Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pumpkin pie!!

An American Thanksgiving favourite, pumpkin pie is a delectable treat. When my kids were young, instead of cutting up a pumpkin for a jack o lantern, we drew a face on it with markers and saved it until the weekend before Thanksgiving. We carved it up into chunks and made pumpkin puree and and from there made delectable, delicious, mouth-watering fresh pumpkin pie! Try it! You'll like it!

Pumpkin custard pie
1 c granulated sugar (make it sugar free with 3/4 cup Splenda instead!)
½ tsp salt
3 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice*
1 ½ cups freshly cooked and drained pumpkin puree**
1 ⅔ cups evaporated milk (unsweetened)
2 eggs, beaten

Heat oven to 425F (220C)

Combine dry ingredients then add pumpkin, milk and beaten eggs. Mix until smooth. Pour into chilled unbaked pie shell.

Bake for 15 mins at 425F (220C), then reduce heat to 350F (180C) and bake another 45 mins. Insert steel knife in centre to ensure it is done before removing from oven. Chill until set (4 hours or more) then serve with whipped cream on top.

* If you don’t live in the US and you can’t buy pumpkin pie spice, make your own:

Spice                     1 pie   2 pies   3 pies   4 pies   6 pies
tsp cinnamon          1 ½        3       4 ½       6         9
tsp ground ginger    ½           1        1 ½      2         3
tsp ground nutmeg  ½           1        1 ½      2         3
tsp allspice             ½           1        1 ½      2         3
tsp ground cloves    ½           1        1 ½      2         3

** To make pumpkin puree:
Cut a fresh pumpkin into chunks about the size of the palm of your hand.
Remove strings and seeds.
Boil pumpkin until a fork can easily pierce both the pumpkin and its skin.
Cool quickly under cold water. Remove each pumpkin piece and scoop pumpkin from shell with knife.
Puree pumpkin in a blender or food processor.
Put in bowl, cover, and allow to rest in refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
Pour accumulated liquid off top of pumpkin puree.
Pumpkin is ready to use.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Photo by DailyInvention, Flickr
Who doesn't like pie?? Whether one-crust or two, fruit or custard or something more exotic, nothing pleases like pie!

But even the best fillings are diminished if the crust isn't perfection. Here in South Africa I have found that dessert pies (called "tarts" here, no matter their size) are made on what is called a "short crust" base, something I have found at best to be crumbly and messy, at worst to be hard as a stone and impenetrable even with fork and knife (no kidding here!). Nobody, it seems, has even a passing acquaintance with traditional American pie crusts, those lovely, flaky, tender morsels of deliciousness that define a "good pie."

Herewith, my grandmother's recipe (which she got from her mother, making this more than 100 years old!) for the flakiest, most tender pie crust you will ever taste!

CAVEAT: you absolutely must use lard to make this come out right. If, for whatever reason, you cannot use lard, you can substitute vegetable shortening, but nothing else. Even with shortening, it doesn't come out quite right, but pretty close.

Gramma’s Pie Crust

2 ¼ cups sifted flour
1 tsp salt
¾ cup lard
5 tbsp ice water

Mix flour with salt. Cut lard into flour using a pastry blender or two knives cutting in opposite directions, scissor-fashion. Do not use a food processor or other electric appliance as this pastry must be handled as little as possible to retain its flaky texture and prevent toughening.

When flour/lard mixture is the texture of coarse meal with lumps no bigger than peas, sprinkle with 3 tbsp of the water and pull together with fork. Add more water as needed until the mixture holds together (use fingers if fork is not doing the trick). It should not be sticky and all of the flour mixture should be rounded up from the bottom of the bowl.

Shape into a flattened ball. If the day or kitchen is particularly warm, allow dough to rest, wrapped in foil or plastic, in the fridge for up to 30 mins.

On floured pastry board, cut dough in half. Shape each half into a ball. Starting centre, roll first ball out into a circle with a well-floured rolling pin. If dough cracks, seal cracks with a dab of ice water. Lay first circle of dough into a slope-sided pie dish.

Baked pastry shell:
If you are making a baked pastry shell for a pie that will not require baking (like a slipped custard or pudding/mousse pie), trim the edges of the crust, then prick all over with a fork and bake for 10 minutes at 450F (230C) for 12 to 15 minutes. Check after 5 minutes and if the crust has bubbles, prick them with a fork. Makes two pies.

Cool pastry shell on a wire rack before adding filling.

One crust pie:
If you are making a one crust pie that requires a baked filling (such as Dutch apple, pumpkin, or melktert), do not prick the crust. Trim the edges, add filling, and bake according to directions for baking the filling. To prevent the crust edges from over cooking, lay strips of foil over them, removing during last 5 to 7 minutes of baking. Cool on wire rack. Makes two pies.

Two crust pie:
For a two crust pie, such as a traditional fruit pie, set the pie dish aside and roll out the second ball of dough until its diameter is at least 1 inch (2.5 cms) larger than the top diameter of the pie dish.

Fit the bottom crust into the pie dish and do not prick it. Fill with desired filling, heaping it if using fresh fruits, such as sliced apples, as they will compact as they cook. Moisten the top edges of the crust with ice water. Carefully lay the top crust over the filling (folding it into half or even quarters makes handling easier) and press the edges together to seal the top pastry to the bottom. Trim edges. Cut vent holes into the top of the pie with a sharp knife. Bake according to instructions for the filling. Cool on wire rack. Makes 1 pie.