A great pumpkin pie should have a creamy, rich texture, a great pumpkin flavor and a good balance of spices to it. It shouldn’t be overly dense, heavy or coarsely textured. I am a big fan of pumpkin pie – especially during fall or close to Thanksgiving – and I love making it at home. This is my Perfect Pumpkin Pie, one that I’ve tweaked over the years until it delivers exactly the type of pumpkin pie that I like. It is an easy pie to make and gets great reactions when you serve it to a crowd of family and friends because most people don’t expect a pumpkin pie to be so good.
I typically use canned pumpkin puree (homemade pumpkin puree works well, too) because it is convenient and delivers a consistently good result. The pumpkin is mixed with brown sugar, eggs, milk and spices and then baked. I always pour the filling through a strainer to catch anything that will keep the pie from being as silky as possible, such as a chunk of brown sugar or a fibrous bit of pumpkin. Like most custard pies, I bake this at a high temperature to “set” it, then turn the oven down to let it finish baking in a more moderate oven so that the pie doesn’t overbake or crack. The resulting filling is creamy and rich, with a distinct pumpkin flavor.
One of the keys to this pie is to use fresh, flavorful spices. I use my homemade pumpkin pie spice mix, a blend of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. If you are using older spices (things that have been in your spice rack since last Thanksgiving… or the one before that), they will still work, although you might want to increase the amount of spice by an extra half a teaspoon to get that same punch of flavor in your pie.
I like to use a regular pie crust for this type of pie. Not only does a tender pastry crust add a nice texture to the finished pie, but it doesn’t need to be prebaked, so rolling out a piece of dough only adds a couple of minutes to your prep time. The baking time for this pie is relatively short and you will get the best results in a glass or metal pan, as both heat up much more quickly than ceramic bakeware and will allow the pie crust to brown better while it bakes. If you’re pressed for time, a store-bought graham cracker crust also makes a good option for this pie filling.
Perfect Pumpkin Pie
dough for one 9-inch pie crust
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree (or 2 cups homemade pumpkin puree)
1 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (whole or low fat)
Preheat oven to 425F.
Roll out pie crust on a lightly floured surface and press it into a 9-inch pie plate. Flute the edge, as desired.
In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and salt until smooth. Whisk in milk. Pour mixture through a fine strainer and into the prepared pie shell.
Bake for 10 minutes at 425F. Lower oven temperature to 350F and bake for 30-35 minutes, until pie is set and jiggles only slightly when pan is gently tapped.
Allow to cool completely before serving or refrigerating.
Pie can be served at room temperature or cold.
Single Pie Crust
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into pieces
4-6 tbsp ice water
Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in butter (you can also use half butter, half shortening) with your fingertips, pressing it into the flour mixture and breaking it up, until mixture resemble very coarse sand and no pieces larger than a large pea remain. Using a fork, stir in ice water until dough almost comes together into a ball. Press dough into a ball with your hands and wrap in plastic.
Chill for at least 30-60 minutes before using.