Who invented pastry? I'm going with the French. They invent the most delicious, richest, elegant foods, don't they?
The thing with pastry is, you can't cheat. You have to go with the whole white flour-and-sugar combo. It doesn't work any other way.
Which is why, for the most part, pastry has been an extremely rare indulgence in our house for the last decade or more. However, when it comes to pie crust, what goes inside the crust can be so delicious and, yes, good for you, that having a thin bit of pastry around it seems like a small price to pay.
Pumpkin Pie is high on the list of "faves" in the Winters family. (Jason requests it every year for his birthday.) And since it is chalk full of goodness and so low in sugar, that li'l bit of pastry?
It gets a pass.
Easy Pie Crust
I don't know where she got it, but I got this recipe from my mother. I modified it to use butter rather than vegetable shortening for a healthier fat. Make sure your butter is chilled to almost fridge temperature.
1 lb. unsalted butter
4 1/2 c unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt, ground fine
1 tbsp. whole brown sugar (or white sugar if you want the crust to appear flawlessly white)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tbsp. vinegar (opt.)
- Put the last two ingredients in a cup and fill with warm water.
- Crumble together all dry ingredients and butter. A pastry blender works best. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it about 2-4 tbsps at a time.
- Add liquids and cut in. This makes quite a soft dough, so do not be afraid to use flour to roll out. If the dough has gotten quite soft and sticky because the butter is softening while you work, put the dough in the fridge for a bit before rolling.
- To keep bottom of pie crust from getting soggy, place little dabs of butter on crust and put in freezer while preparing filling.
Makes 5-6 crusts.
How to Cook Pumpkin
The best pie filling is made with home-cooked pumpkin.
To cook your own pumpkin:
- Cut a pumpkin in half (or into pieces small enough to fit into a 9"x13" pan.) Scoop out seeds and set aside for snack preparation (like Sweet'n'Spicy Pumpkin Seeds) and set pieces flesh-side-down in a pan with about 1/2"-1" of water in the bottom.
- Roast at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes or until flesh is soft and easily pierced with a fork. (You may notice the skin blistering, too, and that's a good thing.)
- Let cool, then peel or scoop out flesh from skin for use. Can be refrigerated for several days.
- Blend pumpkin with an immersion or counter-top blender until smooth. Use in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin.
Perfect Pumpkin Pie Filling
My favourite way to make this is with coconut milk--so rich and delicious. I've included a variation for dairy, in case the coconut milk isn't handy.
Makes 2 large pies
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c packed whole brown sugar (Can substitute 2/3 c maple syrup, but then use about 1/2 c less coconut milk/cream)
4 c cooked pumpkin (or use two 14 oz. cans of pumpkin without spices and use 1/4 c more coconut milk or cream)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp ground sea salt
1 400 mL/13.5 oz can full-fat coconut milk (or 1 2/3 c whipping cream)
- Mix ingredients well. Pour into unbaked 9 inch pie shells. (Deep dish works best.) If you have too much filling, cook in separate dish beside pie.
- Bake on bottom shelf in 450 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake about 45 minutes until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool.
Can be garnished with Naturally Sweetened Whipped Cream.
With all this goodness, do you see why I feel no guilt eating this for breakfast once in a while?