Friday, November 25, 2011

Easy as Pie -- Pumpkin, that is

Actually, I don't know who came up with that phrase, because I don't know many people who really think baking a pie is easy.  The best pie-bakers have a favorite recipe for making the crust -- using shortening or butter or a combination of both.  I have never actually mastered the pie crust, so I admit to taking a short cut this year and buying a frozen deep-dish pie crust in an aluminum pie tin.

We have a lot of specialty cookbooks from our favorite chefs, but for the pumpkin pie filling I went to my trusty (and dusty!) copy of Joy of Cooking and baked the best pumpkin pie I've ever made.  There were no secret ingredients -- canned pumpkin, several spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger), eggs, and heavy cream.  I cooked it 10 degrees lower than the recipe calls for because my oven likes to get hot, and I cooked it an extra 10 minutes longer in order for the custard to set.  When I've used a traditional pie crust I've always had extra filling, but the deep dish crust had plenty of room for the full custard.  The pie was light and creamy, perfectly seasoned, and the kids pronounced it the "best pumpkin pie" we've ever made.  From now on, I'll only make deep dish version.  We topped it with a dollop of freshly whipped cream -- Dash said the only way it could have been better was with ice cream (spoken like a 12-year old!) but I think it was just perfect.

Since we are in pumpkin mood, though, I made a batch of pumpkin-chocolate-chip muffins last weekend for a church party.  I had originally planned to make them for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, but the recipe makes so many I decided to make them for a crowd.  This time, I turned to my favorite bakers cookbook, the King Arthur Flour Cookbook.  These are best when they've cooled a bit, but still slightly warm enough for the chocolate chips to be melted.  They're not too sweet, and the pumpkin in them makes them moist and colorful. There's just a hint of "pumpkin  pie" flavor from the spices, but it's not overpowering. The recipe called for 9 oz of a 12 oz bag of chips, but I omitted the walnuts and put in the full bag -- I think there should be chocolate in every bite!  I made these in mini muffin tins, and it made four dozen.  I wish I had kept a few in the freezer instead of taking them all to the church party -- warmed up in the oven for a few minutes on Thanksgiving morning, these would have been delicious!

And just because we were in the mood, Kate and I bought a quart of pumpkin egg nog.  Wow! Enough said.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!