Ruth Reichl’s Smart Tip for Better Pumpkin Pie

published Nov 17, 2015
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

I thought I knew pumpkin pie — I mean, you can’t really beat the classic — and then Ruth Reichl comes along and drops this bombshell on me, and now I feel like I’ve been lying to myself about the gloriousness of my pies for years. I would be disheartened if I weren’t so dang excited to bake more pie this Thanksgiving. Enough teasing — here’s what Ruth Reichl has to say on the subject of pumpkin pie.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Ruth Reichl’s Tip: Roast Your Pumpkin Purée

Spread your canned pumpkin purée on a baking sheet and roast it in a 400°F oven for a few minutes before carrying on with your pie recipe.

Why does she do this? Not only does roasting deepen the flavor of the pumpkin, but it bakes off some of the moisture in the purée, ensuring a more custard-like pie with less risk of a soggy crust.

It’s such a little thing — an “oh, by the way” tip that Ruth tosses to the reader between other stories in her book My Kitchen Year — but to me, it’s a total game-changer.

What Happened When I Tried It

I gave this tip a test run the other day and roasted a can of pumpkin purée for about 15 minutes. This was just long enough that the edges started to look a little dried out and I started to see a hint of toasty color on some of the ridges and peaks in the purée. The flavor after roasting had none of the raw squash flavor of purée straight from the can; it’s actually slightly richer and more buttery.

I wondered if adding sugar and spices would amp up the caramelized and roasted flavor even more, so I also experimented with roasting both plain purée and purée with sugar and spices already mixed in. After roasting, I added the sugar and spices to the plain purée and then tasted the two side-by-side. The first version — with sugar added after roasting — was good, but had an intense sugary sweetness; I tasted the sugar first and the pumpkin second. By contrast, I felt that the second version — the one roasted with the sugar already mixed in — seemed richer, more balanced, and more fully infused with spice flavor. I’ll be sticking with that second version on Thanksgiving.

I gleaned so very many good little tips from Reichl’s My Kitchen Year, but this one definitely takes first place. The difference between regular pie and a pie made with roasted purée is subtle, but I think it turns just a regular pumpkin pie into one that has everyone asking for the recipe.