Pumpkin Pie II, the crust

We had a discussion about pie crust on the ride home today. My grandmother’s pie crust was perfect, every time, and she used to say the ability skipped a generation to explain my mother’s total failure at pie making. Sorry mom.

Personally, I think it’s all chemistry. Here’s the rather weird recipe that always works for me. If you don’t have a food processor handy, use two sharp knives to cut in the butter.

In a food processor: 3 C flour, 1 Tbs sugar (optional), 2 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp baking powder (non-aluminum). Pulse once to mix. Add 1 C (2 sticks) of cold, unsalted butter cut into 1″ chunks. Pulse until the chunks disappear. Add 1/2 C cold water mixed with 2 tsp apple cider vinegar. Pulse just until most of it holds together. Add a little more water if needed.

Dump the contents of the bowl out on to a large sheet of waxed paper. Fold the paper up around the lump of pastry and force it all together. Then cut the lump in half and layer one half over the other, press down. Do that again. Then wrap the (hopefully more cohesive) loaf of pastry in the waxed paper, then a plastic bag, and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour (or overnight) to let the gluten relax.

Take it out, hit it flat a few times with the rolling pin, and use half to make the bottom crust of a pie. If you’re not using a top crust, you can make a pie tail with the other half. Your children will be sooooooooo happy.

Roll out a rectangle, spread with 2 Tbs of softened butter, 1/4 C sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon. Sprinkle with a handful of raisins, currants or blueberries.

Starting from the bottom long edge, roll the pastry up. Press the edges together and bring both ends around to touch. Place in a foil lined pie plate and bake with the pie until browned.

Pumpkin pie

First, get a pumpkin. What you really want is a New England Pie Pumpkin: dark orange, sweet and beautifully sized – one pumpkin, one pie. Those prize-winning giants at the fair are actually gourds and their watery flesh doesn’t cook well, but those big ones from the grocery store that you’re going to carve into Jack O’Lanterns make a decent pie.

Split the pumpkin in half between the stem and blossom end. If it’s very hard, put a sharp knife in all the way to the hilt repeatedly all around and then use a blunt edge (small crowbar, a screwdriver – but not your knife) to lever it open. Scoop out the fibrous insides and separate the seeds to roast with your pie in the oven. Run some water into the scooped halves and then dump it out. Put the halves cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet and roast at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour. The time will vary widely on the size and freshness of the pumpkin. You should be able to puncture the skin easily with a fork when done.

Scoop the flesh out of the skin. A NE Pie pumpkin will make about 1 1/2 C of pulp. Whisk together 3/4 C sugar, 2 eggs* and 1 can of evaporated milk and add to the pumpkin with 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk gently till blended and pour into an unbaked pie shell. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, then 345 for 45 minutes or until the middle of the pie is set. Any extra filling mix can be ladled into small pyrex dishes as custard.

*Preferrably fresh, local eggs. Thank you, Carrie’s chickens!