Monday, November 25, 2013

Cook's Illustrated Pumpkin Pie Filling

Do you ever over complicate things? Me? I somehow have a knack for it...

Take this pumpkin pie from Cook's Illustrated. It was already a fussy recipe with many steps. Leave it to me to find a way to make it even more complicated.

I'm not even referring to my masochistic desire to use mini-tart pans, although that just adds to my case here. I'm talking about how I managed to double my work by straining this filling twice when it wasn't even necessary. And if you've read any other reviews on this pumpkin pie recipe, you're sure to have seen complaints about what a pain it is to strain in the first place.

In my defense, I didn't start out with the intention to double my work. I inadvertently skipped a step in the recipe (don't you just hate that!) and started to strain the cooked pumpkin mixture before I added in the cream mixture. The pumpkin mixture was so thick without the addition of any liquid that I had to literally use my spatula to push every single bit of it through the fine mesh sieve. It took forever.

So that should be that then, right? What sane person would add the cream mixture to the already strained pumpkin and still have a persistent need -- a compulsion really -- to strain it again? All because the recipe said to strain it then.

Me, that's who... Crazy, I know.

So, was this pie worth it in the end?
I'm honestly not sure. Don't get me wrong, it was absolutely delicious. This pie was just as silky and smooth as promised, and the pumpkin flavor came through strongly thanks to the conservative amount of spice. It's just a lot of work compared to most other pumpkin pie recipes...

In spite of all the work, I do plan to make this pie filling again for Thanksgiving at my in-laws. So maybe it was worth it after all... or maybe I just like complicated...

Cook's Illustrated Pumpkin Pie Filling
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, November & December 2008

Although I do love the look of these mini-tart shells, I won't be using them again for pumpkin pie, and I wouldn't recommend you use them either. Even with rolling the crust out very thinly, I wasn't pleased with the filling to crust ratio, which was nearly 1:1. If you do want something "mini" for pumpkin pie, get actual mini pie pans, or try muffin tins, and be sure to have enough pie dough -- 1.5 times the normal amount. Please note that all directions I give below will be for a 9-inch pie plate, not the mini-tart shells.

Yield: 1 nine-inch pie

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup candied yams, drained
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon table salt
1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked and chilled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line chilled pie crust with foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 15 minutes on a rimmed baking sheet. Remove foil and weights, rotate the pie plate and bake another 5-10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, as the pie crust bakes, whisk together heavy cream, milk, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla; set aside. In a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine pumpkin, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, about 5 to 7 minutes. Once pumpkin mixture is simmering, stir constantly, making sure to mash the yams up, until the mixture is thick and shiny, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in the cream mixture. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, using a spatula to help you press the mixture through. Rewhisk and then pour into the warm prebaked pie shell.

Bake for 10 minutes on the rimmed baking sheet; reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake until the edges of the pie are set and an instant-read thermometer registers 175 degrees when inserted in the pie's center, about 20-35 minutes longer. If you don't have an instant-read thermometer, the very center of the pie will look firm but still jiggle slightly when it is done.

Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature, about 2-3 hours, before serving or refrigerating.

-If you can't find candied yams, regular yams/sweet potatoes can be substituted.
-To ensure accurate cooking times and a crisp crust, the filling should be added to the prebaked crust when both the crust and filling are warm.
-The pie finishes cooking with residual heat; to ensure that the filling sets, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.

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