home is a place for punkin pie

home is a place for punkin pie

I miss my family sometimes. You see, most of them still live in Northern California, and what with my being holed up in Brooklyn with student loans to pay off and a pay cut to deal with, I don’t get to visit them nearly as much as I would like. But sometimes, Kenan has things to do in San Francisco, which means that we get to take a nice little trip out there to sling comics and gallivant in the hills and sip wine and stuff. Which is exactly what we did, just a couple weeks ago.

As I believe I’ve mentioned, one of my favorite things about going home and spending time with my family is hanging out in the kitchen, talking and snacking and baking and cooking. Almost all of my favorite childhood memories are centered in the kitchen, whether they are of sitting at the table recovering from the yearly Thanksgiving stomach-violence, or rolling out dough and filling pie pans with fruit and custard, or stirring big batches of chili, or sipping tea and staring out the window at the backyard. So most of the time, when I think about going home, I inevitably start scheming about all of the things we’ll get to bake (and eat!).

But this time, we somehow managed to spend almost no time at all in the kitchen. Granted, we did get to visit the most amazing fish and sea beasties I’ve ever seen, and we got to sit on a comfy couch and sample amazing wine at a beautiful vineyard, and we got to eat treats at the most awesomest of San Francisco bakeries, and we got to gaze up at really freakin’ tall trees, and we got to pick expensive pumpkins and eat delicious cheese at a cute little farm, but between getting to and from all of those awesome places, we didn’t get to do any baking or cooking at all. We even bought the pumpkins at the farm for the express purpose of making pumpkin pie, but when we got home we were sleepy, so we took a nap instead. Which is, incidentally, also what home is about, so I’m not too terribly bummed about it.

brooklyn thanksgiving, with pilgrim hats and everything


The day after we got home from California, we got an e-mail from Emily, informing us that she would be hosting a (quite early) Thanksgiving dinner at her apartment because many of her friends would be out of town for actual Thanksgiving. Although we were still recovering from jet-lag and adjusting to being back home, we jumped at the opportunity. I mean, come on; who doesn’t love an excuse to eat delicious, delicious food and hang out with a whole passel of incredible folks in a cozy little apartment? And because pumpkin pie is probably one of my favorite things ever, I volunteered to bring some to the feast.

So, I know I’ve used several of Tartine’s recipes before, but eating their amazing food when we were in California was so inspiring and scrumptious that I felt it only fitting to use their pumpkin pie recipe for Emily’s Thanksgiving. The ingredient list included the standard cast of players: pumpkin, eggs, cream, sugar, a bit of booze, and spices. And their tart dough is, of course, basic and beautiful: flour, butter, and salt.

I started out in the morning. Tartine suggests doing the tart dough in a food processor, which I highly recommend: it’s quick, it’s thorough, and it involves almost no handling of the dough, which makes for a more tender, flakier crust in the final product. After that was finished and the dough had chilled in the fridge for a couple hours, I rolled the dough out. The fat in pie dough begins to melt as soon as it starts to warm up, so it’s important to work quickly to ensure that it stays cool while you’re rolling it out and shaping it. I then put the dough in a pan and cut the edges with a knife. After that I chilled the dough again, in the pan, in preparation for partially baking it. Tartine calls for pie weights, which are a seriously good idea, but I don’t have any, so I used another, smaller pan to weigh down the dough. This didn’t come out quite as well as I had planned – the dough shrank up a bit – but it was definitely an acceptable fix in a pinch. After I’d set the crust down to cool, it was time to get to work on the filling, which is really a snap.

The recipe calls for two cups of pumpkin puree, which is about 1/4 of a cup more than what’s in a standard 15 ounce can. This was a bit frustrating, because it meant that I had to use two cans and then have quite a bit of leftover puree for which I had no use, but no matter. I mixed in some sugar, the spices, a bit of booze, and some vanilla, and then poured the whole lot into the partially baked shell… and ended up with a lot of filling in the bowl when the pie was filled. As in, almost enough for a second pie. Part of this was probably due to my shell having shrunk up a bit, leaving less room for filling, but in any case, I tossed the rest in a second pie pan with no shell and called it pumpkin custard.

Tartine’s pie comes out pretty light; the filling is sort of a bright, golden, yellowy orange instead of the darker, browner color I usually expect to see on pumpkin pies. It smelled amazing, and the crust had just the right color and texture. The only problem was that, of course, everything had taken a bit longer than I’d planned, and it was time for dinner, and we had two very hot dishes to get across Greenpoint. We were able to wrap them up sufficiently, and then it was just a matter of guarding the poor defenseless little pies from babies and clumsy people on the bus (quite a feat, considering that I am one of the aforementioned clumsy people). And then we arrived at Emily’s place, and everything was pleasant and wonderful. Sarah had made top hats for the top hat-inclined, and little pilgrim bonnets, for those who wanted to get a little bit of the crucible in them. All of the food was seriously tasty, and we played bingo and drank too much wine and just generally had a really good time. To be perfectly honest, by the time we got around to dessert I was far too sated to really pay attention to how my pie tasted, but if my hazy recollections are anywhere near the mark, it was pretty swell. The crust was tender and toothsome (I would have liked it a bit more crispy, but it was still pleasant), and the filling was… good. Not great. It had a bit of a strange taste to it – maybe too much ground clove, or not enough sugar, or something, but I wasn’t entirely taken with it. Nevertheless, most of the people I asked seemed to have really enjoyed it, so I didn’t beat myself up about it.

pumpkin pie, redux


But luckily, a few days later, I was able to give the pie a second whirl. I had another pie’s worth of dough just sitting in the fridge, and there was no way I was gonna just let it go to waste, especially when I had another jumbo can of pumpkin lying about in my cupboard. This time, however, I decided to try a different recipe. I’ve recently become a big fan of Pithy and Cleaver, and they just happened to have a pumpkin pie recipe that looked super delicious. And boozy: half a cup of booze in the filling for one pie, to be exact.

I rolled out the dough and got it in the pie pan and then laid it in the fridge, but because I was using a smaller pan (8″ instead of 9″), I had a bit of dough left over. I thought it would be fun to do a little pumpkin free-form tart, so I rolled the rest of the dough out into a little round and stuck that in the fridge, too. After I’d mixed the filling and filled the first pie, I put some more pumpkin puree (about a 1/2 cup) in the leftover filling, just enough so that it had the right consistency to not ooze all out of the tart dough when it was baking. Then I folded it up and placed both of ’em in the oven. After about an hour of baking, they had both turned a lovely, rust-orange color, and the crusts had gotten nice and flaky. I was especially enamored with the little free-form tart; I’ve never seen such a cute little pie! And they tasted amazing, the both of them. Definitely a bit boozy, but the flavor of the alcohol (rum, in this case) was a nice foil for the creaminess of the filling. We were definitely two happy, pie-filled little scrubs.

pumpkin pie


flaky pie crust (adapted from Tartine)

salt 1 teaspoon
very cold water 2/3 cup
all-purpose flour 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons
very cold unsalted butter 1 cup plus 5 tablespoons

pumpkin pie (adapted from Pithy and Cleaver)

unbaked pie shell, chilled 1
eggs 2
pumpkin puree 1 15-ounce can
heavy cream 1 cup
liquor (rum, bourbon, etc.) 1/4
brown sugar 3/4 cup
salt 1/2 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon
ground cloves 1/4 teaspoon
ground nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon

For the dough: in a small bowl, add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To make the dough in a food processor, place the flour in the work bowl. Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and scatter over the flour. Pulse briefly until the mixture forms large crumbs and some of the butter is still in little chunks. Add the water-salt mixture and pulse for several seconds, until the dough starts to come together in a ball but is not completely smooth (you should still be able to see some chunks of butter).

To make the dough by hand, put the flour in a mixing bowl, cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and scatter over the flour. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture forms large crumbs and some of the butter is still in little pieces. Drizzle the water-salt mixture over the flour mixture and toss with a fork until the dough begins to come together in a shaggy mass. Gently mix until the dough comes together in a ball, but is not completely smooth.

On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into 2 equal balls and shape each into a 1-inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

To line a tart or pie pan, place a disk of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/8-inch thick, rolling from the center toward the edge in all directions. Lift and rotate a quarter turn every few strokes to stop sticking, and work quickly to stop the dough from heating up. Lightly dusk the work surface with extra flour as needed to prevent sticking. If lining a pie pan, cut out a circle 2 inches larger than the pan. If lining a tart pan, cut out a circle 1 1/2 inches larger than the pan. Carefully transfer the round to the tart or pie pan (fold in half or quarters if that’s easier), easing it into the bottom and sides and then pressing gently into place. Trim the dough even witht he rim of the pan with a sharp knife. If you are lining a pie pan, you can trim so that there’s a 1/2-inch overhang and crimp the dough under if desired. Chill the shell until firm to the touch, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (small rocks work too). Bake until the surface looks slightly dry and pale, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, remove the weights and parchment paper, and return to the oven and bake for 2-3 minutes longer. If the crust rises up in the middle, pierce gently with a knife to deflate.

For the filling: Preheat the oven to 425 and place a rack in the middle of the oven. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the pumpkin puree, heavy cream and liquor and whisk to combine. Add the sugar and spices and whisk well.

Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes; then, reduce the heat to 350 and cook for another 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean (it’s okay if the center is still just barely wiggly; it will set up when it’s chilling).


photos by kenan “boy blue” rubenstein.

home is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin piehome is a place for punkin pie

2 notes

  1. Hiro says:

    OMG I LOVE YOU. I wish we were in the same town. I also wish you could come and hug me. I need a girlcate(cake) hug. I also need some delicious cookies!

  2. […] and headed north for a much-needed, if perhaps not entirely well-earned, week of tasting wine, picking pumpkins, and any other available excuse to stand around in open […]

leave a note