Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Pie from Super Scratch!

From-Scratch Pumpkin Pie... oh yea.

Alright, so here's the thing.If you look through my recipes link, you'll notice a gaping void amidst the various kitchen creations: desserts. I'll admit it, desserts just generally aren't my thing. Why? I'm not entirely sure but it's a likely combination of that fact that 1. I don't really have a sweet tooth at all as it is. I'd much rather eat a taco than a donut any time of the day. And 2. I'm not much of a baker! And that's probably because when you bake, you actually have to follow the directions, not just willy-nilly improvise which is the way that I generally like to cook :)

Anyway, I really stepped out of my comfort zone here to bake this pie, and I was shocked and amazed at the fact that it actually came out great. I would have been satisfied with palatable but my husband and I could not stop ourselves from a second slice of this after our first! It was deliiiiish.
So here goes.

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into roughly 1 inch pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup ice cold water

Pecan and Cookie Layer (optional):
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and ground
1/4 cup crushed gingersnap cookies or graham crackers

Pumpkin Filling Ingredients:
3 large eggs
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree or 1 - 15 ounce can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon 'pumpkin pie spice' (which can be found in most grocery stores, or you can make your own: a combination of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whipped Topping Ingredients:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (the REAL stuff, not the maple "flavored" sugar syrup junk)

Crust Directions:
1. In a food processor or stand mixer, thoroughly combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1/8 cup (about 2 tablespoons) water and process just until the dough holds together when pinched. If necessary, add the remaining water.
2. Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a nice tight ball. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour. After the dough has chilled sufficiently, place on a lightly floured surface, and roll into a 13 inch circle. A rolling pin definitely helps keep the dough even, but you can use your hands just as well if you're feeling labor-ready :) To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll - always roll from the center of the pastry outwards.  
3. Gently transfer to a 9 inch pie pan. Tuck the overhanging pastry under itself and use a fork to make a decorative border. Refrigerate the pastry, covered with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes.

Pecan Cookie Layer Directions
Toast pecans in a 350 degree F oven for 8 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Cool and then place the pecans, along with the cookies, in a food processor and process until finely ground. Press this mixture evenly onto the bottom and up the sides of the unbaked pie crust. Cover and return the pastry to the refrigerator while you make the pumpkin filling.
*At this point, turn your oven up to 375 degrees F and place the rack in the bottom third of your oven.*

Pumpkin Filling Directions:
Yeaaaa... so this is where things got a little crazy for little ole me. Jump to the bottom for instructions on fresh pumpkin puree (which is what I did). If you're feeling adventurous, you can use FRESH pumpkin in your pumkin pie. How fun does that sound? Well, maybe you're a better squash handler than I and may actually have fun with that. Or if you're a lazy human being, you'll just use the 15 ounce can of pure pumpkin puree! 
1. In a large bowl lightly whisk the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. 
2. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell. (You can place the pie on a large baking pan to catch any spills - optional.) Bake the pie for about 45-55 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust has browned (the center will still look wet). A knife inserted about 1 inch from side of pan will come out almost clean.
3. Place the baked pie on a wire rack to cool then transfer to the refrigerator to fully chill. 

Whipped Topping Directions:
Place the heavy whipping cream and maple syrup in bowl of your stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Again , you can also whisk by hand if you're feeling labor-ready! You can even use a Magic Bullet if you own one (that's what I did).

Serve the pie chilled or at room temperature (your preference) with a dollop of your homemade maple whipped cream and sprinkle with just a dash of fresh ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg. De. Lish.

So the fresh pumpkin puree. I was at the market and they were selling these adorable little pumpkins labeled "pie pumpkins" for super cheap and I couldn't resist. I thought "I'm gonna overcome my aversion to baking and become a Supermom Betty Crocker Martha Stewart Baker Extraordinaire overnight. This'll be FUN."

So I get home and begin my pumpkin pie extravaganza, starting with the crust. Everything was going great and I was feeling all super confident about this project already. So I get ready to take on the pumpkin filling part of the job. Alright, now... sigh... I am ashamed to admit this but I must, simply so you can all understand just how much of a natural baker I AM NOT. In my mind I pictured it going like this:
- Slice open pumpkin.
- Remove seeds and stringy stuff (yes I did know that much from my carving experiences!)
- Scrape out the pumpkiny part of the pumpkin
- Make delicious pumpkin pie filling
- Skip off into sunset in a field of daisies to the sound of angel's wings and laughing babies

Yea. It didn't quite work out that easily. Here's what actually happened: 
- Got out my largest knife, and attempted to slice the pumpkin  rock-hard gourd of impenetrable strength
- Knife bounced off ineffectually, resembling a flimsy plastic utensil against a giant ball of rubber
- Tried my best karate chop-homicidal samuri whack at the thing
- Missed the pumpkin altogether and screamed like a small child
- Stared at pumpkin in anger
- Picked up pumpkin and smashed - yes, literally smashed - it against the granite countertop
- Repeated this motion several times, as small cracks were appearing here and there
- Pumpkin eventually broke open into 3 fairly similarly-sized pieces

This was my first great victory! Then I removed the seeds and stringy stuff as planned. Then I thought, all I have to do is scrape out the pumpkin part of the pumpkin. Well, no one told me that that was going to be hard as a rock as well! Finally, I did what any normal, logically-thinking adult does in a situation like this: I cried. No, just joking. I went to google of course!! Then I was informed my the world wide web that pumpkin needs to be cooked to get soft. Riiiiiiiight. I knew that all along.

So here're the real instructions on how to make homemade pumpkin puree without making a fool of yourself:
1. Find a way to break into your pumpkin. I searched everywhere for someone else who had my same problem, but maybe I'm just really weak and have dull knives. All the instructions I found just said "slice pumpkin in half tehehehehe" like it was as soft of butter! The only advice I could manage to find (other than using a hand saw - seriously, one guy suggested that to me) was to use a large serrated knife and chop the "head" of the pumpkin off first (where the stem comes out) and then you have a flat surface there to slice it in half or quarters from there.
2. Regardless of your method, once you're in, scrape out seeds and stringy stuff.
3. Place the pumpkin pieces on a lightly greased pan either face up or face down (doesn't really matter)
4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for at least 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin if very easily pierced with a fork
5. Allow to cool for handling
6. Scrape out all the pulp/meat/pumpkin (whatever you wanna call it) and process it until smooth
7. From here, you can use it the same as canned pumpkin!

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

'Tis the season for all things pumpkin! I have two super scrumptious pumpkin recipes to share with y'all and I was originally going to smash them together into one post because smashing is fun to do. Especially smashing pumpkins. For realz yo, I had to smash a pumpkin for one of these recipes. Don't believe me? Read on, skeptical but intrigued readers, read on. Anyway, I decided to make two separate posts for these recipes since they are both awesome and both a little bit long. So... here's numero uno!

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

I recently had a friend ask me if I had a recipe for pumpkin soup, which was a great motivation for me to get one together! I had made similar soups before (butternut squash, potato, etc.) but never a pumpkin soup specifically. So I figured I'd try my hand at pumpkin soup and see what happened. Turns out, it turned out super yummy. This recipe made enough for my hubs and I to each have two big bowls and put a lot away into the freezer as well. So here we go:

3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups milk
2 cups pure pureed pumpkin (yay for alliteration!) - either canned or fresh
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons butter/oil
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh is best)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
1 cup sour cream
1-2 tablespoons fresh parsley or chives
3 bacon strips or 1 spicy sausage link - cooked and crumbled

1. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, saute garlic and butter over medium heat until fragrant and tender. Add potatoes, hit it with some S&P and saute until the potatoes are nice and tender.
2. Set some potatoes aside (you'll add them later for a bit of texture). Take the rest of the potato/onion/garlic deliciousness and puree it in a blender until smooth. Return to saucepan.
3. Add broth, milk, pumpkin and seasonings. Stir and continue cooking until it's hot, creamy and delicious. The dairy will thicken as you continue to heat it. Feel free to spice it to your liking. If you like a sweeter soup, omit the cayenne and add some extra cinnamon and a bit of ginger. If you like it spicier, heavy-hand the cayenne and add some ground cloves. This is your soup, you know what you like. Taste it as you cook it and add what you need! Don't wait till it's on the table to taste it for the first time :P
4. Towards the end of the process, add your potatoes from earlier back in. Like I said, this adds a bit of texture to the soup. Of course if you're going for a completely smooth texture, you'd puree all the potatoes :)
5. To serve, fill up your bowls, do a dollop of sour cream, and sprinkle with your parsley/bacon or chive/sausage... or whatever alternative you've chosen! (turkey bacon, vegetarian bacon, chorizo, etc.)
6. Enjoooooooy!

Mine was topped with sour cream, chives, chorizo and homemade crackers!
Soooooo good :)

Stay tuned for recipe #2 - my first ever dessert post on this blog!!!
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