December 3, 2021 — American

Pumpkin Pie

  • 3 hours
  • 10 PEOPLE
  • medium

I have always been slightly unsure about the rather gelatinous thick, deep wobbly nature of a traditional American pumpkin pie, the kind Tommy Lee Jones might seek for inspiration in Men in Black, or Bill Bryson might devour after a long walk in the woods. However, my ambiguity was clarified many years ago during a company celebration at the Le Pont de la Tour restaurant in London. It so happened we were celebrating at the end of November and the menu featured pumpkin tarte. It arrived as a thin and darker version of the usual pie. It was delicious.

I have always tried to find a way to replicate that recipe – but no such recipes exist. Indeed the only recipes for pumpkin pie are from American cookbooks and they alway revert to the traditional thick custard filling. But I happened upon a chestnut tart recipe by Dan Lepard in his Short & Sweet book, and adapted it with a basic recipe from a 1961 version of the New York Times Cookbook, who happily recommend using either light cream, evaporated milk, or milk (!). The warm winter spices often overwhelm a pumpkin pie – so use carefully. I could not find our ground ginger so instead used only cinnamon and ‘mixed’ spice. The result is very similar to the tarte I remembered – surly just as delicious.

My best pumpkin pie yet!

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What you need

350g cooked pumpkin (either kabocha squash, Delica pumpkin, or butternut squash – or tinned)

315ml double cream – nothing too heavy or rich

2 tsp flour

1 tbs butter

60g light brown sugar

40g dark brown sugar

1 large egg + 1 large yolk

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

Pinch of salt

Whipping cream to serve.

For the pate sable

250g plain flour sifted

100g icing sugar sifted

200g cold unsalted butter cubed

pinch of salt

2 large egg yolks

1 egg for egg wash


Dad's Recipe Tales

Top 10 pumpkin recipes of all time!

Well, just some our family’s favourite recipes… But before I get onto the list, can we perhaps pause a moment and consider this amazing vegetable?

Did you know, for instance, that pumpkins have been cultivated for over 8,000 years, or that there are over 100 varieties, and that they are grown all over the world?

We know pumpkins are used in savoury and sweet recipes, but this is just the start of their versatility: every part of the plant is edible, including the skin, seeds, leaves and flowers; they can be fried, mashed, steamed,  stewed, roasted and candied; scooped-out and carved they turn into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween; and they can even become recreational objects in the activity know as ‘pumpkin chunking’ (where pumpkins are hurled as far as possible using various mechanical devices).

They can be any size you like; from something as little as a big marble to something as large as a small car. They are also packed with nutrients, including all those carotenes in the orange flesh which converts to vitamin A in our body, but also accounts for the pumpkin’s rich nutty caramel taste on our palate – the same characteristics as the similar tasting carrots and sweet potatoes.

There is another important quality inherent in the pumpkin that is also shared with carrots and sweet potatoes – sweetness. A pumpkin is full of sugar (1 kilo of pumpkin can include nearly 7 teaspoons of sugar). So, although widely used in savoury dishes, you are just as likely to find pumpkin in sweet dishes, such as cookies, muffins, cakes, puddings and pies – yes, especially pies!

No traditional Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without a pumpkin pie. Indeed, pumpkin pie is probably more American and traditional than the proverbial apple pie.

Here in the UK, pumpkin pie is a bit of a curiosity. Few people will know this sweet and warmly spiced dessert, unless perchance, they have joined in an American celebration over Thanksgiving. Neither might they appreciate Americans’ respect for the pumpkin as an important symbol of autumn harvest, which is why it is often used to decorate hearths, mantles, and tables. And, although Americans cook pumpkin in their raw state, they are perhaps most familiar with pumpkin as a puree in a tin; mainly made by Libby’s, which produces 85% of America’s processed pumpkin. Undoubtedly, the main use for this puree is to make pumpkin pie – the recipe is always printed on the back of the tin.

All of which leads me back to my list – and of course, at number one is:

  1. Pumpkin pie – an open-topped baked pie – really a pumpkin pudding in a pie crust. Americans might use a sweet biscuit base or non-sweet shortcrust pastry, and neither are usually pre-baked. The pie is made distinctive by generous use of warm winter spices – cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and especially cinnamon – which might also explain why it is best served with floppy whipped cream. Certainly, America’s favourite pumpkin recipe.
  2. Pumpkin pudding. Really a pumpkin pie without the pastry – or in other words a pumpkin-baked custard. Our mother’s favourite – she almost always served it ‘split’ from over-baking – in this case, a deliberate ploy.
  3. Pumpkin muffins. The same warm spices combine with the rich sweetening effect of added pumpkin. Mrs WDCs favourite.
  4. Pumpkin whoopie pies. In pre-pandemic days our families tried to share Thanksgiving as far as our diverse residences and diaries would allow. In recent years, my sister has shared many Thanksgivings at ours and in the true spirit of sharing, she always comes bearing gifts and edible delights, which one year included pumpkin whoopie pies. Now our grandchildren’s favourite.
  5. Pumpkin fritters. My brother-in-law’s favourite, made in his one-time favourite restaurant, Zucca, in Bermondsey Street, sadly long gone. Serve these treats as a starter with fresh cold creamy dips.
  6. Pumpkin risotto. A family favourite – and perhaps now a bit of a signature dish of WDC. A well-made risotto needs little else – but we like to eat risotto as a secondo rather than a primo course, so we generally add in some of our 5-a-day. Pumpkin works a treat.
  7. Pumpkin ravioli. I have not made this, but when I do it will become a favourite and about number 7 on this list.
  8. Haurmi’s candied pumpkin with sesame seeds. I’ll post a recipe soon. Very Japanese and very tasty.
  9. Turkish baked pumpkin with caramelised onions with a spicy sundried tomato sauce. This is deceptively good and makes a great addition to a Levantine mezze.
  10. Roast pumpkin and sausages. Autumn and winter comfort food and a match made in heaven.

How Dad Cooked It

To make the pastry

1. You need a 23cm tart or flan tin ideally with a removable base. Preheat the oven to 190C, Gas 5

2. In a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and the butter and mix with your fingers until evenly combined then add the yolks and continue to mix, then gradually add the flour and continue to mix with your fingers. When all the flour is added continue to mix until it comes together in a lump.

3. On a floured surface knead the pastry with the heel of your hand 2 or 3 times. Bring it into a ball and cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for an hour.

4. On a floured surface roll the pastry to a large circle (large enough to overlap the tart or flan tin).

5. Lift the pastry, with the help of a rolling pin, and lay over tart tin, carefully press the pastry around the edges and trim (I like to cut the pastry above the edge and then mold the pastry around the edge and above the top of the tin, pinching off any excess or adding any scraps to any lean parts.) Prod the base of the pastry with a fork all over and rest again in the fridge for 20 minutes.

6. Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and let it cool a little for 10 minutes. Then remove the paper and bean and brush the pastry with an egg wash, return to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes until the egg has cooked off.

To make the pumkin pie

1. To make the pumpkin pulp cut the pumkin into large pieces and deseed. Place in an oven dish with a half a cup of boiling water and cover tightly with tin foil. Put into an oven at 180C, Gas 4 for about 30 – 40 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and cool. Reduce the oven to 160c, gas 3.

2. Scoop the pumpkin away from the skins and weigh an amount of 350g. Put into a pan and either mash well with a potato masher or use a stick blender. Then pass through a medium seive and place in a mixing bowl.

3. Put the flour and the butter in a saucepan and heat until combined, add the cream in stages, mix with a whisk to combine smoothly, let the cream simmer for a minute and then remove from the heat and cool.

4. Add the yolks, sugars, spices vanilla and salt to the pumpkin and beat together with a spoon or whisk. The mixture will be quite thick, then add the warm milk and whisk again. For the serious pie makers here, you need to pass this yet again through a sieve though this time with a fine mesh. Otherwise whisk well.

5. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the tart case nearly to the top. Place in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes – or until a very thin metal skewer comes out clean.

6. Serve a little warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.


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