Pumpkin What You Will
Pumpkin pie is delicious twice a year, and after I’ve hurt myself eating too much of it on Thanksgiving and then again with the second helping on Christmas, it’s dead to me for the following eleven months. In tartlet form, however, I’m able to enjoy the identical filling year-round. The self-contained unit provides closure after consumption, and there’s no easily accessible mothership to rope you into the “one more sliver” game.
(Double the recipe for tartlets, or wind up with half a bowl of pumpkin batter)
1 1/3 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick cold butter
4 tbsp cold water
1 egg white, beaten slightly
1 can pumpkin
1 C evaporated milk (used the remainder of the can in your coffee, it’s unbelievable)
3/4 C sugar
2/3 C heavy cream
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Set the oven to 350. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2″ cubes and separate them before dropping into the flour. With your fingers, mash the butter chunks together into the flour, separating them into smaller and smaller pieces. Once the mixture looks like couscous, add the water and gather/knead/press the dough until it comes together as one mass. Continue kneading until no loose flour remains in the bowl. Form a ball, set it on a sheet of plastic wrap, and flatten it into a 1″-thick disc. Wrap it up and stick it in the fridge for half an hour.
Sprinkle a pastry board or very clean counter top with 1/4 C flour. Unwrap the dough and flip it over several times in the flour. Give it a few pounds with the rolling pin to wake it up, flip it over, then whack some more. Roll it out to a 1/4″ thickness, flipping it several times in the process to keep it from sticking to the board. Transfer it to a glass pie plate and trim the excess, then fork the circumference (for tartlets, use a metal circle cutter to cut 4″ rounds, then press them into standard-size muffin trays and continue, but skip the weighting and egging steps). Weight the bottom with a pie chain or dry beans and bake it for 10 minutes at 350.
In the meantime, rinse out the bowl you used for the dough and empty the pumpkin out of the can. I open both ends of the can and push it through; it’s vaguely unseemly but saves time. Add the sugar and stir it up with a wooden spoon. Switch over to a whisk to beat in the eggs and vanilla, then add the spices and salt. Pour in the milk and cream while whisking (slowly) and stir well.
Take the crust out of the oven and raise the heat to 425. With a basting brush, paint the rim of the crust with egg white, then pour in the pumpkin (for tartlets, fill to only half-way up the crusts). Bake it at 425 for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake it for another 30 (for tartlets, just bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then start checking). The center should jiggle only barely when it’s done, otherwise give it a few more minutes. Let it cool completely at room temperature before serving or covering and chilling.
You’ll want whipped cream with this. Once again, having read the whole recipe before beginning, you have the necessary components on hand. In a stand mixer (or with a hand-held, but get a book), beat 1 pint of whipping cream on medium until it becomes frothy. Add 1 tbsp vanilla, 2 tbsp sugar, and turn the speed up to high. Stand back and watch the magic. Overdoing it will turn the cream into butter; you’d best sample frequently.
So, we’ve covered heavy cream, boiled down milk and whipping cream. Let’s go for the gold, serve the pie with tall glasses of whole milk, and consider our dairy requirements for the month fulfilled.