My darling husband is not a picky man. He will cheerfully eat just about everything I put in front of him with nary a complaint. There is, however, one thing that he insists on: pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.
In the early years of our marriage, I struggled with this. I made pumpkin chocolate tarts and pumpkin bread puddings, pumpkin panna cotta and pumpkin cheesecakes. He always took a polite bite and reached for the plain pumpkin pie (that someone wiser than me always provided).
Now I’ve wised up and have come to realize that he was right all along — there’s something really marvelous about a perfect piece of pumpkin pie — the smooth pie filling with its faint vegetal flavor warmed by spices, the crunch and plainness of the crust contrasting with the creamy flavorful filling. Now I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving table without plain old pumpkin pie.
But since I’m me, I wasn’t satisfied with plain old pumpkin pie. It had to be perfect plain pumpkin pie. The best pumpkin pie you’ve ever tasted. And when I tasted my aunt Sally’s pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving, I knew this was it. And I begged her for the recipe, so I could share it with you. (Together with step by step photos of pie crust making — read on!)
Of course, no great quest comes without its trials. I made the pie last weekend — the crust got too dark. Armed with a pie shield and shortening the blind baking time, I baked another crust on Tuesday, and it shrunk and warped horribly. Thanks to some internet advice and more pie weights, I tried again Thursday night — nailed the crust, but the filling curdled and the top got too brown. Finally, on Saturday, I invested in an oven thermometer, lowered the heat significantly, moved the rack down in my oven (I think this was key), and managed the pie you see above.
It really is perfect — dreamy creamy, it slips on the tongue like a French kiss. The spices add warmth and that “holiday” aroma without becoming bitter or overwelming, and the pumpkin flavor shines through. When it comes out of the oven, it has just a little jiggle to add to the excitement. Nobody could call this pumpkin pie plain.