Caramel Spice Super Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie with Brown Butter Crust, or how I fought the ubiquitous pumpkin pie post and lost.

by Irvin on November 21, 2011 · 23 comments

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Caramel, Spices and a rich Brown Butter Crust makes this pumpkin pie from scratch one of the most sophisticated elegant recipe you have ever had.

Caramel Spice Super Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie with Brown Butter Crust by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

I’ve been avoiding the ubiquitous Pumpkin Pie post this entire month because I rarely bake one before Thanksgiving. However, having been to two back-to-back food conferences, where I learned that that food blogs are “lifestyle” magazines, I took out my calendar and decided to pay attention to the holidays coming up. Not that I could ignore the giant turkey staring me back at the end of November but you know what I mean. Of course, it dawned on me that I never really wrote a pumpkin pie post for Eat the Love, which I think is illegal for a baking blog. In my defense I did one for Andrew’s October Unprocessed last year but I know that really only get me a suspended sentence from food blogging jail not a full pardon. Still, I planned on not caving into societal pressures, until I picked up Flour by Joanne Chang, a book that’s been sitting on the top of my stack of cookbooks to look over. I received a review copy a while ago (the book came out last year, but my growing stack of cookbooks means I am only slowly getting to some of them now). Flipping through the book, I came across her Super Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie recipe and I thought to myself “That Chang, she’s onto something.” So I took inspiration from her book and whipped up this pumpkin pie extravaganza: Caramel Spice Super Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie with Brown Butter Crust.


Here’s the thing with pumpkin pie – I love it. I really do. But I get bored with the usual pumpkin pies that I make. I’ve made them with honey, maple syrup, caramel, white sugar, brown sugar, molasses. I’ve added cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, all spice, cardamom, cloves, five spice, orange and any sort of ginger you can think (ground, fresh, juiced, crystallized). I’ve done pumpkin pie in more ways that I can think of, and I find myself always just wondering, what can I do that will make this pumpkin pie different? Adding a brown butter crust mixes it up a bit. Then there’s the reducing the pumpkin puree to make it more pumpkiny – nothing short of genius. That along with the idea of using fresh bay leaves to help accentuate the fall season had me saying “to heck with it” and baking myself a pumpkin pie before Thanksgiving. I had myself a winner.


Of course, I couldn’t have done it with out the brilliance of Joanne Chang, owner of Flour Bakery over in Boston (I really need to get my butt over to Boston), who decided to reduces the pumpkin puree on the stove to a more concentrated flavor by cooking it for 45 minutes. I love that idea. I’ve tried draining the puree overnight by hanging the pumpkin in cheesecloth overnight (time consuming), or by absorbing the liquid with paper towels (always felt wasteful for me – all those papertowels), but cooking the pumpkin puree down helps concentrates the flavor more than the other two methods.


Chang’s book is full of nifty tips and little twists on classic American treats. Take her version of the bake sale staple Rice Crispy Treats that my friend Brian from A Thought for Food blogged about on a guest post for The Merry Gourmet. Chang makes it with brown butter. Brown butter people! Brown butter makes everything better. Of course, I didn’t stick to Chang’s recipe for pumpkin pie as I wanted to play around with secondary flavors and I don’t usually have evaporated or condensed milk in my pantry (yeah yeah, I do stock pumpkin puree in my cupboard, leave me alone). However, I have a lot of other ingredients floating around, including powdered milk so I decided to play a little bit with that and making my pie more robust and creamy without adding more liquid and diluting the inherent pumpkiness of it all (yeah, I just made up the word “pumpkiness”, but I’m already in food blogger jail so there’s nothing you can do about it)


Turns out that powdered milk, which originally I thought was a little ghetto, was actually a pretty nifty trick. You don’t need to reduce the pumpkin nearly as much as you do with Chang’s version, because the excess water in the pumpkin puree is absorbed by the milk powder. In the end you get a super rich, ultra creamy Thanksgiving pie, layered with the sweet & spicy complex caramel pumpkin filling and earthy deep autumnal bay leaves with vanilla flavor. In fact, (and I hate being a food blogger cliché by talking in superlatives) this might just be the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted. Dang I went there. Guess I’m never getting out of food blogger prison.

Special thanks to Chronicle Books for sending me a review copy of Flour by Joanne Chang. Though I received a complimentary review copy of the book, all opinions stated above are my own and I was not compensated for it.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Jacqueline November 21, 2011 at 6:23 am

Great post. I also love pumpkin pie. One of my favorite tips is to cook the ingredients, preferably the day before you’re baking it. The flavors marry and deepen. Also, I think it was a tip from (Rose Levy Beranbaum) to crush gingersnaps (I have a recipe here for my favorite) and pecans together and line the bottom of the pie. That does 2 things: perfumes the pie and keeps the bottom from getting soggy. Yum. Love your idea of savory notes, too. Pumpkin is such a wonderful flavor that goes so many ways.


Julie @ Willow Bird Baking November 21, 2011 at 6:24 am

Ooh, browned butter crust — this is quite relevant to my interests. Mmm.


Belinda @zomppa November 21, 2011 at 7:43 am

That crust looks perfect, absolutely perfect – love Flour! A must stop.


Thomas November 21, 2011 at 9:47 am

I’m curious if you could recommend a brown-butter crust recipe w/o almonds?


Irvin November 21, 2011 at 12:47 pm

You can easily substitute the same amount of all purpose flour for the almond flour (and leave out the almond extract). 100g of all purpose flour is about 2/3 cup.


Katrina @ In Katrina's Kitchen November 21, 2011 at 12:40 pm

This has so many flavors going on! I love it! Powdered milk, huh? Who knew!?


Kathy - Panini Happy November 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Well, I’m glad you gave in and made a pumpkin pie. 🙂 This sounds outstanding. I have the Flour book – I’ve only made her yellow cake so far and it was the best I’ve tasted. Definitely need to delve into that book further. It was so nice to catch up with you last weekend!


Irvin November 23, 2011 at 1:15 am

So great to see you, but I feel like I barely had a chance to talk to you! It’s the worst part of those conferences, not enough time to catch up with everyone. But so happy to have seen you, even if it was briefly…


Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet November 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Looks great Irvin!! I’m not a huge fan of Pumpkin pie, but when it’s kicked up beyond the norm, I tend to gravitate to it. Great post!!


Lillian November 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm

This must be the most gorgeous pumpkin pie I’ve ever seen! I’m like you… I avoid making pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner b/c I always want to make/bring something new – but maybe your recipe is tempting me… let’s see if I can find more pumpkin puree and powdered milk in time. 😉

ps. How cool is it that you’re one of the 100 Passionate People on =) Wax apples/bell fruit are my fave too – gosh I could eat those forever… I wonder if you could bake them? lol… I bet you’d like to try!


Irvin November 22, 2011 at 7:26 pm

LOL. That article was ages ago, but I thought it would be fun to link to it. It’s so hard to find wax apples/bell fruit (in Hawaii, I found out that they were called “Mountain apples” that if I found them, I’d probably would eat them as is, and not even bother to try to cook/bake with them!


merry jennifer November 21, 2011 at 5:04 pm

I love pumpkin pie, and I’ve been on a mission to find the *perfect* one. Every year I try something different. My hubs tells me, “I like the one you used to make…the very first one.” It’s just so hard to settle on one version.


Kate November 22, 2011 at 8:46 am

Wow, this sounds amazing. Is there any way to make it without the powdered milk?


Irvin November 23, 2011 at 1:16 am

If I were to make it without the powdered milk, I would reduce the pumpkin puree to 2 cups (probably an extra 10 minutes on medium high) and then add an extra 1/2 cup of cream to the caramel. If you do, let me know how it turns out!


Jay @ Local Me November 22, 2011 at 10:30 am

I had no idea there were so many possible variations. I’ve always made my Grandma’s recipe, because..well, that’s one does, but I must give this one a try. (I also have had pumpkin pie for breakfast..)


elizabeyta November 22, 2011 at 10:54 am

Now, I am the kid who asked for pumpkin pie instead of cake for my March birthday. I made a winter squash pie this weekend because it was so much more flavorful then the pumpkin I could find locally. But you have given me ideas. Especially since I have vanilla made with rum in the house. More pie for me! (evil laugh!)


Allison November 22, 2011 at 11:50 am

I’m still in the “think powdered milk is a little ghetto” camp (that line made me laugh!). But I like the concept you achieved with it, so maybe I’ll rethink my opinion the next time I make pumpkin pie.


Irvin November 23, 2011 at 1:18 am

It’s totally ghetto, but I’m getting over it. I’m adding it to a lot of my baked goods and it’s great. Adds a extra touch of richness without changing the texture too much because it’s just powder.

But I would definitely track down the whole milk powder, not the nonfat version that you find at the grocery store. Most high end grocery stores have it. I got mine in the bulk bin at Rainbow Grocery.


Adrian J.S. Hale November 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I love Flour by Joanne Chang (my current post was inspired by her, too), but somehow overlooked the pumpkin pie recipe. OVERLOOKED. IT. How in the world could I be planning a big Thanksgiving meal in the middle of November and overlook the darn pumpkin pie? Maybe I’m just in denial. Anyway, thanks for nudging me back and giving me the winning pie recipe that will grace our table this year.

I love what you’re doing on your blog. Great voice and awesome recipes. Thanks!


Irvin November 23, 2011 at 1:23 am

Thanks Adrian! Let me know what you think of it if/when you make it. It’s a bit labor intensive but totally worth it.


anneliesz November 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Well, all I have to say is yum. I can say this because I ate every last morsel of a piece shared with an office-mate. This might very well be the pumpkiniest pie I’ve ever tried. Bravo.


Irvin November 23, 2011 at 1:23 am

Yay Pumpkiny-pumpkin!


kim October 30, 2016 at 2:23 pm

No one on any site mentions they can eat the whole entire pie, I do.


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