful not to overwork the mixture as you want to keep the overall temperature of the dough cool.
- Divide the dough into two portions and wrap in cling-film. Then place into the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or in the freezer for 30 min.
- READY TO ROLL: Dust a surface with flour, dust a ball of dough with flour and roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness (1/4 cm), dusting with flour as you see necessary. It should generally have a larger diameter than the pie plate. Gently pick up the dough (you can actually roll the dough back onto the rolling pin- see video) and gently place into the pie plate. I used a 10 inch pie plate. Cut off a little of excess hanging, leaving about 1 cm (1/2 inch) of excess hanging. Add the snipped off excess to places you feel are lacking in dough.
- Tuck in the 1-cm excess and using your thumb and forefinger from one hand and your thumb from the other hand, crimp the edges (see video for more details). You can also press a fork around the ridge of the dough.
- MAKE AHEAD: The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week and freezes well for several months (just make sure it's tightly wrapped). This is a great make-ahead recipe and can be done well before the pie needs to be made.
For the filling:
- Combine the pumpkin purée, evaporated milk, eggs and vanilla if using, and blend till smooth.
- Mix in the the spices, salt and sugar.
- Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust.
- Brush the edge of the crust with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar. This will give the crust a golden brown color and a nice sheen.
- Bake the pie at 200 C (425 F) for 15 min, then reduce the oven temperature to 180 C (350 F) and continue baking for 35 min or until the center of the pie has set.
- Cool slightly before serving, or serve cold out of the fridge plain, or with whipped cream/ice cream.
For more Fall favorites, click here