Monday, November 28, 2011

A Better Pumpkin

I have never been successful at making a pumpkin puree suitable for pumpkin pie. I have done all the right things. I used the sugar pumpkin baked for long enough and pureed in a food processor, but it is always too fibrous or stringy. My sister and I discussed this a few years ago. Our assumption is we aren't getting the right pumpkins. Pumpkins are squash, so any squash puree could theoretically be used in place of pumpkin. Butternut Squash happens to be the right color, close in flavor, similar in sweetness, but it is also the perfect texture when roasted. There is a dispute as to which one of us came up with the idea to use the butternut squash, but since my sister remembered this year I'll give her credit, although we are not the first to consider butternut squash. However, the real credit goes to my Great-Grandmother Louise Larson for the recipe we based ours on. Karin and I made this for Thanksgiving this year. This was our first attempt and I wouldn't change a thing. This is the best "pumpkin" pie I have ever tasted.

Butternut Squash Pie
(Recipes Follow)

Makes 2 pies
  • 1 4 pound butternut squash, split in half and seeds removed
  • 30 ounces by volume of the butternut squash puree
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoons powdered ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream

Prepare the Squash
Preheat oven to 400º F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves on a roasting pan cut side up and put about 1/4 of an inch of water in the pan. Bake for 45 - 60 minutes or until the squash is very tender. Allow the squash to cool then scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. Place the squash in a food processor and pure until very smooth about 1 - 2 minutes. You can do this while the squash is warm, but it needs to be cool before making the pie custard.

Make the custard
Beat the eggs. Add the pumpkin and spices and combine. Add the milk and stir until combined. Pour the custard into two 9 inch pie crusts (a recipe follows).

Preheat the oven to 425º F. Bake for 15 minutes then lower the oven temperature to 375º F and bake for 30 - 40 minutes more. Use a knife to poke the center of the pie all the way to the bottom. If the knife is clean when removed the pie is done. Allow the pies to cool for at least 4 hours before severing.

Notes: My sister makes better crusts than I do. She rolls them more evenly and hers look nicer. In the pictures here we forgot to crimp the edges of the crust and simply rolled the rolling pin over the edge of the pie dishes to cut off the excess. Next time I will not forget to do this as it really would have looked nicer. I doubled my tart crust recipe for this pie and blind baked it for about 12 minutes, although the original recipe called for an unbaked crust. There are probably better crust recipes out there, but I haven't explored them much. I think glass pie dishes are better for pumpkin pie crusts.
We reduced the amount of sugar in the original recipe because we don't like pies to be too sweet. I think the butternut squash might actually have a little more sweetness than pumpkin too. We also added ground cloves and replaced the condensed milk with a mixture of cream and whole milk. This helps with the really smooth texture. Also I have not found organic condensed milk.
If you don't have a food processor you could try a blender to puree the squash. You may need to add some of the milk to the blender to get it to blend. I haven't tried that, but that's what I would do if I had to use a blender.

Tart Crust for Pie
Makes 2 crusts plus excess for a treat.
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, chilled and cubed
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4  teaspoon powdered ginger
Put all ingredients an a food processor with the dough blade attachment. Pulse for long intervals until dough forms a ball. Divide the dough into two equal portions (a scale helps). Form into a ball and flatten each one into a disk in the pie pans. Refrigerate for 20 - 30 minutes.
Roll the dough disks out on a floured surface until the desired size or thickness. Place carefully in the pie dishes. Cut away the excess dough with a knife. Leave a little extra so the crust can be crimped. Crimp the edges and poke 8 - 10 times with a fork. Bake at 375º F for 10 - 12 minutes. Do not allow it to brown. Allow the crusts to cool before filling.

Great-Grandma Louise Larson's Original Pumpkin Pie Recipe

  • 1 large can pumpkin
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 4 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. ginger
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 6 large eggs (or substitute two of the eggs for 1T. flour)
  • 2 c. milk (whole or condensed)
Beat eggs.  Add pumpkin and spices, then milk.
Pour into 2 unbaked crusts (9" pie tins).
Bake at 425  for 45-55 min.
Do knife test to test if done.
(Insert cold knife into middle of pie. Remove blade.  If knife is "clean" pie is done.)


  1. Hmmm, pumpkin pie is one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions. I'll have to give this recipe a try. I made some kick ass rolls this year, best evar! :)

  2. This was the best "pumpkin pie" I've had in many years!