Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pumpkin Pie and Happy Thanksgiving!

The earthy tones of pumpkin pie reminds us of the fall season

The world is acquainted with American traditions and celebrations thanks to the strong influence of American movies, TV series and music have on the world's pop culture.

While growing up I was, and still am, a fan of American movies. Many of these movies showcased a celebration which is totally alien to us, but its accompanying traditions seemed pretty similar to how we celebrate Christmas. The celebration in question i.e. Thanksgiving  is American and putting aside the true meaning of this celebration, I always enjoyed the scenes where families gathered to enjoy a delicious meal of a perfectly roasted turkey and all its side dishes as well as the traditional pumpkin pie.

The idea of pumpkin pie  always intrigued me. Back home we  use  pumpkin in many savory dishes but not in desserts, although a delicious jam is made from it. Additionally, pumpkin pie is not a traditional dish in  in Spain and I didn't sample pumpkin pie in Madrid till last year when I went to a well know American restaurant in the Spanish capital. Needless to say, I really enjoyed the pie!

The origins or precursors of pumpkin pie are a few centuries old. Pumpkins were among the many new food items brought from the New world  to the old world. The Europeans specially embraced the use of pumpkins as they were similar to squash and courgettes but more interesting.

The first recipes known date back to the 16th century, and they were known under the name of pompion a name probably derived from the Greek pepon which means large melon. Pompon was the french name given to the recipe, and the English called it pompion, which may implicate that the origin of the recipe is french.

According to some historians, the first pumpkin pie recipe published in Amercia was in 1796, in Amelia Simmons´American cookery, that recipe is the most similar to the pies known nowadays, and was called pompkin pudding!

We are half way through fall, and pumpkins are available now among other fall fruits and vegetables and as I have so many things to be thankful for, I decided to have my own Thanksgiving and the star of my own celebration will be a delicious Pumpkin pie.

It is the first time that I bake this pie and of course I wanted it to be special. I have to say I did experiment on this one, and a lot, but hey that's the fun of baking and cooking!

Easy to make pie crust

For my take on  the traditional pumpkin pie you need for 2 small pie shells or tarts: (10 cm tart tin)

  • 100 g flour
  • 20 g freshly roasted walnut
  • 15 g sugar (you can use more but if you do so use powdered sugar for the rest of the desired amount)
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of freshly ground star anise
  • 50 g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • Ice cold water
In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, walnuts, salt and star anise, pulse until the ingredients are well combined and the walnuts turned to powder. Add the butter and pulse for few seconds, until you have a sandy mixture. Put in a bowl and gradually add few drops of water until the dough stops sticking and can be formed into a ball. Wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge, you can do that a day ahead.

On a floured surface, roll the dough to about a half  cm thick, transfer it to the pie tin, and put it in the fridge for 30 min. Now cover the dough with baking sheet and any kinds of grains and blind bake it for about 10 to 15 min  in a preheated over (180 C) (depends on the oven). When the edges are slightly golden, take the dough out. Wait for few min to cool, remove the paper and bake it for an additional 10 min.
Spice up your pie with these wonderful flavors

Meanwhile, prepare the filling which requires: 
  • 3 FULL tbsp pumpkin purée
  • 1 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 1 tbsp molasses (and 1 tbsp of sugar if you want it sweeter)
  • 2 tbsp of cream (35%)
  • 1 egg
  • Spices: you can use whatever you wish, I used fresh ginger, star anise, cloves, nutmeg (all freshly ground) and of course cinnamon. You could also use all spices. A dash of each is enough, but I did use more cinnamon than the other spices, about half tsp.
  • Few drops of vanilla essence
Easy steps to make a wonderful sweet filling

I made the purée a day ahead. Just cut the pumpkin in two, remove the seeds, put it on a tray cover it with aluminum foil, and bake for about an hour and a half depending on the size of the pumpkin. The result is better than the canned one, the roasting gives the pumpkin a smoked taste, and will effect the final result.
I did remove the excess water of the roasted pumpkin so I won´t get a too liquidy purée.

To make the filling start by adding the spices to the pumpkin purée, I think this way the flavors will be better absorbed (you could do so an hour ahead)! Combine the cream cheese, treacle, molasses, sugar (if using) and cream, mix with a hand mixer until well combined. Add the egg and whisk thoroughly for about a minute until you get a homogeneous mixture. Now add the purée and mix well.
The journey of the pie shell from empty to filled then baked

Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and heat slowly while mixing the whole time, turn off the heat when the mixture starts to thicken, this will cut the time the pie will spend in the oven. 
Pour the mixture over the crust and bake for about 30 min (it might take less or more, depending on the thickness of the filling and the type of oven, so keep watching the pies). It will be ready when the center is set.

And here you have it, my version of pumpkin pie, and I have to say I´m pretty satisfied with the result. Happy Thanksgiving!
Glaze with maple syrup and decorate with shaped cookies

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