Great Pumpkin Pie

Two years ago, i was a guest on the PBS show "Seasonings with Dede Wilson. " Whenever this show airs, usually pre Thanksgiving time, we get tons of requests for these two recipes. Here they are now!

Oven Temperature: 375°F.
Baking Time: 50 to 60 minutes

Serves: 8

In this recipe, I cook the pumpkin and spices before baking, which makes for a more mellow and pleasing flavor. Puréeing the pumpkin in a food processor produces a unusually silky texture.

The crunchy bottom crust is a result of creating a layer of gingersnaps and ground pecans to absorbs any excess liquid from the filling, and also baking the pie directly on the floor of the oven.

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(*) dark brown sugar adds a delicious butterscotch flavor but masks some of the pumpkin flavor.

Special Equipment: A 9 inch pie plate, preferably Pyrex, a maple leaf cutter

On a floured pastry cloth or between 2 sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap, roll the pastry 1/8-inch thick and large enough to cut an even 13-inch circle. Use an expandable flan ring or a cardboard template as a guide to cut out the circle. Transfer it to the pie pan and tuck the overhanging pastry under itself. If desired, reroll scraps, chill and cut out decorative designs such as leaves. (Bake them separately at 400°F. for 6 to 10 minutes or until golden brown, brushed with milk and sprinkled with sugar in the raw. Remove to a rack to cool.)

Cut the border into a checker board design or use a form or spoon to make a flat but decorative border (see page 00). Do not make a raised border or extend it over the sides of the pan as it will not hold up so close to the heat source. After pouring pumpkin filling into the crust, push every other checkerboard border well over toward the filling or it tends to flip over against the pie pan. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for one up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. at least 15 minutes before baking time.

***Bake directly on floor of oven or have the oven shelf at the lowest level and place an oven stone or cookie sheet on it before preheating.

Process the gingersnaps and pecans until finely ground. Sprinkle them over the bottom of the pie crust and using your fingers and the back of a spoon, press them into the dough to coat the entire bottom, going about 1/2-inch up the sides.
In a small, heavy saucepan, stir together the pumpkin, sugar, spices and salt. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick and shiny.

Scrape the mixture into a food processor, fitted with the metal blade, and process for 1 minute. With the motor on, add the cream and milk, processing until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the work bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing just to incorporate, for about 5 seconds after each addition. Add the vanilla along with the last egg.

Pour the mixture into the pie shell and set it directly on the floor of the oven. Bake the pie for 50 to 60 minutes or just until a knife inserted between sides and center will come out almost clean. The filling will have puffed and the surface dulled except for the center (The filling shakes like jelly when moved. This will happen before it has finished baking so it cannot be used as a firm indication of doneness; conversely, if it does not have this consistency you can be sure that it is not baked adequately.) If the crust appears to be darkening too much on the bottom, raise the pie to the next rack. After 30 minutes, protect the edges with a foil ring.

Place the baked pie on a rack to cool. When cool, the surface will be flat. If you have made decorative designs, place them on now.

Store: 3 days, room temperature.

Understanding
I prefer using canned pumpkin purée to homemade from fresh pumpkin as the canned is more consistent in quality of flavor and texture.
The crust border should not be too raised, nor extend past the pie plate because baking so close to the heat source, and at the lower temperature required for the custard filling, the border would not set quickly enough and would droop over the edge and break off. Since it does not extend past the edge, it is not necessary to shield the edges until 30 minutes instead of the usual 15 for a one crust pie.
Characteristic star-burst cracking is the result of overbaking. If desired, cover any crack(s), should they develop, with baked pastry cut-outs.

Adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible, Scribner, 1998