Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie – a Recipe from a Friend
As I was saying only a moment ago, here comes Thanksgiving. Time for the Turkey Roundup. Time also for the pumpkin pie – but the Squash Roundup, while rich in recipes (see end of post) does not contain this necessary part of the finale.
Enter my dear friend Sandy Oliver, food writer, culinary historian and vegetable grower supreme, who just happens to have a great recipe for pumpkin pie in her new book, Maine Home Cooking, published, fittingly, by Downeast Books
Sandy’s previous books were based on extensive historical research. Maine Home Cooking is based on daily cooking, as practiced right this minute by Maine home cooks, who send their recipes to her weekly column, Taste Buds, in the Bangor Daily News.
I have been trying to pry a guest post out of my old pal for some time now, and finally, here it is: Sandy. Pumpkins. A truly terrific pie.
The Pumpkin Report from Islesboro
By Sandy Oliver
Pumpkins are a lot of fun for me. So are all winter squashes, actually—beige Butternuts, blaze-orange Kubocha, butter yellow and dark green striped Delicatas, forest green Buttercups, blue Baby Hubbards—I’d grow them even if I didn’t like to eat them, which, most emphatically, I do.
I adore the way pumpkins and squashes send out brave, long vines with twining tendrils, huge bristly umbrella leaves, and gorgeous orangey-yellow flowers. Big vigorous plants like that cover the ground beautifully and shade out weeds, climb all over each other, grab any fence they pass, crawl, sprawl, and tangle. Then they set their fruit, which grows concealed under the leaves until the days grow shorter and the vines begin to ripen and die back, coquettishly revealing the swelling and colorful produce. Whew.
I like the way they keep for months, too. I store them in my cool dry second floor bedroom in the northwest corner of my old house. No central heating here, so I am assured that the squash and pumpkins will slow their little metabolisms to a crawl, and I can keep my eye on them daily to watch for any symptoms of spoilage. The least sign of mold or a black spot and I whisk them to the kitchen to cook them up.
Why pumpkins and squash crop up in stores right after Labor Day, when my garden is still producing summer squashes, tomatoes, corn, and green beans, I cannot fathom. This is the proper time to start. The vines are in the compost, well on their way back to being soil; “fresh from the garden” means parsley and chard, and up in the bedroom…
I have already made several things that will come your way in the next book, and, from Maine Home Cooking, a batch of Pumpkin Thai Soup (for which I actually used roasted butternut squash), and some of Ruth Hartley’s Pumpkin Bread. Fresh from the oven, that pumpkin bread has a lovely crusty top and overall a fine rich flavor.
Next, it goes without saying – will be pumpkin pie. I’m going to make ours with New England Pie pumpkin, though had the heirloom Long Pie pumpkin succeeded I would use that, too. Unfortunately, poor old Long Pie succumbed to the virus spread by those pesky cucumber beetles that attacked my viney plants this year.
New England Pie isn’t quite as flavorful, but at its best it does have an ideal pumpkin pie texture, neither dry nor watery. Ready to go right out of the pumpkin, a very endearing feature.
The key to great from-scratch pumpkin pie: Having made many a pumpkin pie by starting with the pumpkin, I can say with complete confidence that if there is a secret to making pie from whole-pumpkin-scratch, it’s making sure the pulp is exceedingly well drained. Start by steaming or baking the pumpkin instead of boiling it. Puree it through a food mill instead of a processor, then dump it into a sieve to drain until there is only a drip every couple of minutes or so.
Maple Pumpkin Pecan Pie
This elegant little number is a kind of North-South Thanksgiving Pie Compromise, with the pumpkin mixture on the bottom and a pecan pie layer floated on top. The recipe comes from Alice Elliott, of Richmond, Maine, who sent it with a note saying she likes it because she thinks a pecan pie is too sweet by itself, and the pumpkin layer solves that problem.
Alice’s pie is absolutely delicious, perfect for the special occasion that Thanksgiving is. But if you are like me in feeling you haven’t had pumpkin pie unless you’ve had the traditional kind, there’s an easy solution: make two.
Sufficient pastry for a 9 inch to 10 inch pie plate.
- 2 cups cooked pumpkin purée
- 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten well
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of allspice
- Pinch of nutmeg
Combine all these ingredients in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
- ½ cup sugar
- 3/4 cup maple syrup (darker is better here)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 tablespoon butters, melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Pinch salt
- Pinch cinnamon
- 3/4 cup pecan pieces
Combine all these ingredients in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
To assemble the pie:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a 9 inch or 10 inch pie plate with the pastry. Spoon the pumpkin filling into the plate, spreading it evenly to distribute. Gently pour the pecan syrup on top. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Cool and serve.
ADVICE: One surprise with this pie is the relatively low oven temperature and the relatively long time it takes to bake. You will bake this pie for an hour and three-quarters, so unlike me, who dawdled around the first time I tried it and had to rush to assemble it, make sure you plan ahead to give yourself plenty of time. Assembly is very easy, and even though the list of ingredients looks long, it goes together very quickly. Ali reserved pecan halves to lay around the perimeter of the pie, which looks very dressy.
Notes from Tester-Leslie
1. I used Queen of Smyrna squash, a buttercup type with deep yellow flesh. Filling made with actual pumpkin will no doubt be darker and more orange.
2. This quantity of pecans will not pave the entire surface if you use them whole. It will if you chop them coarsely. Either way, putting them on first by hand lessens the chance of the layers mixing. It also helps to ladle on the pecan liquid instead of pouring it right from the bowl – less weight behind the stream.
3. The long baking time cooks the bottom crust, so although it stays pale it doesn’t taste raw or doughy. But long time/low temp, though ideal for custard, will not by itself produce the browner, crisper crust you get by using a baking stone (as described in Crisp Crust Maple Walnut Pie). Come Thanksgiving, I’ll be doing this one that way, checking for doneness a bit early, just in case the stone speeds up the baking time.
4. I used a 10 inch pan, building up a high outer rim to hold in the pecan mixture. Then (for my sins) one rim section broke off right after I put the pie in the oven. Rather a lot of the topping flowed out, making the pecan layer thinner than it’s supposed to be and making me extremely glad I’d lined the pan under the pie tin with foil.
5. Even with the thinner pecan layer, the pie was Bill perfect but on the sweet side for me. That’s probably because the Queen of Smyrna was, as usual, very sweet all by itself. When I bake the Thanksgiving model I’ll let the topping alone, but make the pumpkin part with a scant quarter cup of brown sugar and no white sugar at all.
Fond as I am of the Queen, I thought it might be worthwhile to compare her to what might be called the two standards: a small round orange “pie pumpkin,” from the supermarket, actual cultivar unknown, and a can of Libby’s.
Result: I still like the Queen best, but Libby’s isn’t at all bad. Though the pie pumpkin was a definite third, it was actually pretty tasty because I drained the hell out of it. Sandy’s “drip every couple of minutes,” probably would have been sufficient but I let it drain – in its strainer, in the refrigerator – overnight.
The Squash Roundup
Baked Squash with Jalapenos and Piave (Mostly about the Queen of Smyrna variety I used for the pie)
Eighteen savory things to do with mashed squash.
A few more savory ideas, along with (at the end) a master all-purpose recipe for baking winter squash