Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful for Good Crust

My friend Bernie, the trivia expert, asked me the other night to name 6 foods most commonly associated with Thanksgiving. I rattled off: turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, and green beans with Durkee onions. That’s tradition for you.

Fortunately I am not hosting today and my only responsibility is for the pumpkin pie. It would be about a 15-minute cooking job if I didn’t insist on making the crust. Just the mention of home-made pie crust continues to strike fear in my heart, but I make it every time.

This time was no different. It rolled out quite well. But the first try to get it into the pie plate resulted in a disaster that couldn’t even be pieced together. I’m never sure what to do when this happens, but today I opted to just roll again and the second time was a charm.

I think it would probably work as easily as it did for my Mother if I used butter or Crisco or some combination of those. But catering to my lactose-intolerant husband, I use Canoleo margarine. Maybe that’s not it at all, but it’s a good excuse.

I used to insist on cutting up a fresh pumpkin, but I have come to realize that canned organic pumpkin is probably far superior to the kind that takes a machete to dismantle. So now the filling is about a 15-minute job, following Martha Stewart’s recipe for “Golden Maple Pumpkin Pie”:

One unbaked 11-inch pate brisee shell, well chilled
1-1/2 cups pumpkin puree (I think this is approximately one can)
½ cup maple syrup
1-1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t. ground ginger
½ t. salt

Garnish: a pastry leaf or two or three (baked and cooled)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Put the pumpkin puree in a large bowl and add the syrup, milk, and eggs; mix until smooth. Stir in the dry ingredients and combine thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the filling is firm and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool before serving. Garnish with a pre-baked pastry leaf, if desired.

Couldn’t be easier once you get past the crust. The most fun is the pastry leaves, which is just dough rolled out and cut with a paring knife to form maple leaves, or any kind of leaves you like.

Thanksgiving will be a little different as we share it with long-time friends but neither of our children is home. Our daughter called from San Francisco in search of a pumpkin pie recipe so she can impress her boyfriend’s family. Our son noted that no one in Hamburg, except possibly other Americans, is celebrating Thanksgiving.

We will always remember a time 19 years ago when our friends’ youngest daughter was born on Thanksgiving night after they had dinner at our house. She will be home from Pomona to celebrate the holiday.

The real benefit of not hosting this year’s dinner is that I can forge ahead on Harry Potter #7, which is quickly drawing to a close.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Anonymous james in washington (& maine) said...

yum. looks beautiful!

3:02 PM  
Blogger media concepts said...

Those pastry leaves are beautiful. It's almost too nice to eat ... but not quite. Happy Thanksgiving!
P.S. Do you really have a machete?

3:36 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

James -- Welcome! We'll have to see how the pie tastes. That's what really counts in the long run, yes?

Matt -- I have a meat cleaver. That's close to a machete, don't you think? I have memories of wielding big knives to cut through the tough pumpkin skin. And then you have to cook it. The canned stuff is infinitely easier. Maybe some day I will actually succumb to using purchased crusts. Then pies will be a cinch!

As for the leaves, I rather doubt it will be like a 6-year-old's birthday where every kid is shouting "I want a rose" as the cake is cut.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Wow your pastry leaves are beautiful! A work of art. Bravo!!

8:17 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- Our friends' adult daughter said, "I hate all pumpkin pie except yours." I think that was a compliment!

She asked if I had used a cookie cutter to make the leaves and was impressed when I said I had cut them out free-hand with a knife.

It was good, even without the whipped cream, which I forgot to buy.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Looks great!

I gave up making pie crusts years ago. I only make crustless pies now - consequently, pumpkin pie really ends up more like pumpkin pudding nowadays.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Looks like from the magazines! I wish I could cook and bake as easily and confidently as you do!!

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

9:30 AM  

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