Every year at Thanksgiving I make pecan pie (though this year I switched it up a bit and spiked my pecan pie with bourbon and chocolate) and pumpkin pie. Both pies are, in my mind, essential to an “authentic” Thanksgiving – as much so as the turkey.
Pecan pie can be a tricky thing in Germany, as I discovered my first Thanksgiving here when I blithely volunteered to bring the pecan pie, and $50 later realized my mistake… pecans are super expensive in Germany. So if you are going to give that pie a try, I recommend procuring a big bag of pecans on your next trip to the US in expectation of the pie-making to come. I am partial to Costco-sized bags, which not only allow for pecan pies, but also endlesswinter salads with toasted or candied pecans.
Pumpkin pie is somewhat easier. Most Americans use canned pumpkin to make pumpkin pie (which you can find here in American specialty stores), but the truth is that it is just as easy to roast a pumpkin and make your own puree. You can even store extra puree in the freezer so that you don’t need to roast a pumpkin every time you just happen to have a craving for pumpkin pie… sadly, I only make this pie once a year for Thanksgiving, but maybe it deserves to be made more often?! Who said pumpkin pie only belongs to Thanksgiving anyway?
And I have to exhort you to give this particular pumpkin pie a try. It’s something special because it is a perfect balance between the typical, slightly heavy Thanksgiving pumpkin pie and a pumpkin cheesecake... there’s just a bit of cream cheese in there and it gives it a creamy, lighter texture that I really love. In fact, I can’t even remember how this pie originated. I think it might have been a combination of ingredients that I had on hand, and one of those happy accidents that created something delicious. I’ve been making this pie for the last 4-5 Thanksgivings, and I doubt I’ll ever bother looking for another pumpkin pie recipe. It really is that good.
You can make pumpkin puree by slicing a pumpkin in half and placing each half cut-side down on a baking tray with about an inch of water in it. Bake at 350F/175C for 30 minutes to an hour, until a knife can slice into the skin like butter. Remove from the oven, turn the pumpkin halves over, and let cool. When cool, scoop out the flesh and mash it with a spoon. This pie is best served cold- straight from the refrigerator. I make it either the night before, or the morning of, the day I will serve it. Top with fresh whipped cream right before serving.
For the crust:
1 1/4 cup (160 g) white flour
1 Tbsp white sugar
1 pinch salt
1 stick (110 g) unsalted butter, cold
3 Tbsp cold water
For the filling:
8 oz cream cheese (1 philadelphia container + 1 extra large spoonful)
2 cups pumpkin puree (about one can)
1 cup (200 g) white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg + 2 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup (240 g) half and half (or a mixture of milk and creme fraiche)
1/4 cup (55 g) melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C
2. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor.
3. Cut the butter into small chunks, add to the food processor, and pulse.
4. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough just comes together. Stop pulsing as soon as the dough comes together in a loose ball inside the food processor.
5. Roll the dough out immediately on a floured countertop.
6. Fold the dough into a pie tin, and trim and crimp the edges.
7. Cut a few slits in the bottom of the pie dough, line with foil or baking paper and heavy weights, rice, or beans, and pre-bake for approximately 20 minutes.
8. For the filling, beat together the cream cheese and pumpkin puree until well-combined. Add the sugar, salt, eggs, half and half, melted butter, and beat until creamy. Finally, add in the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger.
9. Pour the filling into the pie shell.
10. Before baking, cover the rim of the crust with foil strips to protect the crust from becoming over-baked and too dark.
11. Put the pie into the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes (longer if needed), until the center is set. You can remove the foil from the crust edges 10-15 minutes before the pie is done.
12. Cool the pie to room temperature and then refrigerate.
13. Serve with whipped cream.