Tale Of A Pumpkin: From Seed To Pie

I don’t remember exactly what possessed me to grow a pumpkin plant this year – I think it may have been guilt for having a package of seeds and not growing them for a few years. Pumpkins take up quite a bit of precious garden real estate, so it would be understandable that I would skip a few years. I’d actually only grown pumpkins twice prior to this year – once was in my first garden where the vines took up about half of the garden but didn’t produce any actual pumpkins, and the other time was about 4 years ago when I grew one plant up a trellis in the back of my garden, that did end up producing 3 small pumpkins which were made in to soup. I’d actually planned on making this year’s two pumpkins in to pie for Canadian Thanksgiving over a month ago, but that didn’t pan out so they’ve just been sitting on my counter collecting dust and cat hair. So with American Thanksgiving this week, I decided to go ahead and try making some pies (really, I’m just using that as an excuse to eat pie).

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I started the pumpkin seeds in my house early May, a few weeks before they were transplanted outdoors in one of the raised beds. The plant was along side my chicken wire cat/squirrel barrier fence which acted as a trellis for the plant, so it didn’t end up taking up a lot of room in the garden. It didn’t actually produce any pumpkins until either late July or early August and I didn’t think they would grow big enough to be harvested before freezing temperatures hit. But luckily I was wrong and two green pumpkins were harvested in early September, right before the big freak snowstorm. From there, they turned orange over the next few weeks in the kitchen and lived on the counter until now when they were cut up, roasted, pureed and baked into delicious miniature pies. It seems like a very long and complicated process for pumpkin pie – and it is. I could have easily bought a can of pumpkin from the grocery store and called it a day. But there was something really special to me about planting a little seed, caring for the plant for several months, harvesting the pumpkins myself, and baking them in to a pie. Don’t get me wrong, I will still use canned pumpkin when I do not have access to home grown pumpkins, or when I am feeling lazy – there is actually nothing wrong with canned pumpkin, it is a wonderful thing! But my pumpkin pie from scratch was absolutely amazing – I have never tasted a pumpkin pie that was this delicious. The time you take making this pie is totally worth it, trust me.

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Step One: Roast The Pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You’ll need one whole sugar pumpkin (sugar pumpkins are specifically pie pumpkins). Wash and dry the outside of your pumpkin and cut it in half (be very careful when cutting it and be very wary of hand and knife placement – luckily I did not injure myself this time but I do have an old pumpkin harvesting injury that has prevented my thumb from ever moving in the same way again). Scoop out the seeds and guts (save the seeds for roasting!). I cut the stem off my pumpkin because I was afraid it might start on fire in the oven. I doubt this would actually happen, I have a bit of paranoia. Place your pumpkin pieces cut side down on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for about 45 minutes or until a fork easily slides through the flesh. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Next you’ll want to separate the flesh from the skins and discard the skins. My edges were a bit overcooked but they slid away very easily with my fingers from the rest of the flesh and had the same fate as the pumpkin skins. Puree the flesh in a blender or food processor. Think baby food consistency. You can go ahead and make the rest of your pie now or you can just put the puree in a jar and refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it. You’ll only need 1 3/4 cups of puree for the pie and the rest can be used for something else, used to make more pies, or frozen for later use.

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Step Two: Make The Crust

Ingredients:
– 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
– 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
– 1 egg yolk
– 1 cup all-purpose flour (put some additional aside for dusting your counter)
– 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions:
– Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth.
– Add yolk and mix until combined.
– Add salt and gradually add flour until just combined – careful that the mixture is not too dry (if you squeeze some of the dough together in your fist it should not crumble apart).
– Form dough into a disk and refrigerate for an hour or overnight (the dough will be good for up to 3 days).

Just when you’re about to make the filling, remove the dough from the fridge and shape in to your crusts. I used eight 4 inch tart pans (with removable sides) because I prefer baked goods in individual serving sizes because it is easier to control portions and everyone can have their own adorable little pie. The pies will easily come out of your tart pans if they have the removable sides that you push up gently from the bottom. You can use a large pie plate but my guess is that you would have to adjust the baking times a bit longer.

Dust your surface and rolling pin before you roll out the dough. If you don’t have patience for this, you can divide the dough up into smaller discs and mash them in to the tart pans, which is exactly what I did. The wonderful thing about using these tart pans is even though you think your pies will come out looking terrible, they come out the opposite because the tart pans shape the dough beautifully and you don’t have to worry about making a nice decorative edging like you would on one big pie. One of the reasons that I don’t do a lot of pastry baking is that most of my end results come out looking like they were done by a child with sausage fingers. These tart pans are heaven sent for people like me. When your crusts are finished, just set them aside until your filling is ready.

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Step Three: Make The Pie Filling

Ingredients:
– 1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
– 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
– 1/4 tsp nutmeg
– 1/4 tsp ground cloves
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 1/4 cup maple syrup (I realized as I was making the recipe that my regular syrup had expired over a year ago and tasted very much like molasses. But luckily I had a little bottle of the Noble vanilla & chamomile infused syrup which I used instead)
– 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 large eggs
– 1 cup heavy cream

Instructions:
– Combine the sugar, spices and salt in a bowl.
– In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, maple syrup and vanilla extract.
– Lightly beat the eggs, stir them in to the pumpkin mixture, then add the spice mixture (I used my stand mixer on “stir” function). Stir in the cream.

Step Four: Bake The Pie

– Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
– Grab your pie crusts – if you used individual pans like I did, put them on a baking sheet, it will be much easier to maneuver them in and out of the oven.
– Use a small ladle or a measuring cup to pour the filling in to the crusts – fill level to the top of the crust, not over top.
– Bake the pies at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for about 25-30 more minutes or until filling is set in the middle (you’ll know if you tap the side of the tart pan and the middle does not jiggle and the top is slightly darkened).
– Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

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Step Five: Eat The Pie

This is the part where you whip some of that left over heavy cream to plop on top of your pie (I love just plain cream whipped, no sugar added – it cuts some of the sweetness of the pie). Eat the pie and declare it the best pumpkin pie you’ve ever tasted.

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This is my own recipe with inspiration from lots of other recipes I found online – please feel free to use the recipe on your own blog but please link back to my blog and give credit where credit is due.

2 thoughts on “Tale Of A Pumpkin: From Seed To Pie

  1. Pingback: What I’m Cooking: Meringue Dream Cake | Carrots & Raspberries

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