Saturday, April 12, 2008

April Showers bring… Pumpkin Pie?

I’ve been nibbling away at spring cleaning tasks lately, including tidying up the kitchen cabinets and clearing ancient and frost-bitten mysteries from the back of the freezer. Among the still-usables unearthed were a couple of cans of organic pumpkin and a package of frozen whole wheat pie crusts.

Why wait ‘til November for pumpkin pie? Lack of evaporated or sweetened condensed milk wasn’t gonna stop me (I don’t really like using that stuff anyway, although the SCM does make a creamy, creamy, yummy pie, I’ll admit that). I did have eggs and raw sugar and whole milk yogurt on hand, and even some heavy cream. A little fiddling with a basic recipe ended up as this:

1 pie crust
1 15 oz. can organic pumpkin
3 large organic eggs
1/2 cup raw or light brown sugar
3/4 C plain whole milk yogurt
1/4 C heavy cream
1 T blackstrap molasses
1 tsp ground dried ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375. If your pie crust comes in a flimsy aluminum foil pan, place the whole thing on a heavy baking sheet.

Place all the other ingredients in your food processor and process until smooth. Pour into pie shell. Bake in the middle of the oven until custard is set (it will wobble when you jiggle the pan, without being liquidy) and the top is a darker shade of brown than it was going in. This took about 45 minutes in my oven, but my pie shell was on the small side and rather shallow. A larger/deeper pie may take an hour.

Cool completely on a rack, then store in the fridge. The custard may crack as it cools. If that bothers you, a generous dollop of sweetened whipped cream will hide it.

This pie (which I made last night) was supposed to be for dessert tonight. But if I’m posting the recipe here, surely I ought to do a taste test?... (I wasn’t gonna serve it to guests, just me and hubby. He won’t be surprised that a piece is missing.)

ummmm…. Cool and creamy, nice pumpkin flavor, not too sweet. The spices are subtle, but give depth to the flavor. Don’t know about you, but I hate a pumpkin pie that’s so overloaded with cinnamon and cloves you can’t taste the pumpkin.

The only problem with this whole venture is that the pie crusts I buy at the health food store don’t hold the amount of filling you get from a whole can of pumpkin + requisite amounts of other stuff. Last time I made pumpkin pie (a more seasonable November baking moment), I looked at what was left in the Cuisinart (a fairly generous amount) and thought, “If I add a little flour and baking soda, I bet that could be turned into pumpkin cake.”

So I tossed in a couple of squishy apple bananas that were lying around (“apple bananas” are a local thing, very small, about a third the size of regular grocery store ones), another egg, a little more yogurt and sugar, and some of the usual cake-type dry ingredients (flour, baking powder), whizzed it all up, poured it in a 8” square pan, and put it in the oven with the pie.

Now you may think I’m at expert at the baking game, seeing as how it’s a main feature of this blog, but believe me, I’ve turned out some duds in my day. I was thrilled and amazed when the impromptu pumpkin/banana cake turned out just like a real cake from a much-tested recipe! It was good enough to serve to guests, which I did.

The only problem is I didn’t measure anything, or even make any notes of what I did. So it was with a false sense of confidence yesterday that I tried to make "extra pumpkin filling cake". The result was, well, a little odd. Tastes okay, but total failure in the texture department. I’ll keep trying. I have another pie crust and another can of pumpkin to use up one of these days. And eventually it will be pumpkin pie season again. That means more leftover pumpkin goop to play with. If I ever get it right, I’ll let you know how I did it.

BTW: 154.5 two days in row. Whoohoo... progress may be slow in this cake-lover's house, but it's a lot better than seeing the numbers creep the other way!

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