Without a doubt, fall is Toronto’s most beautiful season. By late September, the weather’s finally started to turn, and the ginkgoes turn golden at the edges and soon the maples redden — in the early light of evening, the sense of colour is so pronounced you can feel it humming away. And as the nights settle in, the smell of the leaves mingles with the metal of cold, and everyone comes home with coats smelling faintly of smoke.
And with the turning of the leaves comes Thanksgiving, and — naturally — pumpkin pie.
I always think about my old roommates when I’m baking in the fall. I’m reminded of all the gorgeous things we used to bake together when the weather finally turned cool, and they’re on my mind whenever I smell baking apples or grated nutmeg, ground cloves or bright, zested lemons.
But I especially think about them when I smell baking pumpkin. We used to put that lovely gourd in just about everything. Pumpkin muffins? Yes please. Pumpkin cheesecake brownies? Of course. Pumpkin rice pudding? Well, if you insist.
Pumpkin pie, to the best of my recollection, never lasted longer than a day in our house.
**Recipe updated October 17th, 2014. A few tweaks to the ingredients, and added tips!**
Serves about 8-10 people. Refrigerate the leftovers (if there are any) -- they make a pretty unbeatable breakfast.
For the crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into half-inch pieces
1 large egg
3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
For the filling
2 cups (500g) pumpkin puree
2/3 cup half-and-half cream, or heavy whipping cream*
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
For the crust
Blend the flours, sugar, and salt in a food processor.
Add chilled butter and cut in by pulsing briefly until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl.
Whisk egg and 3 tablespoons ice water in small bowl to blend. Add egg yolk mixture to mixing bowl and stir until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry.
Gather the dough into ball, and flatten into disk. Wrap it in plastic and chill for one hour.
Remove dough from fridge, roll it out, set it in a 9 1/2" pie plate and decorate the edges as you'd like. Return to the freezer and freeze for 15 minutes.
For the filling
Preheat oven to 425°F.
While the crust chills, beat eggs in a large bowl and mix in sugar, salt, and spices. Stir in pumpkin puree and cream.
Pour into the pie shell.
Bake in the oven at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° and bake for 40-60 minutes (unfortunately the baking time seems to vary extremely from oven to oven). The pie is done when the edges of the filling are set, and the centre is just slightly soft -- but not too jiggly. It's better to pull the pie out and let it cook further from residual heat; overbaked filling tends to crack. However, if you're nervous about it, you can always cook it a little longer and if it cracks, it's nothing a little whipped cream topping won't fix.
Cool for a minimum of two hours -- trust me on this one. Pumpkin pie tastes has a very strange texture unless it's allowed to set properly.
*I like to buy the 500ml containers of whipping cream, so that whatever I don't use in this recipe, I can whip up with a tablespoon of sugar and serve on the side!