Pumpkin Chuckin'

I can’t believe that it’s almost Halloween.Just today the neighbors set up about 8 carved pumpkins on the front door step.The Halloween costume stores are littered about town and Target’s Halloween area is slowly become sparse.I love Halloween, passing out candy to the kids and dressing up and going to a fun party with my friends.But, there is another part of Halloween and after that I love and that is the taste of fresh pumpkins.

I see magazines like Gourmet and Food and Wine and see recipes of unique and sometimes strange things to do with pumpkin, but personally I love just a traditional amazing pumpkin pie.Some don’t know just how easy it is to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, but believe me just a few minutes of added time makes a huge difference.

Squishing the Squash
First select a pumpkin, a small sweet or pie pumpkin is best, but just about any pumpkin will work but will have different tastes.If you can’t get your hands on a pie pumpkin or have an unknown type of pumpkin growing out of your compost bin the the backyard (go look, its still on the vine in my backyard!), simply give it a taste after you cook it and add a small amount of sugar accordingly.

The first part is to cook and soften the squash.Simply cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and cover with a few tables spoons of water.Cook on high in the microwave for about 15 minutes or cook in the oven at 350-375 until fork tender.Let cool outside of the container and out of any water or juices.Peel out from the skin and mash up.Next, mix in a blender or food processor to smooth.If you do not have a mixer or blender you can use a mixer or potato masher for a good few minutes, it will not be a smooth but it will help.Now, you are ready to use your pumpkin like you would the preservative-ridden puree in the can.

Warm Up
The next step in making the perfect pie is to make yourself a great cup of coffee.In a large mug add cream, sugar, and a tablespoon or so of your pumpkin puree.Add the hot coffee and whisk up until combined and presto! you have a cheap and delicious cup of pumpkin ‘latte’ that is infinitely better than one from Starbucks.Drink while making your pie, repeat when your mug is empty.If your cooking late at night try adding a little bit of coffee liqueur for a delicious night cap.

Next, prepare your crust.Personally I recommend a scratch-made crust but a Pillsbury premade dough will do.Roll it out to an even 1/4 in and place in a glass pie dish, cut off any excess and then push the edges down a bit.Crimp them how you like but I like to make mine a bit different which will be explained later.The extra dough should not be balled up or kneaded, simply cover with plastic and put it to the side.

Spicy Time
First, preheat the oven to 375F.Next gather a large mixing bowl and a whisk, don’t forget your pumpkin puree.Add 2 cups pumpkin and 2/3 cups of brown sugar to your bowl and mix thoroughly.Next, slowly add 2 eggs, one at a time making sure the mix is smooth.Next, add 1 Tablespoons cinnamon, and a teaspoon of each nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.Personally, I love a nice, sort of spicy pie so I double the cinnamon and keep the others the same.Finally mix 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 1/4 cups of half and half, then add to the pumpkin mix.Make sure the mixture is smooth and even then carefully pour into the pie shell.

A Pretty Pie
Now here comes your time to be an artist and wow your friends and family with this easy trick.Anyone can make a wavy crimped edge, so try a cut-out edge.I like to use a leaf-shapped punch that is typically used for fondant and gum paste.Roll the crust to a 1/4″ thickness, and simply cut out the shape. Any shape of cutter, punch, or even free hand with a knife will work. You can use any shape to fit the type of pie or the occasion, but try to stick to a shape that is no larger than a 50 cent piece.Too large of a shape will sink into the pie because it is so thin.Paint on a little milk to the bottom crust and artfully lay on your cut-outs.Brush the tops with milk again and sprinkle on sugar or even better rock sugar.

Place in the oven and bake until the filling is set but not dry and the crust is golden brown.Allow to partially cool slowly at room temperature and then place in the refrigerator.Finally, enjoy with a dollop of homemade whipped cream (heavy cream, sugar, and a little vanilla) and don’t forget another cup of that great pumpkin coffee.