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Pumpkin Pie

This recipe uses a version of shortcrust pastry that is used for sweet open-faced flans and tarts. It's richer than shortcrust, but very crisp, and the eggs give it a shortbread quality. Nuts can sometimes be added; here there are toasted pecans, although walnuts or hazelnuts can be used, or the pastry can be made without nuts if you prefer. In autumn I love the velvet texture of pumpkin, but this tart could be made with butternut squash.

 
 

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book One.

Method

To begin this you need to toast the pecan nuts. First of all, when the oven has pre-heated, spread the nuts out on the baking sheet and toast them lightly for 8 minutes, using a timer so that you don't forget them. After that, remove them from the oven to a chopping board (turning the oven off for now) and let them cool a little. Then either chop them really finely by hand or in a processor using the pulse action. Be careful here, though, because if you overdo it they will go oily.

For the pastry, first of all sift the flour, icing sugar and the pinch of salt into a large bowl, holding the sieve up high to give it a good airing. Then add the butter and start cutting it into the flour using a knife, then, using only your fingertips, lightly and gently rub it into the flour, again lifting the mixture up high all the time to give it a good airing.

When everything is crumbly, add the chopped nuts, then sprinkle in about 1 tablespoon of water and the egg yolk. Start to mix the pastry with a knife and then finish off with your hands, lightly bringing it together (you may need to add more water) until you have a smooth dough that will leave the bowl clean. Then pop it into a polythene bag and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) with the baking sheet inside. Now place a steamer over a pan of simmering water, add the pumpkin, put a lid on and steam for 15-20 minutes, until the pieces feel tender when tested with a skewer. After that, place a large, coarse sieve over a bowl and press the pumpkin through it to extract any seeds or fibres.

By this time the pastry will have rested, so now remove it from the fridge. Roll it out into a circle on a surface lightly dusted with flour, and as you roll, give it quarter turns to keep the round shape. Roll it into a circle approximately 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter, as thinly as possible. Now transfer it, rolling it over the pin, to the tin. Press it lightly and firmly all over the base and sides of the tin, easing any overlapping pastry back down the sides, as it is important not to stretch this bit too much.

Now trim the edge, leaving ¼ inch (5 mm) above the rim of the tin all round. Then prick the base all over with a fork and brush it and the sides with the reserved egg white, lightly beaten. Now place the tin on the pre-heated baking sheet on the centre shelf of the oven and bake it for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden. Check halfway through the cooking time to make sure that the pastry isn't rising up in the centre. If it is, just prick it again a couple of times and press it back down again with your hands.

Now for the filling. First lightly whisk the eggs and extra yolk together in a large bowl. Next measure the molasses (lightly greasing the spoon first, as this makes things easier), then just push the molasses off the spoon with a rubber spatula into a saucepan. Add the sugar, spices and the cream, then bring it up to simmering point, giving it a whisk to mix everything together. Then pour it over the eggs and whisk it again briefly. Now add the pumpkin purée, still whisking to combine everything thoroughly, then pour the filling into a jug. When the pastry case is ready, remove it from the oven on the baking sheet using an oven glove. Then pour half the filling in, return it to the oven, then, with the shelf half out, pour in the rest of the filling and slide the shelf back in. Bake the pie for 35-40 minutes, by which time it will puff up round the edges but still feel slightly wobbly in the centre. Then remove it from the oven and place the tin on a wire cooling rack.

I prefer to serve this chilled (stored loosely covered in foil in the fridge) with some equally chilled crème fraîche, but warm or at room temperature would be fine. In America, ice cream is the preferred accompaniment.

 

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