Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31 Days to Financial Freedom, Day 17: Pumpkin Pie

Perhaps I've told you, I love autumn.  Christmas is my favorite holiday, but autumn is my favorite season.  I look forward to it every year, but it's so short, crammed in between 90 degree weather and snow.  It never seems to last as long as I want.  It doesn't help that we decorate for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving, either.

On Sunday, I did something that I have never done before.  I made a homemade pumpkin pie!  It didn't turn out perfect, but who really cares?  It was (mostly) delicious, and not that scary to make.  Mind you, before this I had never so much as made my own pie crust.  So making my own pie crust and homemade pumpkin goodness to go inside seemed like a daunting task.  I'm here to tell you that it isn't.  My husband purchased two pie pumpkins a few weeks ago for $.50 a piece.  That's much cheaper that the pumpkin in the can, and I'm pretty sure I ended up with more pumpkin than what I would get in the can!  Plus, I know there are no preservatives, and I saw the pumpkin that the puree came from.


1 and 1/4 cups AP flour
2 tsps sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup really really super duper cold butter (that's 1 stick), diced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Flour for rolling the dough

Pumpkin Filling Goodness of Epic Proportions:
2 cups pumpkin puree
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten (or forget to do this part, and just mess 'em up a bit when they're in the bowl)
1 and 1/4 cup half and half or whipping cream (I used whipping cream)
1 and 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp freshly found nutmeg

So, the first thing you'll need to do is cook your pumpkin.  When Piglet 2 was just a wee tot, I decided to make our own baby food.  It really wasn't that hard, and I enjoyed doing it.  Last autumn when the pumpkins were on sale, we would use those because they were so inexpensive.  I cooked the pumpkin the same way we cooked her squash and pumpkins last year.  Start with a sharp knife, a cutting board, your compost bucket, and (of course) your pumpkin.

Cut the top off your pumpkin like you would for a jack-o-lanter, then cut your pumpkin in half.  Next, you'll need to scrap out all the seeds and other "bits" not suitable for pie.  Have a cutie pretend to help you, then abandon you because it's too "goopy".  Leaving sharp knives around where you child can easily cut their fingers off is optional.  I wanted to do something with the pumpkin seeds, but . . . well, I didn't.  Maybe we'll grow pumpkins in our compost pile!

Once the pumpkin guts have been scooped, lay them face down in a baking dish with about half an inch of water in it. 

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until a knife inserted into it goes in smooth.  Also, ignore the dirty stove top of the blogger and just focus on the pretty orange color of the pumpkin.

From experience: while waiting for the pumpkin to cool so you'll still have finger prints after the pie is made, take the pumpkin out of the water.  It will absorb the water if you let it stay in the pan.  Once it's cooled down enough for you to touch it without regretting the day you were born, peel the inside goodness away from the outside not-so-goodness, add to your food processor, and pulse until it's this consistency, about 12 - 15 times:

For this recipe, you'll need about 2 cups of pumpkin.  As you can see, one whole pumpkin gives about three cups.  Hmmm . . . I wonder what I'll do with the leftover cup of pumpkin puree.  Oh wait, that post is coming up soon.  Freeze the leftover puree into zip lock bags in one cup increments.  You can keep it in the freezer for years three months.  I swear I don't still have frozen baby food in my freezer from 2011.  *Cough*
Now on to the pie crust!  I've watched Ina Garten make many a pie crust in her food processor and it seems so easy.  So that's how I made mine.  And I called her up to tell her how great it turned out, and how excited I was that I finally did it after all those times she explained it to me.  *Silence.*  Am I the only one who pretends Food Network chefs are talking to me? 
The first thing I did when making my pie crust was to cut my 1 stick of butter.  I diced it, then put it in a bowl and into the freezer while I got everything else together for the dough.  If Ina taught me anything, it's that the butter needs to be cold.

Add your flour, sugar, and salt to the food process, and pulse until combined.  Add the butter and pulse until it looks something like this:

Then add your egg and pulse until combined, but not formed into a dough ball yet.  I turned it out onto my floured bar and brought it together by hand.  Add more water if needed, but make sure you really work it for a while.  I didn't have to add anything to mine.  Form it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and REFRIGERATE at least one hour.  Do not try to do it quicker by putting it into the freezer.  Because then it will crack and you'll have to piece together your pie in the pan and your husband will make fun of you.  I didn't have plastic wrap, so I used a zip lock bag.

After it's thoroughly chilled, start rolling it our on a floured service.  You want it to be about 12 circle and 1/8 of an inch thick.

Then transfer it to your pie pan.  I did not grease my pie pan, and everything worked out fine.  I did freeze my pie crust, and it kind of turned into a hot mess.
See?  Once your have your dough in the pan, freeze it for 30 minutes.  The recipe I was following for the dough told me to "blind bake" my pie crust by putting aluminum foil over it with beans inside.  I don't like beans.  I don't have beans in my house.  So instead I poked the H E double hockey sticks out of it with a fork and hoped for the best.  Guess what?  Turned out juuuuuust fine.  I added aluminum foil to the top, and put it in a 400 degree preheated oven for 20 minutes, then removed the aluminum foil and cook until golden brown, about another 10 minutes.  Cool the pie on a rack and lower your temperature to 350 degrees.
Once the pie crust was done, I started working on the pumpkin filling goodness.  Mix together the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, half-and-half/heavy whipping cream, spices and salt until smooth.  Pour the filling into the crust and bake until the pie is set, which ended up being about 80 minutes for me.
Add homemade whipped cream if your heart so desires.  Just take two cups of the heavy whipping cream and whisk it by hand or with a mixer until it forms stiff peaks.  Once it's almost there, add two or three tablespoons of confectioner's sugar and a splash of vanilla.  Super easy to do, and the leftovers are delicious in your coffee the next day.  The crust looks darker than it actually was, but it was a little too dark for my liking.

Here's what I'll change the next time I do it:
  • I will not prebake the crust.  A lady in my office is a great baker, and she said because the pie takes so long to cook, there's no need to preback the crust.  It did get a little browner than I would have liked, but it was good nonetheless. 
  • I will use half lard, half butter for the next pie crust.  The same baking guru told me there were two reasons my dough cracked horrible - either because I froze it for half the time, or because the crust was too "rich".  She says she always used half lard, half butter, and her crusts turn out amazing (I know from experience).  I happen to have a large tub 'o lard in my fridge, and will do this next time.
  • I will not let the pumpkins sit in the water while it cools.  It should have only taken about 60 minutes for the pie to bake, but because of the added water, it took a little while longer.
  • I will wait for the pumpkin to cool before I touch it.  I will wait for the pumpkin to cool before I touch it.  I WILL wait for the pumpkin to cool before I touch it.  I'll probably not wait for the pumpkin to cool before I touch it, and will end up with a big blister on my index finger again.
  • I will find something to do with the insides of the pumpkin that does not involve roasting pumpkin seeds, because I hate roasted pumpkin seeds.  Any ideas?

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