Adventures in Making Pumpkin Pie


With Thanksgiving a few weeks away, and with Little Missy’s constant nagging about pumpkin pie, I’ve decided to break from our supermarket pie tradition and make my own.  Since Thanksgiving itself generally turns into craziness, I figured I’d practice make the pie early, and then either revert back to the store bought kind for the holiday itself or make another one if I feel confident enough.

Recently when I was at the store a no bake pumpkin pie box caught my eye.  I thought it might be the perfect option given Missy’s impatience and the fact that our oven rarely works the way it’s supposed to.  Besides, apart from butter, sugar, and milk everything else was already in the box. No messing about with pie crust needed!

I tried to make this no bake wonder with Little Missy’s assistance, but that turned into a nightmare. She was a little too excited about stirring the melted butter and sugar into the graham crust and crumbles of crust were spilling all over the counter. Add to that the fact that she had a cold (like the millionth one since starting preschool) and kept breathing, sputtering, and sneezing in the general direction of the pie.  Despite the germs flying about, I did let her stir the pie filling but she was a little slow and it started to set up quite quickly, and I needed to pour it into the crust.  In the end, her biggest effort ended up being licking the bowl, which she was quite happy with.  So the pie went in the fridge for an hour to set up, except it didn’t quite set up.  It was essentially pumpkin pie flavored, no scratch that, pumpkin pie spice flavored pudding in a concrete pie crust. It did not set up like a pie, so when you cut into it, it just kind of slowly oozed all over the pie server, and the butter in the crust had hardened so much you essentially needed a jack hammer to remove it from the pie plate.  I vaguely remember something about dipping the pie plate in hot water to release the crust, but that detail was conveniently forgotten at the time.  The flavor was spice-y. Not hot spicy, but just pungent, over spiced. Kind of like eating potpourri that was the consistency of pudding.  The only way I could see serving this would be to pour the filling into individual serving bowls and crumble some of the crust on top, but you’d have to do something about the strong flavor. Perhaps you could fold some whipped cream into it.  So, after all that, and after an hour of “is it ready?” Little Missy announced she did not want it because she likes warm pumpkin pie. Sigh.

So, on to round two of pumpkin pie making. At the store I hemmed and hawed about the pie crust. Since this was my first attempt at pumpkin pie I thought making the crust from scratch would just add too much pressure. And while I’ve made an acceptable oil based crust, I’ve also made some pretty horrible and overworked pie and quiche crusts. So I decided to go with a refrigerated pre-rolled crust to be sure the pie wouldn’t be ruined due to the crust.  Then came the decision: store brand, or fancy label?  I’ve never used these pre-made crusts before and I didn’t want to take any chances with a store brand crust, so I decided to shell out the dough (yes, pun intended) for the Pillsbury. I figured, it had to be good.

Well, I was wrong about the crust.  When I tried to unroll the crust it was kind of like starting a new roll of toilet paper and the paper comes off in bits. The dough stuck to itself in parts and peeled off in others. I had to pry it off the roll with a knife. In the end it looked a little like one of my early crochet projects: full of holes, a bit misshapen, and not that pretty.  I ended up having to re-roll it to fill in the holes and tears. The filling itself was a cinch to make. I just followed the directions on the can of pumpkin, although I did substitute the molasses for, gasp, corn syrup.  The baking did not quite go according to plan, as is often the case when my oven is involved.  To begin with, it turned out my pie plate (or casserole dish which was to double as a pie plate) was 8 inches and the recipe called for a 9 inch pie plate. So, my oven which is always about 5 degrees off needed 20 minutes longer to finish baking the pie, and even then it was still slightly jiggly in the center but seeing as the crust was getting verybrown, I didn’t want to risk burning the whole thing.  I hoped it would set up some more as it cooled.

All in all it’s a decent slice, though deeper than the typical pumpkin pie.

It did set up in the middle but the crust was tough and a little bitter in the darkest places.  This could have been due to the extra time in the oven or because I had to re-roll it.  Despite the slightly crunchy crust, the pie was a hit. The filling was fluffier and less dense than the store bought pies I’m used to and there was much more of a pumpkin flavor.  For my next pumpkin pie, I’ll have to buy a 9 inch pie plate and I will make my own crust.   I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll try to tackle that for Thanksgiving.

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