Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pie

Has it really been almost 2 weeks since Thanksgiving!? Where did last week go? Oh yeah, it was swallowed up by the ugly bug that’s been lazily kicking the crap out of my immune system and other bodily functions. Let’s just say...I wouldn’t recommend drinking the pink eye tears of a toddler. That’s a story for another time. 

Did you think the long hiatus between posts was because I was compiling a mass of Thanksgiving pictures? A collage of every dish and paragraphs upon paragraphs of wordy description? Sorry to disappoint, but I have a confession to make - I didn’t take any pictures during Thanksgiving. None. My camera battery is still sitting on the charger, currently residing under my feet. I don’t know who I am anymore! But that’s just what happens when you spend 2 days in the kitchen and 5 days entertaining family.

Ah family. My family. And our ridiculously stubborn adherence to superfluous traditions. I love that about us. A movie on Christmas day, preferably on a sci-fi or fantasy theme. It’s tradition! Mom reading the Polar Express in front of the fireplace on Christmas Eve. It’s tradition! Me squeezing behind the driver’s seat on any family outing, even though the passenger side has more legroom. It’s tradition! And of course, Thanksgiving comes with its own set of traditions. Starting, naturally, with the menu. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie are the musts. I remember the year my mom tried to get away with not serving mashed potatoes. My sister called a family holiday party foul and made them herself. I might have helped, but I was a lazy, moody teenager, so I probably didn’t. Sorry sis!

Sure, every family has dishes they love and want year after year. In my family, we actually have dishes a lot of us don’t like, but we make anyway. Like the cranberry sauce. My sister always takes a no-thank-you helping, so I knew she wasn’t a fan. But it wasn’t until this year that I realized my parents also aren’t cranberry sauce eaters. Yet it’s always on the table! Well, minus the year my mom had it in the nice serving bowl, sitting in the fridge, and forgot to take it out. Guess now I know why she didn’t miss it. Heh. I probably could have gotten away with not having any, but I figured it’d be way more fun to try and make a cranberry sauce everyone would actually enjoy. Not to mention...it’s tradition! I made a cranberry applesauce, hoping the natural sweetness from the apples would be a nice contrast to the tartness from the cranberries without the cloying sweetness of regular sugar. Along with a little fresh ginger to make it more savory and a healthy glug of Grand Marnier (ok, maybe two healthy glugs, after encouragement from my mom), it was a success. My sister had seconds!

I’m sure I’m blowing the minds of my family as they read this post. Can you believe I used to be a picky eater? There were several foods I didn’t like, and even more foods I probably would have liked fine, but still wouldn’t eat. For years I thought I didn’t like guacamole. Really my sister didn’t like it, and I had just taken her word for it. And now I’m talking about changing people’s minds about foods they don’t like! I’m blowing my own mind here.

The pumpkin pie at my Thanksgiving table has a bit of a history. My grandma, on my dad’s side, always brought the pumpkin pie. She wasn’t a baker (not that there’s anything wrong with that), so she would dump a can of Libby’s pumpkin pie filling into a store-bought crust, bake it, and bring it over with a can of reddi-wip. To me, that was pumpkin pie. It was good and all, but I didn’t exactly grow up with the impression that pumpkin was the be-all and end-all of pie flavorings. Turns out my mom doesn’t even like pumpkin pie. How did I never know these things before?!

This year I wanted to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. A good one. My first attempt was a bust. I don’t want to talk about it...except to say that I took issue with the massive amounts of heavy cream and sugar the recipe called for. Then I saw a recipe for a sweet potato buttermilk pie that used lowfat buttermilk instead of heavy cream, and folded in whipped up egg whites for a light and fluffy texture. I was intrigued! After my mom mentioned what she didn’t like about pumpkin pie was the puddingy texture, I thought this might be just the thing. So I swapped out the sweet potato for pumpkin, but kept just a little sweet potato in there for a flavor boost. Pumpkin can be a little on the bland side, ya know. I adjusted the seasonings, upped the sugar (sweet potatoes are sweeter than pumpkin, after all), and of course, I added booze! It’s not pumpkin [insert delicious baked good here] without bourbon, right? Another thing that turned me onto this recipe was blind-baking the crust first. No worries about a soupy pie or a soggy crust.

The resulting pie was a light, fluffy, spiced pumpkin cloud.  And still so silky smooth without the heaviness. The trick was definitely folding in the egg whites. It really kept the pie light. I was concerned the lightness of the texture and lack of fat would lose the pumpkin pie flavor, but the spices still came through beautifully. And the hint of sweet potato added a nice layer of sweetness. It seemed to be a success. It didn't last long, and as my mom put it, “Julie, I enjoyed my slice...and I don’t even like pumpkin pie.” Good enough for me! Into the archives this recipe goes.

But wait! I haven’t even mentioned the whipped cream! It was an afterthought. Spur of the moment. I bought heavy whipping cream, thinking I would just whip it up with a little sugar right before dessert. Nothing special, but better than the canned stuff. Well 4 glasses of wine and a big turkey dinner later I had the bright idea to whip that cream with maple syrup and a splash of bourbon instead...

Oh my word. 

That is all that can be said about this whipped cream. Nevermind the two pies and vanilla ice cream I had on the table for dessert. I wanted to just eat gobs and gobs of this whipped cream. Yeah. It was that good. It went great on the pie. I highly recommend you don’t skip it.

PS: If you're wondering why I have pictures of the pie when I said I didn't take any, it's because this was my test run.  It was a new recipe after all.  Better safe and full of pie than sorry, right?

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pie
adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie

½ cup mashed sweet potato (1 small potato, poked with fork and microwaved for 7 mins)
1 14oz can pumpkin puree
4 TB unsalted butter, melted
2 TB fresh lemon juice
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp kosher salt
3 large eggs, separated
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 TB AP flour
3 TB bourbon
¾ cup buttermilk
1 pre-baked pie crust (recipe below)
maple bourbon whipped cream (recipe below)

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the sweet potato and pumpkin puree. Add the butter, lemon juice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and salt and mix thoroughly after each addition. 
  2. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a whisk for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat until they’re a creamy light yellow color, about 2 minutes. Add the egg mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until the eggs are fully incorporated. Add the flour a little at a time, stirring after each addition until thoroughly incorporated. Add the buttermilk and bourbon and stir until incorporated. 
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites to soft peaks in a clean, dry bowl. With a spatula, gently fold the egg whites, one-third at a time, into the sweet potato-buttermilk mixture until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into the pre-baked crust and bake on the middle rack of the oven set at 375 degrees until the center is firm and set, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the pie completely on a rack, then chill for at least 4 hours before serving. 

For the pie crust:
1 ¼ cups flour
1 ½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 TB ice cold vodka (or substitute water)
ice cold water

  1. Cut the butter into small pieces (I do quarter tablespoons), and place in the freezer along with the vodka for about 30 minutes, or until it just starts to freeze. 
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Dump the mixture out onto a large cutting board or clean counter. Using a bench scraper (a rolling pin also works), work in the frozen butter by smooshing the flat side of the bench scraper into the flour, scooping and mixing it often. When the butter pieces are all flattened and well incorporated, use your fingers to break up any large pieces until they are pea-sized. Sprinkle the vodka over the dough and mix, then 1 TB at a time, add enough water until the dough just comes together, and all the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough into a ball and cover tightly in plastic wrap. Smoosh the dough flat into a hockey puck shape and refrigerate for 1 hour. 
  3. After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and place the dough on a well-floured cutting board or clean counter. Turning often, and using as much flour as you need to keep it from sticking, roll the dough into an even layer about ¼” thick, or until it is large enough to fit into your 9” pie plate with ½” overhanging. Move the dough to the pie plate and trim any excess dough, leaving that ½” overhang. Fold and pinch the edges of the dough around the pie plate so it’s nice and pretty. 
  4. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the dough and carefully on scatter pie weights (I use dried beans). Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 12 minutes. Remove the pie weights and the foil, prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, and bake for another 10 minutes. 

For the maple bourbon whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 TB maple syrup
1 TB bourbon

  1. In a stand mixer, add the cream, maple syrup, and bourbon. Start the mixer at a low speed and work up to high to avoid splashing. Whip the mixture until it is thickened. Taste the whipped cream and add more cream, maple syrup, or bourbon according to your preference. If you’re shy, you might want to start with just a tsp or two of the bourbon.