I love pumpkin pie, but there are a few things about the classic preparation that I don’t understand. First and foremost, why we use canned mix when there’s a stack of fresh pumpkins at every grocery store this time of year.
Lisa and I get loads of squash from Tipi Creek every fall, so often we make “squash pie” instead of “pumpkin pie.” Obviously they’re very similar. Hubbard squash, pictured at left, makes fantastic pie, as do butternut, buttercup, and acorn squash.
Using fresh squash allows you to adjust the flavour and colour of the custard. Canned pumpkin is dark like caramel, I assume from a lengthy cook that reduces and browns the flesh (though that’s just a guess… maybe there’s caramel or molasses added?) If you seed, skin, and cut up a squash, put it in a covered casserole and roast it quickly, you can get a purée that is bright orange, almost like the skin of the original vegetable.
My next question is why most recipes call for evaporated milk when we live in a world that has cream.
And finally, though I like the classic “pumpkin pie spice” (cinnamon, allspice, clove, nutmeg…), lately I’ve been trying some new flavours. Like a good wallop of ginger. I bet fenugreek would be good. Actually you could take it in a million different directions, depending how far you’re willing to stray from people’s expectations. What about orange zest and a bit of orange liqueur? Or garam masala flavours like coriander and cumin? Anyways. I like a good hit of ginger.
Following is a good recipe for squash pie. The custard is very sweet, but tastes fresh because of the quick cooking of the squash. One issue that I haven’t resolved is that the custard always, always cracks as it cools. (Baked to aggressively? Too many eggs? I’m working on it…)
Hubbard Squash Pie
- 500 g roasted Hubbard squash (see above)
- 250 g heavy cream
- 150 g granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 300 g of your favourite, flaky pie dough
- Combine all ingredients (except pie dough…) in a blender. Process until very smooth. The liquid will be viscous but easily pourable.
- Roll the pie dough to 1/8″ and line the pie pan.
- Pour the custard into the pie. The custard will puff during baking, so leave some room for expansion.
- Bake the pie on a low oven rack at 425°F for fifteen minutes. Move to upper rack and continue baking at 325°F until custard is set, maybe forty minutes.
- Serve with maple syrup and whipped cream.
Leftover Custard Mix
If the recipe above makes more custard than you can fit in your pie, you can bake it in ramekins as you would crème brûlée. Here is a shadowy photo to prove it: