Is dessert your favorite part of Thanksgiving? If yes, you’re not alone! Chip-in Farm will satisfy your sweet tooth with a delicious variety of pies from Valley View Orchard and more dessert options from local bakers.
But if you are planning to bake, treat yourself to the fresh and delicious taste of a fresh pumpkin pie. It’s easier than you think, and if you already have a pumpkin cooking it benefits the environment.
Do you prefer Butternut squash to pumpkin? It can be easily substituted by using the same volume/weight as the pumpkin.
For Nancy Langer, former pastry chef at New York’s Gotham Restaurant, baking a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie is a tradition started when growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. However, her love affair with fresh pumpkin started when she was an adult. Her mother was very much a Libby’s devotee who, when questioned about using a real pumpkin, assured her that it would be a great big stringy mess.
Many of us have grown up with the misconception that pumpkins only suitable for decoration. Read on to learn more about the ease and joy of cooking with pumpkin!
The Best Baking Pumpkins
Technically, all pumpkins are edible, but smaller pumpkins, weighing 2 – 4 pounds, are best for baking. This is because they are sweeter, firmer and less stringy than larger carving pumpkins. Large pumpkins are not optimized for baking because they have a high water content, stringy consistency and bland flavor. However, their seeds make wonderful pepitas when roasted.
Please note, carved pumpkins and gourds should never be eaten:
- Carved pumpkins have potentially been exposed to insects and mold, and
- Gourds have a hard shell and are bred to be ornamental and non-edible.
Pumpkin Pie Is Easy As 1 -2 – 3
Credit: Nancy Langer
Baking a fresh pumpkin pie consists of three simple steps:
- Preparing the puree – similar to baking a butternut squash, it is baked, peeled and blended.
- Mixing the custard –combine in a bowl and time permitting, rest overnight to blend the flavors.
- Baking the pie – use a homemade or store-bought pie crust.
Nancy shares her favorite pumpkin pie recipe below, along with chef’s notes and baking tips. She also notes that fresh pumpkin puree can be substituted in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin.
Step 1 – Make-Ahead Pumpkin Puree
Fresh pumpkin puree can be stored in the refrigerator for four days, and frozen in freezer-safe containers for up to a year.
- 1 small (2-4 pounds) pumpkin
- Prehead oven to 400 degrees
- Wash and cut the pumpkin in half, then scrape out the seeds and reserve for pepitas if desired.
- Place pumpkin, cut side down, in an ovenproof dish or rimmed cookie sheet with about a 1/4 inch of water. Cover with foil, bake about 35-40 minutes until soft and fork tender.
- When cool, peel the skin away from the pulp and discard.
- Using a blender or food processor, whirr the pulp to a smooth puree.
- Transfer the puree to a sieve lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth and drain for 15 minutes.
Step 2 – Mix the Pumpkin Pie Filling
This filling is over the top on richness with half & half and heavy cream! For a lighter pie, substitute whole or 2% milk for these items.
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp.s cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp. ginger
- 1/2 tsp. clove
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 1/8 cups whole or 2% milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 eggs
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl until blended.
- Preferably (but not necessary) let the filling sit overnight in refrigerator, allowing the spices to meld and bubbles to rise to the top. Note, this is also a great do-ahead step when there’s so much to do on Thanksgiving Day!
Step 3 – Bake the Pie
- 1 10” unbaked pie crust
- Prepared pumpkin pie filling
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a baking rack in slots near the bottom of the oven.
- If the filling has been refrigerated overnight, stir to blend the spices, then pour into the unbaked pie shell.
- Place the filled pie on a sheet pan and carefully transfer to preheated oven. Note, if you have a pizza stone, use that instead of the sheet pan. It will help brown the bottom of the crust.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake for about 45 minutes or until the filling is firm. Check by jiggling the pie plate. Over-baking will create a crack in the filling. Let sit at room temperature. Serve with whipped cream.
Nancy notes, “with pumpkin pie filling and crust-lined pie plate ready to go from the day before, I can quickly make my pie first thing on Thanksgiving Day, filling the house with its warm aromas, Macy’s Parade is on in the background. It’s one of my favorite holiday rituals.”
Special Dietary Considerations
Many people prefer coconut, almond, oat or soy milk for dietary reasons or personal preference. Traditional pumpkin pie can be adapted to these various milk sources because, as a custard, it’s the magic emulsifying qualities in the yolks that bring it all together. Textures will change, but dairy-sensitive eaters will be served!
It is also possible to prepare a fresh vegan pumpkin pie using a thickener like cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Here is a tasty option from the Minimalist Baker.
Baking a fresh pumpkin pie is a fun and relaxing way to immerse yourself in the warm and comforting flavors of fall. Pumpkin is valued not only for its creamy texture and nutty flavor, but also for its nutritional benefits. One cup of pumpkin contains 137 calories but provides more than 200 percent of the daily value for vitamin A, 36 percent of vitamin K, 25 percent of fiber and 22 percent of vitamin E. It’s also a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, iron and potassium (Source: New York Times )
Whether it’s fresh puree or canned, boost your vitamin and mineral intake by incorporating pumpkin into your daily diet. Add a scoop of puree to oatmeal or plain yogurt along with a drizzle of maple syrup, or try it in savory dishes such as chilis, soups, enchiladas, curries and pastas.