Every year for every winter Holiday, my mother-in-law makes the pumpkin pie because hers is touted by everyone I know as consistently the best pumpkin pie they have ever had.
This year our plans ended up being different and we decided that we would do a small pre-thanksgiving dinner and that she would not make the pie. So I decided I would make the pie because, of course, no store bought pie will suffice for MY thanksgiving dinner. So, I thought I’d share with you my ideas and discoveries while trying to make thanksgiving pumpkin pie.
Now you may be asking, “Hillary, don’t you have a feature on your other blog for your other business where you primarily talk about cooking and recipes? Why Aren’t you posting this as a “Creation Sunday” on hippybeads? Because, dear reader, I don’t just want to make *A* pie, I want to make an awesome pie, and, while I may politely smile and *say* that I would be happy making a pie half as good as my mother-in-law’s, I really want to make the best pie anyone has ever tasted and have them declare her pie garbage compared to mine. This is not a pie, it’s an obsession.
The obsession began by perusing recipes. Pies with evaporated milk only aren’t nearly as good as what she makes, and neither are the ones with solely sweetended condensed milk because she makes a version with both. I could ask her for her recipe, but a. That seems like admitting defeat b. No one will ever declare a pie made from her recipe as perfect when made by anyone but her and c. Even if, by some freak of nature, they did, it still wouldn’t be a true win because it’s her recipe.
I found a couple with cream and liked that idea because I thought it would create a nice richness that would distinguish them from other recipes. I settled on one that had cream as a dairy product and honey as a sweetner because I thought the flavor from the honey might make it more unique. Then, to make it even better, I decided to use fresh pumpkin and make my own crust.
So, I gathered all the ingredients, preheated the oven and chopped into some pumpkins. While they were roasting, I busted out the food processor to try my hand at alton brown’s pie crust recipe. Even after having a friend show me how to make homemade crust, making the pie crust was extremely stressful but I just kept thinking how it would be worth it in the end. Once the pie crust was par-baking in the oven, I worked on the filling, adding some salt, vanilla and garam masala to the recipe for flavor.
Then I had to wait for the pie to cook, and then for it to cool. Then I tasted it. I would like to say that when I did, I found that all the extra effort of gutting pumpkins, cooking them an pureeing them and all the stress of making my own pie crust was worth it, but I can’t. It was edible but barely. Your average grocer makes a much better pie… The pumpkins tasted off, the crust was tasteless and the edges of the filling were burned (that happened very early in the cooking process). I would have to make another pie the next day.
So, I continued my search for recipes and debated whether I should try my hand at making my own crust because it is something that people say many people have to try a few times before they get it right. I was going to try Tyler Florence’s pie recipe (with canned pumpkin this time), when a friend commented on a facebook post about my pie woes that she had an awesome recipe that she’d be willing to share. It used eggnog for the dairy product. I asked about substituing cream, because, by this point, I was exasperated with the whole process and tired of going to the grocery store. She told me how to modify it for cream and off I went back into the kitchen.
The recipe seemed to call for a lot of spices, but I followed anyways. I tasted the filling before pouring it into the crust (I know raw eggs are potentially bad, but it’s unlikely, and I have been tasting raw dough and filling since I was knee high to a grasshopper). It wasn’t sweet enough and the ginger nearly choked me. So, I sighed, poured out that batch, washed the bowl, and tried again, this time with less spices and more sugar. The taste of that batch was much more satisfactory, So I poured it into a store bought pie crust and cooked it. The verdict at our dinner was that it was good but not sweet enough, an issue that easily fixed by putting on more whipped cream than usual.
So, the pie was good enough for my purposes this weekend, but this is not finished. I don’t know what I will be into next week, but I can tell you what I’ll be into the next time I have to make a dessert… I will perfect this pie and then I will perfect the crust and then everyone will bow before MY PIE and declare it’s awesomeness over all others. It will happen.