Thursday night, two weeks ago, was truly a comedy of errors. Except I didn’t see the comedy in the whole thing. I have never stepped so gingerly around a kitchen in my entire life, not that I can recall anyway. I had finally set aside time to make that pumpkin pie I was promising The BF all week and I figured I’d also make a quick batch of something else sweet while I waited for the pie dough to chill.
I got home and scrolled through my bookmarks, but didn’t find anything that interested me so I decided to load up Pinterest to find one of the 200+ sweets recipes I had pinned. Except the internets wouldn’t load. So I troubleshot for a bit and finally got it working, picked out a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe and marched off to the grocery store; when it promptly started pouring, and I forgot my umbrella. No bigs, I waited out the flash storm and made it home not much later and only a bit soggy.
I began unpacking my groceries and accidentally opened one of the cans of soda I bought while taking the butter out of the bag (please don’t ask me how this happens, I still can’t figure it out). That’s fine, I could use a little caffeine since I’d be baking for the better part of the evening. I opened the can all the way and set it down on the table. As I was setting up my mise en place for baking I knocked over the can of soda – all over my recipe notebook, my new cookbook and my laptop. [sigh] Ok, fine I mopped it up. No big deal.
I tried to stay calm since I was already worked up about making pie dough. My mother always told me it’s not worth making a homemade pie if you can’t make good pie dough. And she convinced me that pie dough is the evilest thing in the world to try and make. Needless to say I was pretty anxious. So I prepped everything ahead of time, read my recipe three times (and even researched it and several others) and then started to put it together.
As I’m pulsing the butter and flour mixture in the processor, the processor breaks. It was an old model my aunt had passed along since she never used it, and I’m pretty sure other than the two times I’ve used it, it hadn’t even been plugged in since 1982. The only button on the machine, the pulse button, was stuck in the on position but the motor had stopped whirring. It also meant that the lid was stuck on since the lock release button won’t work if the pulse button is engaged. Fabulous. I sighed heavily again, jiggered around with it and got it open. Machine still didn’t work, so I just tossed it.
I looked at the start of my dough, figured the butter was cut in enough and finished mixing it. Except as I poured in the vodka and water, I noticed there were some pretty sizeable chunks of butter still in there. I texted Emily and asked her about her award winning dough (which is eerily similar to my recipe) and found that I’d probably done it wrong. Whatever, I stuck it in the fridge anyway.
I wiped off my hands and decided I’d make those cookies, since chocolate chip cookies are baking 101 for me – if these didn’t turn out right, I truly was cursed. The dough came together relatively quickly and I ate a good portion of it before the first batch went in the oven and crossed my fingers that the oven didn’t explode in the process. I turned back to my cookbook, now slightly sticky, to read the rest of the recipe for the pie. Turns out I needed either a blender or a food processor. Welp, one was broken and the other was missing a lid. Oh and the recipe called for bourbon (actually Cognac or brandy but I thought bourbon would taste better. Ok that’s a lie, I read the recipe wrong again), and mine had suddenly gone missing. I’m not one for doing things half-assedly, but I’m also not one to give up. So I trudged on.
I decided that this was a pie that was going to take several days to put together. Which was fine because in all honesty it was already taking several days. I had already roasted the pumpkins a few nights before, which in itself was a harrowing event. I have two good knives in my arsenal (which is shameful I know, but I’m a broke post-grad student, so lay off me). Neither of these knives are suitable to chopping a pumpkin it would seem. I nearly stabbed myself or sliced off a finger more times than I’d like to count (and more times than my mother would like to read about) before the deed was officially done. Fast-forward about an hour and my pumpkin halves were happily roasting away in my oven.
The day after I made the pie crust, I decided I was gunna get me some damn bourbon, because I had pinned several recipes that called for it and it’s the perfect fall baking liquor. Well, silly me, I really had no idea what bourbon was (how is it different from whiskey or scotch?) and the teenage girls behind the counter at the liquor store didn’t know either (probably a good thing for them), so I trudged back to the aisles with the big bottles, whipped out my trusty iPhone and googled away.
In case you’re also in need of a liquor lesson, bourbon has to be made in the US.of.A and most of it is produced in Kentucky. It has slightly different ingredients and a different aging process, but it is still a whiskey. In my opinion it has a sweeter taste than whiskey (take Knob Creek for example, it’s my favorite bourbon and it has this great maple-y flavor to it, vs. Jack Daniels, my favorite whiskey, which is like a punch to the face). If this puts it into perspective at all – Southern Comfort is considered a bourbon, and that stuff is sickly sweet in my opinion. This is why bourbon is better for baking and you’ll often find it included with brown sugar or maple syrup in recipes; they just go together. Anyway I wasn’t going to go all out on my baking bourbon so I bought Evan Williams (and I have never seen The BF turn his nose up so quickly in my entire life, holy cow), called it a day and threw the rest of the pie together.
Now I hate pumpkin desserts (see the previous post) and shipped this one right off to The BF to take to his office. Despite the fact that my crust was a bit ragged, and shrunk considerably during the pre-baking, everyone gobbled the pie up in nanoseconds and The BF told me it was pretty durn good. So I bought 3 more pumpkins to try and make something else. (That’s a lie, I really just wanted the seeds).
*Just a Note: This has many steps so make sure you read the whole recipe. The pie dough has to chill for at least an hour, then be pre-baked and cooled (another hour or more). You also need to roast the pumpkins for 45 minutes and let them cool before using. Plan your time wisely!
- 2½ cups flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 12 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1" slices
- ½ cup vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces (I used the Crisco baking sticks, but not the butter flavored ones)
- ¼ cup cold vodka
- ¼ cup cold water
- 3 small sugar pumpkins, halved and seeded (keep those seeds for roasting, or 2 cups of canned pumpkin puree NOT pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup whole milk
- 4 large eggs
- ¼ brown sugar (I used light, dark would give you a more caramel undertone)
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground (or freshly grated, which is awesome) nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp bourbon (I just gave it a good glug, and it seemed to be fine)
- Chill your food processor bowl and blade in the freezer for about ten minutes.
- Place your water and vodka in the freezer when you take the bowl out. You’ll take them out of the freezer right before you mix them in – if you’re working quickly enough your water won’t have time to freeze.
- Set up your food processor and pour in 2 cups flour, the salt and sugar. Pulse a few times to incorporate evenly.
- Scatter the butter and shortening evenly over the flour, and pulse about 20 times to get it mostly cut in (these are short, 1 second pulses).
- Add the remaining flour and pulse another 20-30 times (again short, 1 second pulses) until your mixture resembles coarse sand. Don’t work the dough too much at this stage or the butter will start to melt and you won’t have a flaky crust. It’s important to keep everything cold and work quickly.
- Once your butter and shortening are all cut in, dump the contents of the food processor into a bowl and scatter the water and vodka over evenly.
- Using a folding motion, take a rubber spatula and mix all the ingredients together just until the dough is slightly tacky and begins to stick to itself.
- Dump onto the kitchen counter and knead twice quickly to form a uniform ball. DO NOT overwork the dough now or you’ll have a tough crust.
- Split the dough into two disks, about 4-inches round, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour. You’ll only need one disk for the pie so double wrap the other one and put it in the freezer for future use, it will keep for about 6 weeks, or leave it in the fridge and use it in two days (although I saved mine in the fridge for about four days and it was still fine for another project).
- Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
- Place your pumpkins cut side down on a baking sheet lined with buttered parchment paper or a silpat and bake for about 45 minutes, until tender. (I might have baked mine too long because when I pulled them out, I could pop the shells off easily in one piece, which was pretty nifty actually.)
- Scoop out the flesh and let it cool.
- Turn the heat down 375°F.
- On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one of your pie dough disks to about a 14-inch round. Fold the dough gently in half and then place in a 9-inch or 10-inch pie dish. Fold any extra pie dough under itself around the edge and crimp as you see fit. Freeze for 30 minutes (I skipped this step because I was lazy and I’m almost positive this was why my shell shrank).
- Remove the shell from the freezer, line with tin foil, be sure to cover the edges too, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the bottom crust is starting to turn golden.
- Remove the tin foil and weights, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Keep the oven at 375°F. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
- In a blender, combine all the ingredients, except the roasted pumpkin, and purée.
- Measure out 2 cups of roasted pumpkin and carefully add to the blender. Pulse until thoroughly combined and mixture is smooth.
- Pour the warm filling into the cooled pie shell and bake until the center is just set, but still a little wiggly, about 30-35 minutes.
If you over-bake the pie, it will cause the center to crack (like mine did) while it cools. If you’re using a 9-inch pie dish, you’ll notice that you have some left over filling, I just filled two small ramekins with the remaining filling and baked for about 20 minutes and gave them to The Daniels. Waste not, want not.
Pie can be kept at room temperature for two days, or in the fridge for five days. Can be served cold or at room temperature.