Saturday, 30 October 2010

Pumpkin Pie Squared

Pumpkin is in season at the moment, so I thought it might be worth a look at making something out of one.

I was meeting up with some friends on Friday night just gone who have a soft spot for pumpkin pie, so all the more reason to give it a shot.

Turns out that it's an incredible pain to make, takes far too long, and to top it all off... I don't actually like it. It was however, a foray into terra nova and an experiment in pastry making. Let the breakdown commence.

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It's a fairly complex pie to put together, but I'll do my best to try and outline the steps.

I started by preparing my two pastries. I should explain that the pumpkin was rather large. Really big - about 8kg. I had enough pumpkin by the end for two pies and I still have plenty left over. Anyway, one pie I was making for my friends and the other I decided to take to work (which of course meant it had to be gluten free - all inclusive and all that!).

So two pastries it was - both shortcrust, but one gluten free and the other not.

For the pastries you will need:

- 175g plain white flour (175g buckwheat flour for the gluten free variety)
- 1/2tsp salt
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 120g unsalted butter
- 20ml water

The making of the pastry itself is fairly simple. Just combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and give them a good mix.

Cut your butter into little cubes and start to rub it into the flour mixture by hand until you get the texture of rough breadcrumbs. Pour the water in a little at a time and start to pull the dough together until you have a ball which just holds.

Turn the ball out onto a clean surface and flatten out a bit by hand (no need to roll it out yet). Clingfilm the flattened disk and place it in the fridge for an hour to rest while you start the pumpkin filling.

It should be noted that the gluten free dough will be much less pliable than it's normal shortcrust cousin. It may take a bit of a tweak in the recipe to get right. I messed up a couple of batches trying to get it perfect, but I didn't take notes on the changes I made - sorry!

Give it a go though.

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The pumpkin was a massive thorn in my side. The preparation time to get a pumpkin ready is tremendous. So if you're going to do this set aside a few hours. My total time from starting the two pies until they'd come out the oven and cooled enough to fridge was six hours.

Anyway, take your pumpkin and cut it in half. In the centre are a whole bunch of seeds and a gooey stringy centre that all needs to be scooped out. I found it easiest just to take a knife and carve round the outside of the centre by about 3mm all the way round. Then hack out the bottom and it all just lifts out. That description is probably not the best... here are some pictures:










Once the pumpkin has been 'gutted', take the skin off the outside. Again, a brutally sharp knife is your friend here. Pumpkins are a bit tougher than your standard vegetable and take a lot of work to prepare.

Once the skin is finally off, roughly dice the flesh and lay it all in an ovenproof dish. Pour in about an inch of water to the dish and cover with tinfoil. This needs to go into an oven at 200°C for about an hour or so. You can check that the pumpkin is tender any time after the hour by just sticking a knife into a piece. If it passes through easily, you're good to go.

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While the pumpkin is tenderising in the oven, an hour will probably have passed and you can remove your dough from the fridge.

The pictures here are for the standard shortcrust, but the procedure is exactly the same for the gluten free version - just remember to dust your surface with buckwheat flour rather than normal flour!

Simply work your dough for a while until it becomes pliable again and rewarms. Then roll out your pastry so that it will comfortably line a 10" tin. It should be pretty thin, so be very careful when trying to lift it!

It is best to use a tin with a pop out bottom for ease of 'pie-exit' when it's finished.

For a little extra crunch in the pastry you can crush some pecan nuts or ginger snaps (or both) and press them into the pastry. Once done, re-cover the pie crust with clingfilm and put it back in the fridge while you make the pumpkin filling.

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The base for the pumpkin filling is pumpkin puree. Up to this point, all that's gone on with preparing the pumpkin has been to get it to a point where it can be pureed.

Once the pumpkin is tender from baking in the oven, remove the casserole dish and transfer the pumpkin into a food blender. Then just pulverise it until it turns into a thick puree.

Your pumpkin is now finally in the state required to complete the dish!

For the pumpkin filling (one pie) you will need:

- 450g pumpkin puree
- 120ml double cream
- 3 eggs
- 120g muscovado sugar
- 1tsp ground cinammon
- 1/2tsp ground ginger
- 1/8tsp ground cloves
- 1/2tsp salt

Beat the eggs lightly in a bowl before adding the rest of the ingredients and giving the whole lot a good whisk.

Once you have a fairly runny mixture, remove your pastry from the fridge, uncover and pour your filling mixture in up to about half a centimetre from the top of the pastry.

Then it's all ready to go into the oven. Heat your oven to 190°C and then put the pie in - roughly in the middle is best.

They take about an hour to bake and a further hour or so to cool before they're ready to be fridged (or served). When removing the pie from it's tin, simply place a soup tin or similar on the counter and push the tin gently down on top of it. The bottom should pop out with the pie resting on top and the rest of the tin can just drop past it. Simply then transfer the pie from the tin tray to a serving plate.










Probably best served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, or just a good serving of thick, whipped cream.

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Coming up:

- With the leftover puree, I'm looking into pumpkin soup recipes. Maybe I'll like that better than the cake.
- Also thinking about a blog covering some of the books I use for reference. Maybe.

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