Pumpkin Pie (and Crust Troubleshooting)

Alana

Pumpkin pie season is back! Unfortunately I worked all of the Thanksgiving weekend, but thank goodness for nurses because that means potluck at work! Guess what I brought with me!

I almost forgot to take a photo before mowing down on this slice!

I made a second pie this week because I had a lot of extra pumpkin. I initially planned to bring two pies with me to work, but didn’t have time to make a second one. I admit that I was ill-prepared to be baking pie, as I didn’t have any of the spices I needed for the recipe other than cinnamon and pepper. 

For my first pie, I decided that I would try the Duchess recipe for pie crust rather than my pastry school recipe. I had some trouble getting the dry ingredients adequately combined in my stand mixer, and ended up leaving my double batch of dough in the fridge with the hope that the moisture would distribute itself enough to be used in time. I immediately made a second batch of dough, enough for one pie, by hand. The moisture was definitely better distributed in this batch, even though the recipe calls for the dough to be mixed in a stand mixer. I’ve never used a stand mixer to make pie dough before, so perhaps my judgement was just poor. Who knows.

I left my double batch of pie dough in the fridge for about a week before I got around to making my second pie. When I pulled it out I found that the outside was still quite dry, while the inside was quite moist. I used it anyway.

You can see the uneven colouration in the dough from the variations in moisture. Also note, the cute crust braid is intact!

I found that the edges of the crust with both pies contracted quite a bit while they were baking, with the contraction being more pronounced with the second one. I wasn’t 100% sure why this was, because I previously haven’t had major issues with this. I Googled, and found this page that lists common pastry problems and describes possible causes. Under “crust shrinks” it stated that the likely problem was the overdevelopment of gluten in the dough, the dough wasn’t adequately chilled, there was too little butter/shortening, or that there was too much water. I highly doubt that my dough was too warm, as I typically leave it refrigerated overnight before using it and prepare my pie filling before removing the dough from the fridge. There was a butter puddle on the bottom of my oven after baking my pies and the dough was still quite dry, so I’ve ruled out those troubles as well. The gluten speaks to me, however. In the past I have used cake and pastry flour for all of my pie crusts, whereas these crusts were made with all purpose flour. I think that the combination of the higher gluten content of all purpose flour might be the culprit. Another way that gluten develops is through working/kneading dough, but I don’t think that I over did it because I’m very conscious of not over-mixing when I make pie crust.

Bake bake bake

What did I learn? Always use pastry flour when making pie crust. If you don’t it will totally negate all of the cute pie crust edges you create, because they will end up taking a dive into your filling.

Note the pie-equivalent of the Marianas Trench, as well as the half hidden braid border.

The other thing I need to figure out is how long to bake pies in my new oven. I ended up with cracks in the middle of both my pies, which tells me I over baked them. Typically I set my timer for 30 minutes to check on the progression of the filling, but after that I keep forgetting about my pies and leaving them in the oven for unknown lengths of time. Oops. I haven’t burned any pies, which is good, but I do feel like they look appropriately ready when I take them out (not overdone). I suppose it is also possible that they are cooling too quickly, and I’m not overbaking them after all.

My pie was very well received by my co-workers, to the point at which dibs was called on the left over pie! Michael is also really enjoying having some pie around, though I think he’s a little bit biased. I would definitely say that overall these pies were a success, even though I have a few details to hammer down. I would also like the give this another try with a graham cracker crust, as the first time didn’t go as well as I would have liked. Guess I’ll be baking more pie!

The Best Pumpkin Pie

Crust – use your favourite recipe 🙂

Filling Ingredients

  • 2 cups (450 g) pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup (250g) packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
  • ¼ cup (63 ml) milk

Method

  1. Prepare your crust/dough. Make sure your oven is preheated to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, eggs, and brown sugar. (I used a handheld mixer on low-medium)
  3. Add the cornstarch, spices, cream, and milk. Mix until well combined.
  4. If you’re using dough, roll it out and put it into your pie dish. Pour in your filling and add any embellishments that you want.
  5. Bake that sucker until the filling has an even wobble.
  6. While the pie is cooling, whip up some whipping cream. I like to use a little bit of icing sugar and vanilla in mine. Enjoy 🙂

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