Happy Thanksgiving Week, everyone! In honor of the impending holiday, the historic recipe I followed this week was for “Pompkin,” aka Pumpkin Pie. This was listed under the pudding section of recipes in American Cookery, but it did call for baking the “pudding” inside a crust, so I am saying that it’s pumpkin pie. 😉
I will admit, this has been the most difficult recipe I have tried to follow from this cookbook published in 1798, but it was a great learning experience. (Bonus: Now I can say that I’ve made two pumpkin pies from scratch. Why two? Let’s find out.)
Here are the recipes for “Pompkin” in American Cookery:
“No. 1. One quart stewed and strained, 3 pints cream, 9 beaten eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg and ginger, laid into paste No. 7 or 3, and with a dough spur, cross and chequer it, and baked in dishes three quarters of an hour.
No. 2. One quart of milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice and ginger in a crust, bake 1 hour.”
I’m sure you noticed that it said to lay the mixture into “paste No. 7 or 3.” This cookbook includes a section of pastes or crusts to use when baking pies or tarts, labeled by numbers. I decided to go with paste No. 3.
“No. 3 To any quantity of flour, rub in three fourths of its weight of butter, (12 eggs to a peck) rub in one third or half, and roll in the rest.”
I know that sounds incredibly confusing (I ran this through my mind for literally hours before coming to a conclusion on what to do), and I will explain how I came to all of the measurements I used when I get to the crust step below.
I first decided to follow recipe No. 2 for the pumpkin pie. It was interesting, to say the least.
Ingredients: 4 cups (1 quart) of whole milk, 2 cups (1 pint) of pumpkin, 4 eggs, 1 cup of molasses, 3/4 teaspoon each of ginger and allspice.
The first step was to cut the pumpkin in half (after tearing off the stem) and to remove its seeds and stringy guts. This pumpkin was particularly hard, so I had to use a hammer to help get the knife through it. (Sorry to my neighbors.)
I lightly salted the inside of the pumpkin halves and roasted them on a well-buttered sheet pan for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. They then needed to cool for an hour before handling.
While the pumpkin halves were cooling, I started on the pie crust. As the recipe says, it just calls for flour, butter, and eggs. Based off of modern recipes, I determined that for one pie crust, I would need one cup of flour. 1 cup generally equals 8 ounces, so I then decided to use 6 ounces of butter (three quarters of the weight of the flour). That equals 1 and a half sticks. To determine how many eggs to use in this recipe, I then performed some really complicated math that I can’t recall at the moment. It had to do with how much a peck weighs (about 158 ounces). Since there are “12 eggs to a peck” (a peck of dough and butter, I assume), I determined, somehow, that I would only need one egg. So to recap: 1 cup of flour, 1 and a half sticks of butter, 1 egg.
To make the dough, I kept the butter very cold and cut it into rough pieces. (Keeping the butter very cold and not fully integrated helps to create a flaky crust.) I mixed in the egg, and I ended up adding in about 2 tablespoons of water to make everything stick together. I wrapped up the dough in a tight mound and refrigerated it for about 20 minutes.
After refrigerating, I “rolled” the dough out (I don’t have a rolling pin, so I actually just pushed it out into a general circle shape with my hands), and I put it in a disposable pie pan. I then refrigerated it again while I made the pie filling.
I scraped both halves of the pumpkin into a bowl.
I then mashed the pumpkin.
To the mashed pumpkin, I added the milk, molasses, eggs, and spices. (I believe I used too much molasses–1 cup–if you can’t tell by the color of the mixture.) I heated the mixture on the stove to fully incorporate everything. Molasses tends to sink to the bottom of the mixing bowl, so heating it makes it easier to incorporate.
I then placed the pie crust on a sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven. I poured the pie filling into the crust here to minimize my chances of spilling it on the way to the oven. (Which, let’s face it, would have happened. I am not known for being graceful.)
I baked the pie at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. It came out looking very…dark, and pretty un-pumpkin pie-like.
After letting it cool for an hour, I cut into the pie. It pretty much tasted like pumpkin pie, but the texture wasn’t quite right, and the color was WAY off. However, I did like the crust. It was completely cooked through, and it held up nicely out of the pan.
Obviously, the first attempt at pumpkin pie didn’t quite turn out as I planned it. This can happen when you’re following what is essentially a half-recipe, so I decided to give it another shot!
This time, I decided to go with recipe No. 1, but I cut it in half. Using 4 cups of pumpkin and 6 cups of cream would have been WAY too much. So here is what I used for my second attempt: 2 cups of pumpkin, 3 cups of heavy whipping cream, 4 eggs (beaten), 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon each of ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. (This recipe calls for mace, but I could not find this in the store. Upon doing research, I found that mace is made from the outer layer of nutmeg, but it can be replaced with allspice, nutmeg, or even cinnamon depending on the flavor you’re going for. I decided to replace it with allspice.)
I cut, de-gutted, salted, and roasted (at 400 degrees for 40 minutes) the pumpkin again. (It cut much easier this time–I think my first pumpkin may have been defective, and that may have also contributed to the lackluster final product.)
While the pumpkin halves cooled, I made the crust in the same way as before. This shows how large I left the chunks of butter within the crust.
I smashed the dough out by hand again. Make sure to have plenty of flour on the surface you’re using to “roll” it and plenty on your hands as well!
This time, I poked holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork (because I don’t have a “dough spur”), as per the recipe. I refrigerated the dough while assembling the pie mixture.
The “meat” of the pumpkin came out of the skin much easier the second time. It pretty much fell out and into the bowl as soon as I picked up the halves.
This time, I decided that in order to get everything fully integrated, I would use my stand mixer with the whisk attachment. This worked very well because the whisk picked up the large parts of pumpkin that wouldn’t disintegrate, and I could easily discard it when I removed the whisk. I whisked everything together for about 8 minutes.
I poured my pretty, light orange mixture inside the crust and baked it on the bottom rack of the oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
When the pie came out, it looked much more like a traditional pumpkin pie! I let it cool for one and a half hours before cutting.
When I cut into the pie, I was happy to see that my crust held up once again and that the interior had a much better consistency and color than the first attempt.
Since my pie turned out so pretty, I decided to make whipped cream with my one cup of left over heavy whipping cream to top it off. I added two tablespoons of sugar to it, and I let the stand mixer and whisk attachment beat the cream for about 9 minutes [until it looked like cream!]. Before mixing, I put my mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for 15 minutes. The pie and the cream both tasted great! I am much happier with the second result. 🙂
Left: Attempt 1. Right: Attempt 2. Lesson: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. 😉
I was very pleased with the outcome of my second pie, and I am very glad that I gave it another shot after the first one turning out not-so-good. Pumpkin pie made with real pumpkin is so delicious! I’m glad that I’ve now made it from scratch (twice). 🙂
Also, the pie mixture made more than enough for one pie (enough for two actually), so I was able to do a little something extra with my left over pie filling!
I added 3 cups of flour and 3 teaspoons of baking powder to the filling, put it in cake/loaf pans, baked it for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, and called it pumpkin bread! (Also very delicious!)
I also roasted the pumpkin seeds after cleaning them and tossing them with Cayenne pepper and cumin! (Baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.) You can toss them with whatever tickles your fancy though–sugar and cinnamon, parmesan and oregano, etc. 😀
So, making pumpkin pie from scratch is obviously totally worth it not only because it is super tasty, but also because you can create so many goodies out of all the leftover ingredients! However, you must know that you need to be able to dedicate at least FOUR (4) HOURS to this task. It is by no means a quick (or guaranteed) recipe!
I hope you all make something with pumpkin this Thanksgiving, but even if you don’t, I hope you have a fun day! And don’t forget–no matter how exhausted you may get making dinner for your friends or family, it is nothing compared to what our foremothers had to do! Be thankful!