Sweet Sunday: Making Pumpkin Pie Two Easy Ways

Posted by on Oct 27, 2013 in Cake Decorating, Food & Cooking | Comments


Making pumpkin pie is a quintessential fall baking experience. This earthy, comforting, spice-infused pie is often thought of as the king of pumpkin culinary creations and is the perfect intersection of mellow pumpkin and rich custard, served in a flaky crust. A cozier late-autumn treat would be hard to imagine.

Today, its presence on fall dessert tables (notably on Thanksgiving) is practically a requirement. Learning how to make pumpkin pie will ensure that you enjoy this tradition, deliciously, for years to come.

Pumpkin Pie Topped with Whipped Cream Dollups

Photo via CakeSpy

One aspect of pie making — be it pumpkin, lemon meringue, or even apple — that can be especially daunting to bakers is making the perfect pie crust. While the ingredients are simple, every instruction seems to be specific and sometimes fussy, from how much (or little) ingredients should be handled to the temperature of the various components. In the Craftsy class Perfecting the Pie Crust, instructor Evan Kleiman, the pie-oneer behind the famous “Pie a Day” project and host of KCRW’s popular radio program Good Food, breaks down the process in an easy-to-follow format that will educate you on the hows and whys, and then show you how to apply your new-found knowledge. Recipe notes to “crimp the edges” or “cut in the butter” will become common parlance in your pie-making process.

Making perfect pies is an art, both visually and technically. Knowing the how and why behind techniques will help you build a foundation in food and cooking, which will improve your overall kitchen skills.

Slice of Pumpkin Pie on Plate

Photo via CakeSpy

A bit of history about pumpkin pie

To know pumpkin pie is to love it. So let’s discuss its interesting backstory for a moment, shall we?

When it comes to the history of the pumpkin pie, there’s a little fate and a little free will involved. Like all American pies, this one is a descendant of medieval crusts designed merely as vessels for fillings. Over the years, pie-making methods improved, and the size of a typical pie increased.

Meanwhile, in what would one day be called the United States, pumpkins were a staple crop for many Native Americans, with the shells being used for crafts, and the innards roasted by the fire and eaten. A useful little gourd indeed.

As the first settlers came to America from Europe, they learned to love some types of local produce out of necessity: it was that, or not eat. Pumpkin was one such food, which quickly entered their cooking repertoire.

After that, it didn’t take too long for Old World customs to meet up with this new-school vegetable, and the sweet pumpkin mixture was soon being poured into the pastry crusts they’d known back home. The first Thanksgiving feasts were celebrations of having “made it” in the New World, and the pumpkin pie has become wholesome symbol of freedom and survival.

In the 1900s, two separate factors contributed to the continued evolution of the pie: the growing use of evaporated milk, and the rising popularity of back-of-the-box recipes. In particular, the recipe printed on Libby’s canned pumpkin, which contains evaporated milk, proliferated and became quite popular; it remains one of the most requested and appears on their labels to this day.

Now that we understand where the pie comes from, it’s time to get baking.

Cartoon of Watch with Pie Face

Illustration via CakeSpy

Recipe notes:

  • Both of these recipes call for canned pumpkin puree. Since there are sweeteners and spices in both recipes, use plain pumpkin puree rather than cans marked “pumpkin pie filling.”
  • Does canned pumpkin puree give you a tinny taste in your mouth? Lightly cooking the pumpkin puree before using it in the recipe can reduce any flavor that the can may impart.
  • Thick, but not as a brick: In Perfecting the Pie Crust, there is a fascinating conversation about the effects of different thickeners on pie fillings. Here are two variations for pumpkin pie that have one major difference: one contains evaporated milk, and one contains sweetened condensed milk. The two recipes yield different textures. Why not try both and see which you prefer?

Cartoon of Cans of Evaporated Milk and Condensed Milk

Illustration via CakeSpy

Pumpkin pie made with evaporated milk

Makes one 9-inch pie (8 servings)

  • One 9-inch pie crust, unbaked (Want to make it from scratch? Try this tasty all-butter pie crust recipe)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) can plain pumpkin puree
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk

Step 1:

Position a rack in the center of the oven; preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (212 degrees C).

Step 2:

Roll the pie dough to a circle about 12 inches in diameter; place it into the pie pan and crimp the edges. Keep the dough refrigerated while you prepare the filling.

Pie Dough in Pie pan

Step 3:

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs. Then, stir in the pumpkin and the sugar-and-spice mixture.

Step 4:

Once well incorporated, stir in the evaporated milk. The milk may incorporate better if you add it gradually, adding in three parts and mixing after each addition, as the pumpkin is thick and if you try to stir too enthusiastically, it will go flying.

Mixing the Ingredients

Step 5:

Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell.

Pouring Pie Mix into Prepared Dough

Step 6:

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature (about 2 hours). Serve immediately, or refrigerate the pie and let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. If desired, serve topped with whipped cream.

Finished Pie with Slice Missing

Pumpkin pie made with sweetened condensed milk

Makes one 9-inch pie (8 servings)

  • One 9-inch pie crust, unbaked (Here’s another great pie crust recipe if you’re tempting to homemake your crust)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • One (15 ounce) can plain pumpkin puree
  • One (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Step 1:

Position a rack in the center of the oven; preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (212 degrees C).

Step 2:

Roll the pie dough to a circle about 12 inches in diameter; place it into the pie pan and crimp the edges. Keep the dough refrigerated while you prepare the filling.

Step 3:

In a small bowl, stir together the cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Set aside.

Step 4:

In a large bowl, beat the eggs; stir in the pumpkin and the sugar-and-spice mixture. Once well incorporated, stir in the sweetened condensed milk (it may incorporate better if you add the milk in three additions, ensuring that each addition is fully mixed in before adding the next). Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell.

Step 5:

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate the pie and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. If desired, serve topped with whipped cream.

You might also enjoy our roundup of creative pumpkin recipes.

Do you prefer pumpkin pie with a traditional pie crust or a cookie crust?

Comments

  1. Dianne says:

    I greatly enjoyed reading your post, but what if I want to really make it from scratch?–with homemade pumpkin puree, not canned, and not using evaporated or sweetened condensed milk? Can I substitute heavy cream? I would appreciate your guidance. Thank you!

  2. CakeSpy says:

    Dianne! I must apologize for my late reply. I did want to share some insight with you, though.

    I wanted to offer some information on how to puree pumpkin. There is a website that has an easy and user-friendly tutorial: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2013/10/exactly-how-i-make-my-homemade-pumpkin-puree/ that I thought you would enjoy.

    Additionally, a tip I picked up from America’s Test Kitchen is that if you take the canned pumpkin and empty it into a saucepan and warm it, it will take away the “tinny” flavor that some detect in the canned kind.

    As for the sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, that is a great question.

    Evaporated milk: You *can* use cream, but it actually has more liquid than the evaporated milk, so you might consider lightly whipping (just before peaks form) the cream, or reducing the other liquids in the recipe. I’ve also heard (but never tried it) that soy milk in equal quantities will work.

    Sweetened condensed milk: I looked online, and once again I have not tried this personally, but it looks like it would work well as a substitute. You just have to be sure to replace the sweetness because that recipe primarily gets its sweetness from the condensed milk! Check this out: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/recipes/healthy-homemade-sweetened-condensed-milk-without-powdered-dry-milk/

    1. Dianne says:

      Thank you! I’m making my own puree tonight using a sugar pumpkin. I’ve done it before, but the pumpkin tasted odd, compared to the canned puree. It’s kind of hard to describe the taste, sort of a stronger “green” (as in a live, growing plant) taste, if that makes any sense. I will have to try making the condensed milk. Seems as though you could leave out most of the sugar if you wanted it to be closer to evaporated milk. You are right about cream having more liquid in it. I’ve tried that before, in place of evaporated, and it didn’t really work..