Sunday, December 2, 2012

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Since I started eating pumpkin pie just a few years ago, I've never questioned the merits of Libby's pure pumpkin in Festal's pie recipe. (We replace all the white sugar with brown sugar - it's so smooth, people.) But at the beginning of October I was looking at the decorative gourds at Trader Joe's. Next to them was a pile of perfectly round, perfectly orange pie pumpkins. They each had a sticker label admonishing that, while this vibrant squash is small and cute, it is NOT meant to meet its fate on a dusty shelf beside the comparatively pale and skeletal decorative pumpkins. Its destiny is to be baked into a pie. To help us clueless customers do the right thing, the sticker label also came with a simple recipe for pumpkin filling.

When I split my pie pumpkin down the middle nearly two months later, I was dubious. Had I waited too long? Would the inside be dry and stringy? No, it turns out - but it wasn't an entirely comforting sight, either. I sent it to the oven, wondering if this vegetable would yield enough fruit. When it was cooked through, I scooped every last bit until all I had left was a pile of flimsy skin. I looked down at the puny heap of orange, barely enough to fill just one of the two required cups of squash.

Short of going out for another pie pumpkin, my only recourse was to cut the recipe in half. Slightly discouraged, I started the spiced crust. Already thrown off a bit by the dearth of squash, I mindlessly cut that recipe in half as well. It wasn't until the dough was shaped and in the fridge that I realized this wasn't necessary, and that I'd probably just made things harder for myself. Mixing up the second half would have been a simple solution, but by now I am feeling a touch of spite for this pie, and, resigning my own agency in the matter, I scold the pie. If you want to be lame, BE LAME.

Hindsight is 20/20, but people, don't treat your pumpkin pies this way. 

Here's why.

My first time blind-baking. This is a great use for the disappointing brown rice medley you bought when inspired to try new food products. 

My pie crust. Not to be confused with humankind's very first pie crust.

Huh. This thing is sort of coming together.

Because pumpkin pie isn't out to thwart you. In fact, I think it's just the opposite. It's benevolent, and patient, and so forgiving, even when it seems like you, the baker, are trying to mess things up. Just when you're getting impatient and your ill will starts to shine through, pumpkin pie grabs you by the fists and says Hey. Shut up. I'll take care of it. in the sweetest way possible.

A few days after I made this pie, my mom and I whipped up our Thanksgiving classic - Festal pumpkin pie made with Libby's pure pumpkin in a Pillsbury ready-to-fill crust, topped with Cool Whip. It was delicious, per usual. And as I thought back fondly on my homemade pie - with its spiced, primitive-looking crust, textured filling, and honest pumpkin taste - I knew I'd done the right thing in not recreating it for the herd of relatives who were milling about in search of anything they could slap with Cool Whip.

If a pumpkin is destined to be baked into pie, then it's also meant to be eaten slowly, discriminately, almost covetously; and it ought to be topped by heavy cream that's been whipped mindfully with vanilla and sugar. 

Who are we to meddle in destiny?

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