Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Rose Levy Beranbaum is one of the goddesses of bakedom. Her recipes and techniques are not only legendary, but are accompanied by explanations of why certain processes work and others don't. This is her recipe, and I found it on I chose this over hundreds of others for the following reasons: 1) Instead of prebaking the pie shell, Rose sprinkles a mixture of crushed gingersnaps and ground pecans on the bottom of the raw dough. She calls it a crunchy bottom crust (it's not crunchy; the cookies and pecans absorb excess liquid from the filling.)
2) Rose precooks the pumpkin to intensify the flavors. 3)She purees the cooked pumpkin in a food processor to produce a silky texture. I was a little nervous about using her spices -- Rose calls for 2 tsp. ground ginger and 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon. I changed it to 1 tsp. ginger, 2 tsp. cinnamon. I added a pinch of cloves and a pinch of allspice. I also reduced her 1/2 tsp. salt to 1/4 tsp. Instead of the 2/3 cup milk in her recipe, I used 1/2 cup fat-free Half and Half + 3 Tbsp. Jim Beam brandy. She uses canned pumpkin, stating that the texture and flavor are more consistent than fresh, but I always use fresh. I like her method of baking the pie on a stone in a preheated oven at the bottom of the oven to produce a crisp and brown crust. She says to bake the pie for 50-60 minutes, and I checked for doneness at 50 minutes. The pie was done. In fact I thought it was too done. It cracked all around the edges. Next time I bake it, I will check for doneness at 40 minutes, and you should, too. Any cracks in pumpkin pie can easily be covered with whipped cream.

There was one little glitch: I made two pastry doughs: one for the pumpkin pie, and one for the apple crostada. Unfortunately, I got them mixed up, and used the crostada dough for the pumpkin pie. The crostada dough was a puff pastry which is definitely the wrong pastry for a pumpkin pie. It doesn't keep well. By the time I discovered I had the wrong dough, it was too late to change it and too late to make another dough. Remarkably, our hosts raved, not only about the pie (declaring it the best pumpkin pie they ever ate!), but also about the crust. It wasn't my favorite for a pumpkin pie crust but they thought it was great.
This pie is silky and has a wonderful flavor from the ginger and cinnamon. I am now happy that I lost the cookbook with my old standby pumpkin pie recipe. This recipe is definitely better. One thing I never did before was to precook the pumpkin, and it really does make a difference.
Great Pumpkin Pie

INGREDIENTS: 1 pie crust for a 9-inch pie
4 (2-inch) gingersnaps
1/4 cup pecan halves
2 cups fresh cooked pumpkin, or one 15-oz. can unsweetened pumpkin
1/2 cup white sugar + 1 tsp. molasses + 1/2 Tbsp. Stevia Plus
OR just use 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar if you prefer
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground allspice
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup Land-of-Lakes fat-free Half and Half
3 Tbsp. brandy
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: Roll out pie crust to fit a 9" deep dish pie pan. Process the gingersnaps and
pecans in a food processor or blender till they are fine crumbs. Sprinkle them over the bottom of the pie crust, and, using your fingers and the back of a spoon, press them into the dough to coat the entire bottom, going about 1/2 inch up the sides. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 24 hours if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F at least 20 minutes before baking. Plan to bake directly on the floor of the oven, or set an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or cookie sheet on it before preheating. (I used a pizza stone on the lowest shelf.)

Make the pumpkin filling: In a small heavy saucepan (I used a 2-quart), stir together the pumpkin, sugar, molasses, Stevia Plus (or brown sugar), spices and salt. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes, or until thick and shiny. Scrape the mixture into a food processor and process for 1 minute, or till smooth. With the motor on, add the Half and Half, brandy and cream, processing until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the work bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, processing just to incorporate, about 5 seconds after each addition; add the vanilla along with the last egg. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake for 50-60 minutes or just until a knife inserted between the sides and center comes out almost clean. (Start checking for doneness at 40 minutes.) The filling will have puffed and the surface dulled, except for the center. The filling will shake like jelly when moved. This will happen before it has finished baking, so it cannot be used as a firm indication of doneness; conversely, if it does not have this jell-like consistency, you can be sure that it is not baked adequately. If the crust appears to be darkening too much on the bottom, raise the pie to the next rack. After 30 minutes, you may need to protect the edges with a foil ring.

Place the baked pie on a rack to completely cool before refrigerating. When cool, the surface will be flat. Characteristic star-burst cracking is the result of overbaking. Serve this pie with ginger cream topping (see post under Frostings and Toppings.)

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