How To Make Classic Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving

How To Make Classic Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving

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Emma Christensen
Nov 4, 2016
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Everyone's got a pumpkin pie recipe they love. This one is ours. We've tried this classic each and every way and have found that while there's some room for improvement along the way, keeping things classic is what makes this recipe a keeper. Any changes — like roasting the pumpkin purée — are only in the interest of making a richer, more flavorful pie.

Here's what you need to know to make a truly delicious pumpkin pie from scratch.

Blind Bake the Crust

A soggy crust is the curse of many a good pie, particularly custard-based ones like our dear pumpkin. To help avoid this, partially bake the crust before adding the filling (i.e., "blind bake" the crust).

If you've never done this before, don't worry — it's easy. Just roll out the crust and fit it into the pan, then line it with a piece of parchment paper and fill the bottom with pie weights, dried beans, or even pennies. The weights help keep the bottom from puffing up and the sides from slouching. Bake for about 15 minutes, remove the weights, bake for another few minutes to dry out the bottom, and you're ready to go.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Purée the Purée

This is a trick I picked up from Cook's Illustrated a while back: Run the pumpkin purée in a food processor or blender for a minute before proceeding on with the recipe. Even though canned pumpkin purée is already, yes, puréed, fibrous stringy bits often remain. Puréeing the purée helps ensure a silky-smooth texture.

Cook the Filling

When I say "cook" here, I really just mean to let the pumpkin purée bubble on the stovetop for about five minutes. I find that this brief kiss of warmth helps cook out the raw pumpkin flavor and give the finished pie much more depth. It also melts the sugar into the purée and infuses it with the spices for an all-around richer, more complex flavor.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Warm Filling Loves a Warm Crust

To make sure that the filling and the crust fuse into a single delicious creation, add the warm filling to the warm crust. Don't get too fussy about this — I know that the blind-baked crust and the warmed filling might not be ready in perfect synchrony. I mention it only because it's a detail that pumpkin pie-lovers will appreciate.

How To Make Classic Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie, 8 to 10 servings

What You Need

Ingredients
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Equipment
Food processor
Pie plate
Pie weights
Saucepan
Parchment paper
Baking sheet
Whisk
Cooling rack

Instructions

  1. Prep the pie crust: Arrange a rack in the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 425°F. Roll out the pie crust and transfer it to a 9-inch pie pan. Crimp the edges. Chill for 30 minutes while the oven heats.
  2. Blind bake the crust: Line the pie crust with parchment or aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges just start to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the weights and lining, and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and keep near the stove.
  3. Prepare the purée: Combine the pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and spices in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment or blender. Blend until the brown sugar is completely mixed in and the purée looks glossy.
  4. Cook the purée mixture: Transfer the puree to a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir frequently until you see wisps of steam rising from the purée, then stir continuously until the mixture is very steamy and "plops" when you pause for a second. The mixture will also start to smell like spices and cooked pumpkin. Cook for no more than 5 minutes.
  5. Whisk in the milk and eggs: Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the milk and cream. To warm the eggs and ensure that they don't cook when you add them to the pumpkin mixture, whisk them together in a separate bowl, then whisk in a few spoonfuls of the warm pumpkin mixture. Slowly whisk the eggs into the saucepan with the pumpkin mixture. Whisk in the vanilla.
  6. Fill the pie crust: Place the partially baked pie crust on a parchment-lined baking sheet and set it near the stove. Carefully pour the warm pumpkin mixture into the warm pie crust. If it looks like there's too much filling for the crust, stop when you come close to the edge of the crust.
  7. Bake the pie: Carefully transfer the baking sheet with the pie to the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 375°F. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes — until the pie is puffed in the middle, but still jiggles when you gently shake the pan. You'll also see small cracks form in the outer part of the pie and some bubbling around the edge. Check the pie every 15 minutes or so and cover the crust with a ring of foil when it becomes deep brown.
  8. Cool the pie: Let the pie cool before serving — it will continue to set as it cools.

Recipe Notes:

  • Make ahead: This pie can be baked a day or two ahead; wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Storage: Leftovers can be stored tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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