…and how NOT to make a pie crust.
Last month I got some pumpkins to pretty up my porch. Three of them were pie pumpkins. I thought from the very moment I spotted them that maybe, someday, one of them could fulfill a destiny higher than mere decoration. Maybe one of them could become a pie.
Yesterday was that day, my friends. I arrived home from work with an uncanny surge of energy and motivation. First, I scrubbed my kitchen clean. It had been collecting dust and grease and–dare I say it–pet hair, for longer than I care to publicly admit. I showed that magic eraser who was boss and an hour or so later my kitchen was sparkling.
Then, I got down to research. I discovered these very detailed instructions on making pumpkin pie from scratch and felt empowered. My goal was to not have to go to the store, and this recipe offered a substitution for the only ingredient I didn’t have (evaporated milk), as well as instructions for whipping up a pie crust. Sold.
First step: prepare the pumpkin.
I used a serrated knife to saw it in half.
Then an ice cream scoop to scrape out all the seeds and gunk.
I saved the seeds just in case I felt motivated enough to roast them later (spoiler: I didn’t).
With my pumpkin halves reduced to a shell of their former selves, I cut out the stem and sliced the halves up into smaller pieces, then put them in a covered bowl with a bit of water.
The directions said to microwave the pumpkin for fifteen minutes, so I took this opportunity to get started on the crust. I got out all my baking supplies and apparatus.
Pistachio loves to observe goings-on in the kitchen, but she isn’t allowed on the counters. So she sits in a barstool and watches me work. I think it’s adorable.
The directions were a little manic, but from what I figured I was supposed to combine flour, sugar, and shortening in my food processor, then let ‘er rip for about 15 seconds. I was so proud when this yielded pretty little pea-gravel-looking clumps. I felt like that was exactly what was supposed to happen.
Then the recipe started talking about adding a little water to make a dough, but I was confused because it also called for cold butter but never told me when or how to add it. So I decided to add half a stick or so of cold butter and 1/4 cup of water at the same time to the food processor. If you’ve ever made pie crust before, I feel like you already know that this did not go well. The water made it turn into a giant ball of dough before the butter could be mixed in. I knew I messed up and was so panicked trying to figure out how to fix it that I didn’t even take any pictures. I fished the butter and the dough out of the food processor and started trying to mash it together with my hands on a piece of wax paper. I knew with every squeeze of dough in my fist I was crushing the possibility of words like “light and flaky” ever being used to describe my pie crust, but I felt it had to be done. Once it seemed like the butter was at least sort of incorporated I wrapped the whole thing up in wax paper and stuck it in the freezer. I figured no further harm could come to it in there and I could pretend like the whole thing hadn’t even happened until I needed the crust again later.
Back to the pumpkin…it came out of the microwave looking like this.
It was really easy to use a spoon to scoop the pumpkin flesh right out of the skins. After I got them all scooped out I put the good stuff in the food processor and ended up with the warm, smooth, pumpkiny goodness you see below.
This is where it got easy. As in, where a normal person who bought a crust and a can of pumpkin filling from a store would be just getting started. I added sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger. The only spice called for by the recipe that I didn’t have was allspice, and I figured it wouldn’t be the end of the world to just leave it out.
Next, I added some regular ‘ol milk, four eggs, and vanilla.
And mixed. Around this time I was looking over at my stand mixer and wondering why I hadn’t just put it to use for the first time in, oh, about six months or so, but I’d already gotten this bowl dirty so I just went with it. It was really runny, but the recipe said that was to be expected.
And at this point I couldn’t ignore the crust situation any longer. I took it out of the freezer and slapped it down on a fresh piece of wax paper. I tried to use my rolling pin to roll it out but it was just too sticky. I resorted instead to patting it out with my hands until it was roughly roundish.
Then I plopped it in a pie dish and shaped it some more with my fingers. I was shocked, shocked to realize that it actually didn’t look all that bad.
I poured my filling into the crust and, as the recipe predicted, had slightly more filling than would fit in the pie. I poured the excess into muffin tins to make crustless mini-pies. I forgot to grease them first, but I figured even if they stuck it was better than letting the filling go to waste.
After an hour in the oven, I had this notvery photogenic but extremely delicious-smelling result.
Turns out it didn’t matter that I forgot to grease the muffin tins, because Nick was eating them straight out of the pan with a spoon before the pie had even cooled enough to cut.
We didn’t have any whipped cream on hand, but Nick had the genius idea to eat our pie “à la mode” with frozen yogurt (Blue Bunny Caramel Praline Crunch). It was crazy delicious.
So, I don’t know if a pie pumpkin is any cheaper than a can of pumpkin pie filling, and it certainly didn’t save me any time to do things this way, and I can’t say that this particular pie was, you know, amazingly delicious in comparison to pie made from a can, but it was kind of fun to be able to use a pumpkin for decoration and then turn it into dessert. And even the crust didn’t turn out disgusting or anything. I’m not a big crust person anyway and always leave the last little bit at the back of the slice, but Nick stole that last little piece off my plate and ate it so I guess it couldn’t have been all that bad. My favorite part of this pie is that I made it entirely out of stuff I already had. Can’t beat that.
p.s. if you’d like to try this at home, here’s the recipe I used again