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.
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.
Caramel Spice Super Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie with Brown Butter Crust
By Irvin Lin
I’m kind of obsessed with layering or combining as many flavors as possible in my desserts, something that is very obvious if you peruse my blog. I’m going to guess and say it has to do with my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) where I never want to choose just one thing and instead prefer to have it all. I fully blame my parents on that one, as I grew up in a Taiwanese-American background where we always ate family style, sharing all dishes on the table. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where the rest of the country finally understands how great it is to share dishes, instead of just having your own food. With this Thanksgiving pie, you can have both the warm spices of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves along with the smoky caramel and rich vanilla adding to the pumpkiness. The addition of the bay leaf creates an allusive fall scent that makes you feel like you’re walking through a forest of multicolored leaves raining down on you. Not a bad way to end a giant celebratory meal if you ask me.
Inspired by a recipe from Flour by Joanna Chang and a recipe from Gourmet Magazine (RIP).
Brown Butter Crust
1 cup + 6 tablespoons (320 g or 2 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups (280 g) all purpose unbleached flour
3/4 cup (100 g) almond meal (or flour)
1/2 cup (70 g) white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup cold vodka
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water beaten together
Pumpkin Pie Filling
4 cups (850 g or 30 oz) of pumpkin puree (make sure to get pure pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling)
2 fresh bay leaves, cut in half (use fresh not dry)
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (100 g) powdered milk (try to find dry whole milk if possible)
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon (generous pinch) cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1. To make the crust, first put the butter in a large skillet and cook on medium heat until the butter fat starts to brown and smell fragrant. Pour the hot butter and brown butter fat in a heatproof bowl (I used a Pyrex measuring cup), scraping the brown butter off the sides and bottom of the skillet and into the bowl as much as possible.
2. Chill the butter until it is solid and cold (at least an hour, overnight if possible). Place the all purpose flour, almond meal, white whole wheat flour and sea salt in a large mixing bowl. With a balloon whisk stir vigorously until well blended. Cut the brown butter into 1/4” square cubes (be sure to scrape out any brown butter bits from the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle the cubes over the flour, and then, using your hands, toss the cubes with flour, coating them with the flour. Then, using your hands again, squeeze the cubes of butter flat, until all the butter has been flattened. Then start rubbing and squeezing the flour and butter together, until the ingredients start to clump together.
3. Sprinkle the water, vodka and almond extract over the dry flour butter mixture and toss with a fork until it forms a shaggy dough. Gather the dough and split in half. Flatten each half into a 1/2” thick disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for an hour or overnight (up to three days).
4. When the crusts have chilled and you are ready to make the pie, preheat the oven to 425˚F. Generously flour a flat surface and roll out the dough to a 12” circle. Fit the dough into a 9 inch deep dish pan. Try not to stretch the dough as you fit it into the pan. Decoratively crimp the edges of the pie crust and line with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights or dry beans/rice. Repeat with the second crust.
5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges of the pie crusts start to look golden brown. Remove the parchment paper/aluminum foil with the pie weights in it. Return the crusts to the oven and bake for 5 more minutes, until the crusts starts to look dry. Remove the crusts from oven, and brush the bottom and sides of each crust with the egg yolk wash, helping to seal the crust and keep it crisp. Return to the oven for 3 more minutes, until the crust looks dry and shiny. Lower the temperature of the oven to 350˚F and remove and cool the crusts while you finish making the pumpkin pie filling.
6. While the crusts are baking, place the pumpkin puree in a pan with the bay leaves. Cook the pumpkin on stove at medium high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure the pumpkin doesn’t scorch or burn. The pumpkin puree should have reduced from 4 cups to about 2 1/2 cups and darken. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Let cool while you make the caramel.
7. Place the sugar in a large heavy bottomed saucepan with a silver bottom (avoid nonstick, as the dark coating will make it hard to judge the caramel color). Turn the heat to high, stirring occasionally with a heat proof silicon spatula or wooden spoon. As the sugar melts, continue to stir and shake the pan so all the sugar melts evenly. Once the sugar starts to brown, turn the heat off and let the residual heat of the pan continue to caramelize the sugar. You want the caramel to turn a dark golden brown, closer to chestnut but not mahogany black. If the caramel has stopped browning or isn’t dark enough, turn the heat back on to low to give it a nudge. It’s better to go slow and let the residual heat caramelize the sugar, as you can always make the caramel darker, but you can’t go backwards and if you burn the sugar, you have to start all over.
8. Once the caramel has reached the appropriate color, add 1 cup of the cream carefully (the caramel will steam, sizzle and seize up). Turn the heat back up to medium and cook until the caramel that has hardened dissolves into the cream (this may take a few minutes). Once most of the caramel has dissolved add the remaining 1/2 a cup of cream and cook until all the caramel is dissolved.
9. Pour the caramel into the pumpkin puree. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the pie filling. Add the vanilla extact and the powdered milk. Stir to combine with a balloon whisk. Add the eggs, egg yolk, spices and salt. Stir again to combine.
10. Pour half the pumpkin pie filling into one pie crust, and the rest into the other pie crust. Bake in the oven to 40 to 45 minutes or until the edge of the pie is dry and puffy and the center of the pie jiggles a tiny bit. Let cool for two hours on a wire rack to room temperature before serving. You can also make the pie the day before, let it cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Just make sure to let the pie come to room temperature before serving.
Makes 2 pumpkin pies
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 says
Ooh, browned butter crust — this is quite relevant to my interests. Mmm.
Belinda @zomppa says
That crust looks perfect, absolutely perfect – love Flour! A must stop.
I’m curious if you could recommend a brown-butter crust recipe w/o almonds?
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 says
This has so many flavors going on! I love it! Powdered milk, huh? Who knew!?
Kathy - Panini Happy says
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!
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 says
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!!
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 TaiwaneseAmerican.org? =) 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!
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 says
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.
Wow, this sounds amazing. Is there any way to make it without the powdered milk?
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 says
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..)
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!)
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.
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 says
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!
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.
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.
No one on any site mentions they can eat the whole entire pie, I do.