Let’s Talk Food: This Thursday is Thanksgiving, and that means pumpkin pie

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Pumpkin pie

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Pumpkin pie taster, the author’s grandson, Quentin, looks like he approves.

Are you ready?

Thursday is Thanksgiving and my favorite holiday. Once a year, I can buy fresh turkeys, so I look forward to that. There is nothing tastier and juicier than fresh, never frozen turkeys.

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I am picking up the two turkeys I ordered today, deboninng them tomorrow, brining the boneless carcass and roasting the bones till nicely browned with carrots, celery and onions, and making stock. The stock will be gently boiled for a couple of days so when Thursday comes, I will have a pot full of wonderful stock for my cornbread stuffing and gravy.

My grandson, Quentin, absolutely loves pumpkin pie, so I want to make sure my pumpkin pie is delicious and makes him happy. Even at 3 years old, he is very discriminating and will not eat something if the texture or taste is “off.”

According to Cook’s Illustrated, November-December 2008, if you are going to bake a pumpkin pie once a year, it better not be grainy with a soggy crust. After a great turkey dinner, there is no reason the meal should not end with a “first-class finish.”

Pumpkin is the star ingredient and often not the dominant flavor. According the Cook’s Illustrated, the reason is there is a lot of moisture in pumpkin, whether fresh or canned, which dilutes its flavor. Cooking the pumpkin first improves the flavor and also allows the custard to firm up quickly in the oven. This also prevents the filling from soaking into the crust, making it soggy.

Adding some sweet potatoes to the recipe bumps up the pumpkin flavor and creates a deeper flavor.

Maple syrup also boosts pumpkin’s natural sweetness.

Freshly grated ginger packs more punch than dried ginger and since we grow some of the best ginger in the world here, it is a no-brainer.

Eliminating the graininess was the next challenge. Using only heavy cream makes the pie too rich, whole milk only makes the pie too watery, but a balance of heavy cream and milk is perfect.

The egg whites consist of most of the liquid in the egg, so adding two yolks to three whole eggs makes it firm up perfectly.

Lastly, most recipes have you bake the pie at 425 degrees, but the problem is when the pie reaches 175 degrees, the filling curdles with a coarse and grainy texture. Starting at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reducing the temperature to 300 degrees until the pie is fully baked and reads 175 degrees in the center will produce a perfect pie.

Cook’s Illustrated Pumpkin Pie

One 9-inch pie

Crust:

1 1/4 cups unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces

2 tablespoons cold vodka

2 tablespoon cold water

Filling:

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon table salt

Crust: Process 3/4 cup flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds. Dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to two days.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position. Place rimmed baking sheet on rack, heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator, roll out on generously floured work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, fill with pie weights. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate and bake 5 to 10 additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove pie plate and baking sheet from oven.

Filling: While the pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks and vanilla extract together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. Rewhisk mixture and transfer to warm pre-baked pie shell. Return pie to baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat (it should be at 400 degrees) to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees) 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.

Notes: If candied yams are unavailable, regular canned yams can be substituted.

Vodka in the crust is essential to the texture of the crust. It does not add flavor, so do not substitute.

To judge doneness, use an instant-read thermometer. The center 2 inches of the pie should look firm but jiggle slightly.

The pie will finish cooking with residual heat. Cool at room temperature. Do not place in the refrigerator.

For accurate cooking and a crisp crust, the filling should be added when the pre-baked crust and filling are warm.

Serve at room temperature.

Foodie bites

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Don’t forget, if you ordered a Thanksgiving meal, pumpkin pie or rolls from Hawaii Community College’s Culinary Arts program, tomorrow is your pickup day. Call 934-2559 if you have questions.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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