American households all over the world are rolling out pie crust, adding spices to pureed pumpkin, chopping nuts and baking lovely pies for Thanksgiving. I made seven pies today! Yup, seven! Some pumpkin and some pecan. Five of them are for customers who placed orders with me. Two of them are an order from my husband for our Thanksgiving meal.
Everyone has their preference for pie. People get really defensive about their pies. I get it. I personally like both pecan and pumpkin, because who can go wrong with pumpkin pie or pecan pie? But how do you make the most amazing pie? Do you line up your corn syrup and your can of evaporated milk next to your pumpkin puree? Many do, and I'm not going to fault you for it. It's better than picking up a pre-made pie at the store. Baked at home, no matter how many fake ingredients, it's bound to taste better than fake from the local Safeway. Just simply for that fresh out of the oven flaky crust and the lovely smell that permeates your home while it bakes.
So here's the deal. I know Libby's has the monopoly on canned pumpkin and therefore the majority of folks are making pumpkin pie from the recipe on the Libby's can wrapper. Canned pumpkin is awesome and even Martha Stewart's test kitchen admitted to preferring canned pumpkin from roasting and pureeing your own. Fine, use the canned pumpkin, I do. But have you ever looked at the ingredients in a can of evaporated milk?
Ingredients in Carnation evaporated milk: milk, dipotassium phosphate, carrageenan, vitamin D3.
Three out of four of these ingredients are in this product to that the milk can sit in a can on a shelf for a year or more.
So let's make real pie this year. Use heavy cream in place of the evaporated milk. It's fresh and the pie turns out lovely.
Sara's take on Libby's famous pumpkin pie recipe
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree (or if you're a purist-roast and puree your own)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (12 ounces)
1 tsp homemade vanilla (vanilla beans soaked in bourbon for 6 months)
pie crust (I like to make my own and refrigerate it until ready for baking)
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees
Mix the sugars, salt, and spices in a small bowl and set aside. Whisk the eggs in a larger bowl, add the pumpkin, sugar combination and whisk until combined. Add cream and a dash of homemade vanilla bourbon extract if you have it.
Pour in your pie crust and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Then turn down your oven to 350 degrees and back for 35-40 minutes. If you live at 7,000 feet or above like me, plan on cooking your pie for about 10-12 minutes longer.
My pecan pie is the BEST. EVER. HANDS DOWN! I love it so much because it's real. No gross corn syrup and corn starch to thicken the juices which creates that unnatural jelly layer under the nuts. Not in my pie. Pecan pie is best when it's simple. Just butter, brown sugar, salt, eggs, flour, milk, vanilla bourbon and pecans. I'm not going to divulge my best selling secret on the internet but if you search for pecan pie without corn syrup there are some awesome options. Like this one. Or this one. Cut the sugar a bit on either of those though, wow! No one needs a cup and a half of sugar in a pie. Sheesh! Sprinkle course sea salt on top of the pie after it comes out of the oven. The salt brings out the brown sugar flavors.
Promise you won't get out a can of that spray whipping cream after going to the trouble to make a real homemade pie. Right next to the gallons of milk (Lord, I've forgotten what buying an entire gallon of milk is like-how convenient), is the little cardboard cartons of fresh whipping cream. Buy one of those and keep it in your refrigerator. Or if you live in Addis Ababa like me, pick up a bag of Mama's heavy cream. Right before you plan on serving your pie (either a bit warm or room temp), pour the whipping cream into your stand mixer or a mixing bowl. Whip it on high for a minute or so. When you start seeing the lines in the cream, add a tablespoon of powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla. Keep whipping until it's big and fluffy but not too dry. Taste it and whip in a little more sugar or vanilla if needed. Dollop it right on top of your slice of pie.
Enjoy your pie! No matter what's inside. I'm just saying, you might enjoy real pie just a little bit more!
The Crust Addendum:
After I posted this, I received a few questions from friends about how to get the best crust possible. And if we're being real here, the crust is truly the hardest and most crucial piece of pie! I thought it would be wise to include some tips for preparing and baking fantastic pie crusts.
1. Make the dough in advance, refrigerate it and then the next day roll it out into your pie plate. If you don't make the pie right away, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate the entire thing. I froze a few of my pie crusts this year and I like the results of the refrigerated ones better.
2. When rolling out pie crust, take care to keep the dough even thickness. Roll out the circle much bigger than your pie pan. When you tuck your edges under it will give you a nice thick amount of crust on top to crimp. The crust will not burn when thick and it will not bake unevenly if the crust is a consistent thickness.
3. Do not pre-bake your homemade crust.
4. Make you filling and pour it into a cold pie crust.
5. If your recipe asks you to bake the pie at a high temp for 15 minutes, watch the pie and after 10 minutes at the high temp go ahead and turn the temperature down. It's OK to cut 5 minutes off that hot bake time.
6. Keep an eye on your pie as it's baking. Rotate it periodically so the crust that is a the back of the oven doesn't brown too fast.
7. If you do see some dark spots, tear a piece of aluminum foil and fold it over that portion of the crust.
8. If you're extremely concerned about the browning of the crust too soon, turn the temp even further down. Just plan on your pie taking longer to bake overall.
9. You can leave pecan pies out at room temp for up to two days. Pumpkin pies should be refrigerated if you don't plan on serving them that day.