Tuesday, October 11, 2011

classic [but better] pumpkin pie

Aside from the odd bout of 80-degree weather this weekend, fall is in full swing. Obviously, in such fashion, long weekends spent at home mean Downton Abbey marathons with your mother, modeling men's suit-jackets in front of your male relatives, reading quality detective fiction novels, putting off all semblances of academic work, and ordering mountains upon mountains of chai lattes and pumpkin-spiced coffees.

At least, that's primarily how I spent my long weekend.

Fall break always seems to line up perfectly with Yusra's birthday, and this year was no different. My baby sister turned 17 yesterday, and for the occasion had me bake her a birthday pie. Yes, pie. Of the pumpkin variety, too, to be precise. Last year, I baked a rather delicious pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, and Yusra told me then and there that for her 17th birthday, she wanted another one. Of course, I promised, thinking at the time that she'd forget about it and I'd end up baking a carrot cake or something of the sort [leaving my 16-layer-cake days behind me for now].

And yet, eleven months later, she hadn't forgotten, and on Saturday I found myself waking up to a countertop covered in allspice, cinnamon, and ginger powders, fresh nutmeg, a box of flour, cold sticks of butter, and a stand-mixer waiting to be put to use.

This year's pumpkin pie is a variation on last year's epic success, combined with a tantalizing recipe for pumpkin-streusel pie found at Go Lightly Gourmet. The end result is a tall, creamy, subtly-spiced pumpkin filling in a flaky crust, topped with a pecan and brown sugar streusel topping.

Yusra was pretty satisfied.

Pumpkin Pie with Streusel
Adapted from Go Lightly Gourmet, old pumpkin pie recipes, and Tartine.

For the crust, you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp cold water, more or less depending
For the filling, you'll need:
  • 1 15-oz can of pumpkin 
  • 1 8-oz package of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 heaping tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
 For the streusel topping, you'll need:
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 stick cold butter, cut into cubes

To prepare the pie crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9-inch pie plate. Using a food processor, pulse flour, ginger, sugar, salt, and butter until the mixture has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Slowly add in enough cold water for the mixture to come together and form a dough. Press the pie dough on the bottom and sides of the pie plate, crimping the edges. Stick the plate in the freezer for 15-20 minutes, until dough is sufficiently cold. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Let the pie cool while you prepare the filling, but keep the oven on.

To prepare the filling:
Cream the pumpkin and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Pour in the remaining filling ingredients and beat until thoroughly blended. Pour the filling on top of the pie crust and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the edges of the pie are set but the center is still jiggly. Prepare the streusel while the pie is in the oven.

To prepare the streusel:
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and spices until blended. Using a pastry cutter or your hands, cut the butter into the flour mixture until incorporated and crumbly. Add in the chopped pecans and mix until blended. Your hands can be used for all of this.

Once the pie has baked for 50 minutes, remove it from the oven and sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top. Place pie back into the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until set. Let pie cool to room temperature before slicing. Serve with sweetened cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

I always very much love baking pies, though I'm not quite as keen on pumpkin pies as Yusra is. Of course, I enjoy them for their seasonal perfection and spiciness, but I'm not in love with them or anything. Nevertheless, I found myself reaching for a second slice even before I was done with the one on my plate when it came to this one. The cream cheese in the filling gives it a beautiful texture, and the streusel on top is a perfect addition. Strange that it doesn't make an appearance on many pumpkin pies...

As for me, I'm back at the apartment for my lat day of break. Four days at home was lovely after a week of midterms and paper-writing, but alas, back into the fray. So, naturally, I've spent my day reading more fiction novels, cooking stew, and thinking about working on a looming philosophy paper.

I mean, it's the thought that counts, right? Right. I'm going to go with it. Academic productivity at its finest.

In other news, I hear that MattMatt has baked me a belated pumpkin and cream cheese birthday cake. I have to say, though pumpkin pie isn't high on my list of saliva-inducing desserts, Matt's cake certainly is. I anticipate a rather delicious evening.

Who ever said twentieth birthdays couldn't stretch on for two weeks? ...and involve four separate cakes?

I confidently stand by the sentiment that birthday calories do not count.

...I mean, I have to maintain the integrity of my voracity.


  1. This looks amazing! I wish we had canned pumpkin in Australia... Guess I'll just have to do it the old fashioned way and pretend it's fall over here!

  2. @Joy: Thank you so much!

    @Eloise: I bet it'd be even more delicious with fresh pumpkin!! If you get your hands on some and try this out, let me know how it goes! :)


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