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Issue Date: November 11, 2001

Recipes in this article:
3-Can Silky Pumpkin Pie
Ask Pamela Anderson a food question!


More Cooking articles in our Food Issue:
Laura Bush on Thanksgiving
Perfect Roast Turkey
Sara Moulton's cooking show
NFL comfort food
Nigella Lawson, food writer
Cook Smart

This year, you can bake the Perfect pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie is one of those consistently friendly, untemperamental desserts. But many recipes produce an unsubstantial filling that tastes more of spice than of honest pumpkin flavor. After much testing, this is what I learned about a rave-worthy pie.

Most recipes called for sweeteners, eggs, liquid dairy and spices in addition to the canned pumpkin purée (not to be confused with canned pumpkin pie filling). In different trials, I tried seven sweeteners (including sugar, brown sugar and corn syrup). Not only did they affect the sweetness, but they also altered the color from earthy peach to high-gloss caramel. And the liquid dairy affected the taste, too: Too lean (low-fat milk), and the pie started tasting savory -- like a sweet potato casserole.

In the end, sweetened condensed milk solved both the sweetener and the dairy dilemma: With built-in sweetener, this milk produced a filling that was intense and sweet, but not high in fat. And the evaporated milk cut the richness without masking the flavor.

In my research, most pies called for three eggs, but I also knew that yolks set at a lower temperature than whites, which might prevent curdling and improve texture. So I settled on two whole eggs and two yolks, which produced the least grainy filling yet.

I didn't want a gummy-bottomed crust, so I started with a prebaked pie shell. To avoid overbaking the already baked crust, I needed to warm the filling so it would set quickly. I also wanted a silky smooth filling.

To accomplish both goals, I used a technique I had learned from Stephen Schmidt, the author of "Master Recipes". Following his procedure, I heated the pumpkin purée, salt and spices in a medium saucepan over medium heat to blend and intensify the flavors, about 5 minutes. Then I added the condensed milk and heated it through. With the eggs in the blender canister and the motor running, I slowly added the hot pumpkin mixture through the feeder lid and puréed it until silky smooth. While the filling was still warm, I immediately poured it into a prebaked shell and baked it in a 300-degree oven until set, about 45 minutes.

The method worked well. Puréeing the filling in the blender gave me the silky texture I wanted. Warming the filling in combination with low oven heat helped the filling set relatively quickly but kept the crust from burning. The pie was perfect. No fancy ingredients or flavorings. Thus the recipe title: 3-Can Silky Pumpkin Pie!

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3-Can Silky Pumpkin Pie

This recipe calls for a prebaked pie shell.

I prefer my own pie crust, of course -- you can find the recipe at usaweekend.com -- but use any crust you like, even frozen. Just be sure it's baked by the time you have the filling prepared.

1 can (15 ounces) 100% pure pumpkin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
1 cup canned evaporated milk
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
9-inch pie shell, baked

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Heat oven to 300 degrees. In a saucepan, heat pumpkin, salt and spices to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Add milks; cook until heated through. Purée eggs and yolks in a blender. With blender running, add pumpkin filling a spoonful at a time at first, then faster as eggs heat up; blend to form a silky texture. Pour warm filling into prebaked pie shell. Bake until a thin-bladed knife inserted near center of pie comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

Don't let an insipid dessert ruin your feast. Your guests will gush over this dense, intense pie.


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