For a gal who isn’t cooking for Thanksgiving, I’ve done an awful lot of Thanksgiving cooking this week. The fact is, I could cook this type of fare all year round. Thanksgiving is all about love and family and warmth and cinnamon and being all full and happy. That is a year round thing for me.
And, also, I like it when a man sends me a pie recipe.
Matt Young is an old college pal of my husband’s. He is a darling man, with a darling wife and twins that are so cute they are practically edible. His wedding a few years back was this Texan’s first taste of Southampton, of which I approve strongly. And he has been an ardent supporter of PIE, quick with insights and good advice during this blog’s infancy. So when he sent me a pie recipe I was on it. He didn’t fail me. I think this is just about as good as a pumpkin pie is going to get. I will walk by a pumpkin pie 9 times out of 10, but this recipe from New York Magazine and Chef Peter Hoffman has a crunchy topping…I really really really like crunchy toppings. And, it has a big layer of piquant cranberry jam on top of that which renders this pie…with perhaps a little dish of turkey on the side…all a person needs to tag all of those emotional Thanksgiving bases. There is pumpkin, which you can roast and scrape and puree, or do as I did and bust out a can of Libby’s. There are walnuts (because I ran out of pecans…the walnuts were wonderful) and brown sugar and cinnamon and cloves and ginger, and then there is this fantastic sweetened whipped cream cheese topping that tempers the tartness of the cranberries like a dream.
About the Libby’s, I had the distinct pleasure of listening to Barbara Fairchild, editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit, recently as she promoted Bon Appetit’s new book Desserts. A pumpkin crème brulee was on the menu and they didn’t hesitate to prepare it using Libby’s. She stated that we have all become so accustomed to using canned pumpkin that it almost seems like something is off when we don’t use it. I simply appreciate cutting an hour or more out of the process. But if you are feeling ambitious by all means, roast a pumpkin. I like canned pumpkin just fine. I think it is a great corner to go ahead and cut. The original recipe is here at New York Magazine.
This pie is made in a spring-form pan. I used to find the concept of spring-form pans to be fussy, but I now find them to be rather genius. It is like a magic little helper that de-pans your confection for you and saves you from ruining it.
And, let’s go back to something here. Just a review before I start. I didn’t name this blog after pies because I have some divine pie calling. No. I will butcher a crust like the most novice pie maker. I patch and fix and re-do. And I keep moving forward because pies get to be rustic…and pies even get to be a little ugly sometimes. But pies radiate love and comfort and that is what people love about them. That is why I like pies. So if you see the big ugly cracks in my crust and think to judge…don’t. I’ll never claim that I am an expert pie maker. I’m not. If you never make pies because you think you will have big ugly cracks in the crust…join me. You will be proud of yourself. Your people will be proud of you and they will feel like you really must love them to make something like this. Pie just has that effect on people.
This recipe has several stages: make the crust dough, refrigerate the dough, roll out and bake the crust, prepare the pumpkin filling, bake the filling, prepare the crunchy topping, bake the pie with the topping, make the cranberry jam, allow the jam to cool, make the whipped cream cheese topping, and assemble. It sounds like a lot. But as long as you know what you are in for you can do it in chunks and just come back to it here and there. In fact, I did it over the course of two days. I made it through baking the crunchy topping the first day, and did the other toppings on the second day.
1-¼ cups all purpose flour
4-½ teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoons salt
½ cup butter (1 stick), cold, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
8 ounces Libby’s canned pumpkin
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
6 ounces evaporated milk
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup walnuts
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ cup almond paste, diced
12 ounces fresh cranberries
½ cup sugar
Cream Cheese Topping
8 ounces cream cheese
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
For the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or pulse in a food processor) and beat until it forms pea-size pieces. Whisk together the yolk and 2 tablespoons of water. Add it to the flour and mix (or pulse) until just combined. Without over-handling the dough, form it into a disk shape and wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 12 inch circle. Turn your dough as you go and it will make a better circle. As you can see, I use a large and flat spatula which I have dipped in flour to help me un-stick the dough when necessary. Fast is key here. If your dough starts getting too sticky and mooshy you will not be able to roll it out. Roll the dough over your rolling pin and carefully lay it into the spring-form pan. You want the dough to go about 2/3 up the edge. If you do not get it up about that high, there will not be room for the liquid filling. Poke holes in the bottom of the dough with a fork. Carefully place parchment paper filled with pie weights (or a layer of dried beans) on top of the dough. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. You see, the paper is important because it allows you to pop out the weights and continue to cook…it makes it a much easier and quicker process.
First, reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Add the eggs, vanilla, and milk and whisk it together thoroughly. Add the pumpkin, and again, whisk it together thoroughly. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pie crust. If your crust isn’t high enough, just pour in a little less of the mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until the custard is just slightly jiggly in the center.
Put all of the Crunch ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until just crumbly. Spread it on the top of the baked pumpkin pie and return it to the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature.
For the record, you could stop right here and have a killer pumpkin pie…but keep going to put it over the top.
In a small saucepan, cook the cranberries and sugar, stirring frequently until they form a “jammy” consistency. I squished the cranberries as they started popping, but left a few of them whole just for looks. I also added a Tablespoon of King Arthur’s ClearJel just to firm it up, but I don’t think it is necessary and the original recipe doesn’t call for it. Remove from heat and allow it to cool. If you are in a hurry, remove the jam from the cooking pan to another dish and it will cool much more quickly. You could also set the pan in a little ice bath.
Whipped Cream Cheese Topping
Whip together the cream cheese, the cream, and the confectioners’ sugar until it is smooth and medium peaks form. Add additional tablespoons of cream if necessary. I added about 3 extra tablespoons. This is a thick cream, not a “whippy” cream (see the photo). It is very easy to serve this cream from a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped out, like a cheap pastry bag.
Carefully spread the cranberry jam onto the crunchy topping. Top with the whipped cream cheese. If you are preparing this in advance, I would probably wait to add the jam and cream until you are closer to the time you are going to serve it.
I recently read about using a mixer with the flat beater attachment to make pie crust. I think it worked great. However, had I been paying more attention I probably would have used my food processor to pulse the ingredients together because it offends my sensibilities to use 2 major machines when I could have used just one (for cleaning purposes). But know that using your mixer for pie crusts is a viable alternative.
Are you a pumpkin pie person????