I often pair pumpkin with maple when I’m making slightly savory dishes. For instance, I’ll drizzle some pumpkin with maple syrup when I am roasting it to highlight the natural sweetness of the squash, and I’ll add a splash to pumpkin soup for the same reason. The combination works well in sweet applications, of course, and provides a nice change of pace from some other pumpkin desserts. This Maple Pumpkin Pie is one that is a current favorite of mine and it is definitely a pie that I always take a second slice of. The blend of spices, pumpkin and maple in it is addictive and satisfying – and a beautiful, but simple, twist on a basic pumpkin pie.
This pie uses a combination of maple syrup and brown sugar to give the pie a rich maple flavor to the pumpkin filling. Dark brown sugar helps to emphasize some of the darker sugar notes in the syrup in this recipe, so I found I got the best results when I used a combination of the two sweeteners. The added bonus of this is also that it keeps the cost of baking this pie down, since pure maple syrup can be fairly expensive and you definitely want to use the best stuff you can find for the best results in this pie! Dark maple syrup, also known as Grade B maple syrup, has the strongest flavor and is going to give you the best results in this pie, so I highly recommend that you opt for that over a lighter syrup.
This recipe will make enough filling for a fairly deep pie plate, so if you are using a shallow pie plate or a store-bought graham cracker crust instead of a homemade one, you might find that you have a little bit of filling leftover. Don’t worry if this is the case, but if it is, simply fill your crust up to the top and discard any excess filling. The pie will be ready to slice as soon as it comes down to room temperature, but it is excellent when chilled so it can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, drizzle each piece with a little extra maple syrup (whipped cream is optional) to highlight that maple flavor.
Impossible Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes are one of my favorite fall recipes, both because they are very tasty and because they are intriguing to people. The cupcakes have the same custardy texture as a pumpkin pie filling, but have just enough substance to them to hold together without a traditional crust. They’re delicious.
I get a lot of requests for video of this recipe and questions about the recipe. Many people have a hard time visualizing what the “crust” of these mini pies looks like. It is not a traditional pie crust, and it forms almost by magic when the cupcakes bake. The “crust” is formed by a small amount of flour in the batter that forms a firm crust-like layer on the sides and base of the pie – meaning that you can pick these pies up with your hands yet still enjoy the soft, traditional pumpkin pie filling in each bite. They’re called Impossible Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes because it is (almost) impossible that you can have such a delicate custard center without a traditional crust.
I put together a video that shows the whole recipe, from start to finish, where it is easy to see the texture of the batter and the cupcakes every step of the way. Just watching it puts me in the mood to bake another batch!
Cans of pumpkin pie mix, or pumpkin pie filling, line the baking shelves at many grocery stores this time of year. They’re usually set right next to the ready-to-use graham cracker pie crusts, so they catch your eye and get you thinking about baking a pie. The filling mix is also usually next to the regular canned pumpkin puree and many bakers have picked up the wrong can accidentally time or two.
Canned pumpkin pie mix is not the same as pumpkin puree. Pumpkin puree is just pumpkin that has been cooked and pureed until it is smooth. A product labeled as pumpkin pie filling, or pumpkin pie mix, contains pumpkin puree that has already been sweetened and flavored. It is really intended to only go into a pumpkin pie – and to make the process of putting a pie together as easy as possible (even though from-scratch pumpkin pie is quite easy, too).
I often get asked if this pre-mixed pumpkin pie filling can be substituted for pumpkin puree in other recipes. In general, canned pumpkin pie filling should not be substituted for plain puree in a recipe that only calls for the puree, such as a recipe for cake, cookies or muffins. The added sugar and spices can throw off a recipe and removing sugar from the recipe to try to compensate can alter the texture of the finished product, so you won’t necessarily get the result you were hoping for. The pumpkin pie filling is also too sweet to be used in savory pumpkin dishes, such as pumpkin soup, and can throw off the flavor there. Keep the filling for an easy pie on short notice, and instead stock up on the more versatile pumpkin puree if you are going to do a lot of pumpkin baking.
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.
A very simple custard of eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla (or some other flavoring) that is cooked on the stovetop or baked in small ramekins in the oven is the first thing that most of us think of when we think of a custard. A custard is a cooked mixture that is thickened with eggs, and while that simple custard may be the first thing that comes to mind, all kinds of other mixtures are custards as well. Custard pies are pies that are filled with a custard base – eggs, some type of liquid and sweeteners – and baked until the mixture is set. While that basic custard mixture can make a nice pie filling itself, pumpkin pies, sweet potato pies, buttermilk pies, chess pies and even pecan pies are all custard-based pies.
All custard pies need to be handled with care to get the best results. Here are a few tips that might come in handy when baking them, whether you’re doing a pumpkin pie for the holidays or a classic custard pie for another occasion:
Place your pie on a baking sheet and put it on the rack in the oven, then pour the filling from a large mixing cup to prevent spillage.
Custard pies should be baked until they jiggle slightly. Residual heat will help them firm up even more once they come out of the oven, but overbaking can cause cracking.
The easiest way to test for doneness is to insert a sharp knife into the center; the knife should come out clean, even though the pie still jiggles slightly.
Custard pies cut more easily with a smooth, hot knife. Run your knife under hot water and dry it off before cutting your pie.
Pies are at their best within a couple of days of baking, when the filling is at its most tender.