silky pumpkin pie

Nation, I know you’re stuffed. But you didn’t think all I was going to say about Thanksgiving was drunken cranberry sauce, did you? Oh no. Besides, in Canada, we eat this stuff right through Christmas.

Yet another winner from the good (ahem, OCD) folks at Cook’s Illustrated, this is pumpkin pie as if it’s gone through all the rounds of America’s Next Top Model. Only it’s pie—and so much better for the soul.


I never really thought there was much to mess with when it came to pumpkin pie. Take a recipe off the back of the can and you’ve got yourself a winner. But in the words of one of my editors, there’s always room to make good better.

Soft and smooth as pudding, and with the perfect shade of pumpkin-orange throughout, I didn’t realize pumpkin pie could be so good.cook's illustrated pumpkin pie

As I read through the Cooks Illustrated version of the classic, I decided to heed most of their advice, but not all. Following those test kitchen folks’ advice is like becoming a teenager and learning that some rules are made to push. Take, for example, the following:

Silly Rule #1) Straining the filling through a fine mesh strainer. Yeah, right. (My friend Aaron, my favorite Cook’s Illustrated mocker, joked that he was surprised they didn’t want you to strain them through a series of mesh strainers, graduating in fineness. Borrowing a tip from his wife, I put my hand-held blender to work where the old strainer once ruled.)

Silly Rule #2) Using 3 eggs PLUS 2 more egg yolks? Since when did I not need my arteries?


Other than that I followed the recipe verbatim, except for this one not-so-secret ingredient I would now like to share with you. The story goes a little something like this:

Last year I was making my first ever pumpkin pie for our first American Thanksgiving when I discovered I didn’t have any evaporated milk. Gosh! Darn it! Whatever would I do? Neither of us felt like leaving the house, and as I pawed through my fridge for a reasonable facsimile, there it was, smiling back at me: a carton of premium, thick-as-molasses eggnog.


With my deepest apologies to evaporated milk. As much as I loved you, something taller, darker, and more handsome came knockin’ at my oven door. And let me tell you, things have never been so hot as this here pie.

final6_3069074735_oOh yeah, and I didn’t make my own crust. Shame on me. I don’t deserve to be called a food-blogger. Someone’s got to keep Mrs. Smith’s and Tenderflake in business. Plus I’m a poor graduate student and I don’t own fancy pie plates. That said, all the pie crust directions are courtesy, once again, of Deb at the Smitten Kitchen. If you’d rather use a frozen pie crust, just make the filling, pour into the frozen crust, and follow the rest of the baking directions.

Pumpkin Puddin’ Pie

makes one large pie


a half-recipe of your favorite pie crust, chilled.
1 cup heavy cream (you know you’re going to buy it for the whippin’ anyway )
1/2 cup milk + 1/2 cup eggnog (for more of an eggnog-pumpkin pie, use a whole cup of eggnog instead of half milk)
3 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup drained yams in syrup (from 15-ounce can). Regular, cooked and diced yams can be substituted. These guys are said to “help concentrate the pumpkin flavor.” Enough said, I’ll take ’em.
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves, optional
1 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Roll out dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to make 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang all around pie plate.
  3. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate. Bake 5 to 10 more minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove plate and baking sheet from oven.
  5. Make the filling. Whisk the heavy cream, eggnog, and eggs together in medium bowl. Refrigerate. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, spices and salt in large saucepan. Bring to a mud-pot simmer over medium heat, stirring contstantly and mashing yams against the side of the pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes. This is also said to “concentrate the pumpkin flavor.” Sounds good to me. Plus it’s fun mashing those yams (mash baby, mash).
  6. Remove pan from heat. Tranfer to another bowl to allow to cool a little. Puree for a few minutes with a hand blender until ridiculously smooth and cooled slightly. Slowly add the cooled cream and egg mixture, continuing to blend until completely incorporated.
  7. Transfer filling mixture to frozen or pre-cooked crust. Set on a baking sheet and bake (on middle rack) at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 and bake for another 30-35 minutes, until the edges of the filling are set (cracking a little and firm and springy to the touch, the center 2 inches of the pie should look firm but jiggle slightly.) Remove and cool on wire racks for 2-3 hours at room temperature. This will allow the filling to finish cooking slowly. Chill, and serve with slightly sweetened whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

adapted (and re-named) from Cooks Illustrated, November-December 2008

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