The Quest for Pumpkin

I decided to make a completely homemade pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving.  I was inspired when I saw a youtube video of Ben Starr (those who watched Master Chef will know who he is) making a pumpkin pie using nothing from a can.  I was mesmerized as I watched him and knew immediately I must tackle this project!  Today I set out to buy a pumpkin.  According to Ben Starr you can use either a large pumpkin or a pie pumpkin for his recipe.

 I drove to Publix at lunch to find not a single pumpkin.  I knew there was another Publix a couple of miles away so I drove over to that one, but again no pumpkins at all.  I was frustrated so I asked the manager to check to see if they had any in the back.  He called his produce manager who said he had been trying to order them, but no luck in getting them.  I had about given up and was heading to Whole Foods because I figured if anyone would have them they would.  I happened to pass one more Publix on the way and decided to try them one last time.  To my delight when I walked into the store there was a small basket centered around some hay bails containing 7 pie pumpkins.  I grabbed two of them and hurried to the cashier with my bounty.  Who knew it would be so difficult to find pumpkins after Halloween?  Was there some sort of pumpkin shortage I didn’t know about?  I remember they were scattererd all over the stores in October, but apparently those who want them in November to make pumpkin pie are on a wild goose chase to find these beauties.

For those that want to traverse the stores in search of pumpkin here is the recipe I’ll be using this year (revised to be gluten-free).

To make pumpkin puree preheat oven to 350F.  Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds and strings.  Place pumpkin cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet and fill pan with 1/2 c water.  Bake for 30 minutes for sugar pumpkins and up to 90 minutes for larger pumpkins.  When it is ready the pumpkin should look collapsed and should be soft when you touch it with a wooden spoon.  Remove the pumpkin and let cool.  Scrape flesh out with a spoon and puree in a food processor until smooth.  Pour puree onto a clean towel and pat down gently for 5 minutes with towel to remove excess water.

Crust Ingredients (enough to make 2 crusts):

2 1/2 c gluten-free all purpose flour or flour blend

1 tsp xanthan gum

1/2 tsp salt

1  T granulated sugar

3/4 c shortening

1T rice vinegar

4T ice water

1 large egg slightly beaten

Mix flour, salt, xanthan gum and sugar in a bowl.  Cut in shortening until coarse crumbs form.  In another bowl beat vinegar and egg with a forkd.  Add ice water and then stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until dough forms a ball.  Work with your hands to obtain a smooth texture and add more ice water if dough is still too crumbly.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.  Divide dough in half and roll each ball between 2 sheets of wax paper until it is about 2 inches wider than a deep dish pie plate.  Remove top layer of wax paper and place your pie plate onto your dough.  Gently flip your dough over so it rests in the pie plate.  Flute the edges of the crust with your fingers.  Prick bottom crust with fork and then prebake in 450F oven for 10-15 minutes.  Put crust in fridge while you make the filling. 

Filling Ingredients:

2c pumpkin puree

1 1/2 c heavy cream

1/2 c firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk

1/3 c granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 T ground ginger

1 T ground cardamom

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground allspice

Presheat oven to 425F.  Whisk filling ingredients together until smooth.  Pour filling into unbaked crust and bake in center of oven for 15 minutes.  Lower your oven to 350F and continue baking for 40 minutes.  If crust begins to brown too much cover it with foil.  Test the pie center with a knife and if it comes out clean it is ready.  If you get any streaks on your knife continue cooking for 5-10 minutes longer.  Once done let pie cool completely and then refrigerate overnight.  Let pie come back to room temperature before serving with a dollup of whipped cream!

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