For Brits, pumpkin pie sounds a bit on the “weirdy-woos” side, but in America, pumpkin pie is as standard as apple pie is to us. Pretty much every American household will have it for Thanksgiving. Nigella Lawson posted about a pie company on Instagram called Four & Twenty Blackbirds and I’ve been obsessed with their pies ever since. They do a brown butter pumpkin pie that I’ve adapted to make it my own with the addition of salted maple. I also enlisted the help of my American baking mate, Claire Ptak (owner of Violet Cakes in London) who advised me on how to get that perfect, wibbly centre. It needs to be a bit like a cheesecake and undercooked in the middle, as the filling will continue cooking out of the oven, but still with souffléd and puffed-up sides. This is strictly to be served with softly whipped cream. “It’s sacrilege otherwise,” says my American publisher, Stephanie.
For the pastry
225g (8oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon caster sugar
a pinch of sea salt flakes
150g (5½oz) unsalted butter, chopped, plus extra for buttering the dish
1 free-range egg yolk
1 teaspoon iced water
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
For the pumpkin filling
150g (5½oz) unsalted butter
125g (4½oz) brown sugar
3 tablespoons water
150ml (¼ pint) double cream
¾ teaspoon seeded vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon sea salt flakes
2 large free-range eggs (I use Burford browns for the orange yolks)
3 large free-range egg yolks
300g (10½oz) Pumpkin Purée
¾ teaspoon ground allspice
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
a pinch of ground cloves
1 tablespoon black treacle
45ml (3 tablespoons) lemon juice
150ml (¼ pint) maple syrup
125ml (4fl oz) whole milk
75ml (2½fl oz) carrot juice
To make the pastry, mix the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter pieces and blend until it resembles breadcrumbs. Combine the egg yolk with the water and cider vinegar and add it to the processor, then blend until it just forms a ball of dough. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring the dough together. If the mix is too dry to bring together, add more water a teaspoon at a time. Shape it into a flat disc, wrap in clingfilm, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the pastry time to relax.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan (400°F), Gas Mark 6. Roll the pastry out on a floured surface and line a buttered 23cm (9 inch) diameter pie dish with it. The pastry will shrink when cooked, so make sure there is enough overhanging the edge of the dish. Trim neatly, then crimp the edges. Prick the base all over with a fork, line with baking parchment and fill with baking beans, then blind bake for 15 minutes, until light golden brown.
Reduce the temperature to 180°C/160°C fan (350°F), Gas Mark 4, remove the baking parchment and beans and bake the pastry for a further 5 minutes to dry out.
To make the filling, melt the butter over a medium-low heat. Continue to cook, whisking occasionally – the butter will foam and begin to turn golden, then nut brown. When the butter is nut brown, immediately add the brown sugar, whisk, and then carefully add the water to loosen. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue simmering until a sugar thermometer reads 120°C/248°F. (If you don’t have a thermometer, cook until the mixture smells caramelized and starts to darken.) Whisk in the cream (the mixture will bubble rapidly) and keep whisking until smooth. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt.
Meanwhile, heat the oven again to 180°C/160°C fan (350°F), Gas Mark 4, and position the oven shelf in the centre. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and yolks and set aside. In the bowl of a food processor, blend the pumpkin purée with the allspice, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, treacle and lemon juice until smooth. With the machine running on low, pour the brownbutter butterscotch in a slow steady stream through the food processor’s feed tube and process until combined. Stream in the egg mixture, followed by the maple syrup, milk and carrot juice, and continue blending until smooth, scraping down the sides if need be.
Pour into the pre-baked pastry case. Place the dish on a rimmed baking tray and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes. The pie is ready when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the centre is no longer liquid but still quite wobbly. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, for at least 2–3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with softly whipped cream.
MAKES 450G (1LB) PURÉE
PREPARATION TIME: 15 MINUTES
COOKING TIME: 25 MINUTES
500g (1lb 2oz) orange pumpkin, any variety you like
30g (1oz) unsalted butter
Peel the pumpkin and cut it into 1cm (½ inch) chunks. Heat the butter in a large pan and throw in the pumpkin. Cook very gently over a low heat with a lid on, stirring every so often, for 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is cooked through. The closed pan will both steam and pan-cook the pumpkin with no effort, but towards the end of the cooking process, really scrape away at the bottom of the pan to avoid it catching and burning, as pumpkin contains a lot of sugar.
When the pumpkin is cooked all the way through, place in a high-powered blender and blitz until smooth. Store in a plastic container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or leave to cool and use straight away.
Find Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings here.