A few people have confided in me lately that they have never made a pumpkin pie using fresh roasted sugar pumpkin. The explanation is usually trepidation about cutting the pumpkin in half for roasting. Fear not, you can tame this tough-skinned squash in a few minutes.
How to Roast a Sugar Pumpkin
Scrub the pumpkin clean under running water, wipe it dry, and place it on a cutting board. Remove the stem with your hands if you are able, or turn it upside down and while holding it securely over the sink, whack the stem off by banging it again the side of the sink. Two to three shots should do it.
Place the pumpkin bottom side down on the cutting board so it won’t roll. Here are a few ways to cut the pumpkin in half. Some will yield to a knife and others thick-skinned varieties will resist (someone told me recently that they once resorted to using a saw to get one open). I recommend grabbing the largest, heavy weight chef’s knife you have and giving it a good honing before delivering it a good solid whack. Go ahead and yell “hayah!!!!” as you do it for extra oomph and to lower your stress level. If your pumpkin is petite that one blow might split it, but most will require several passes of the knife. If you cannot get a knife through the skin (it’s happened to me), try a serrated slicing knife, sawing back and forth to cut it in two. You can also try again with the heavy knife once you’ve successfully made the first incision.
On rare occasion, I’ve had to lift the knife, with the pumpkin still attached, and bang it on the cutting board until the pumpkin splits in two. This usually sends the kids scurrying out of the kitchen in fear, but it does the trick. I guess a rubber mallet would be a more elegant solution, but I don’t have one.
Once the pumpkin is halved, scrape the seeds out of the cavity using a large spoon, preferably serrated, and reserve for roasting or collect for composting. Brush the cut edges of each half with a neutral oil like canola or grape seed so they don’t stick to the pan. Lay each half cut side down on a sturdy sheet pan and roast at 350 degrees until the orange flesh yields easily to a a paring knife or fork, about 45 minutes to an hour, or more depending upon the size and variety of pumpkin.
Once the pumpkin is cooked through, remove the tray from the oven, invert each half (so the cut side is facing up) and cool. When cool to the touch, use a large metal spoon to scoop the flesh out and place it in a strainer over a bowl to drain. Place pumpkin in a bowl and puree with an immersion blender, or for large quantities use a food processor fitted with a metal blade. You can do this step days ahead, but be sure to drain off any additional accumulated liquid in the container before proceeding with the recipe. Use any leftover pumpkin puree for muffins or cookies, or freeze it for another day.
Classic French Pastry Crust (Pate Brisee)
Note: Crusts can be made a few days ahead or frozen
yield: two 9″ pie crusts to make 2 pumpkin pies
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus additional flour as needed for pastry board and pin
- 1 tsp. salt (not Kosher)
- 1 T sugar
- 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces (kept refrigerated)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup ice water
- Make sure all the ingredients are well chilled, including the flour. Work quickly and gently. In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter, coat with flour by tossing with the end of a dull knife, and process with pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds).
- Pour 1/4 cup ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If you notice that some flour/butter mixture at the bottom of the work bowl is not being incorporated, stop processor and remove lid so you can turn it a few times with a rubber spatula. Add remaining water, if necessary (I had to use 1/2 cup). Do not process more than 30 seconds.
- Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and use the wrap to help gather it into a ball. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, flatten each portion into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour before using. This will chill the butter and allow the gluten in the flour to relax.
- Lightly flour a pastry board and using a rolling pin, evenly roll out the crust to just overlap the edge of the pie plate. Be sure to lift the dough and rotate it each time you roll it out to make sure it’s not sticking to the board and stays symmetrical and maintains an even width. Dust with flour occasionally to prevent sticking. To transfer the dough from the board to the pie dish, gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin, then unroll it onto the pie dish. Push the dough gently down into the bottom and sides of the pie dish, then flute the edges by turning under any excess dough and crimping with a fork, your fingers (that’s what I use!) or a crimper.
Prepare the filling while the dough chills. Never put a room temperature pie crust in the oven.
Blind bake (an insurance policy against a soggy crust) the empty crust by lining with parchment paper or aluminum foil and filling (yes I mean filling otherwise your crust will shrink) with pie weights (dry beans also do a good job) and baking at 425 for 15 min. Remove weights, brush with a beaten egg to moisture proof the dough and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove and fill with pumpkin pie filling. Note: if you do not wish to blind bake the crust, which is perfectly acceptable, simply fill the unbaked crust and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 350 degrees and bake for an addition 35-40 minutes. Tip: Place a cookie sheet in the oven to preheat, then place the pie on top to help crisp the bottom of the crust.
Pumpkin Pie Filling (Makes 1 pie – double for 2 pies)
I have tried many fillings, but this one is consistently the best. Click here to get the filling recipe, but substitute 2 cups of fresh pumpkin, cooked, drained and pureed for the canned and use organic sweetened condensed milk (available at Trader Joe’s).
Variation: Add the following optional ingredients if they suit your tastes
- 1/8 tsp. clove (optional: add if you like a more assertively spiced pie)
- 1 tsp. vanilla (optional: add if you like a sweeter tasting pie)
Do not over mix the filling or over bake the pie as this results in a cracked filling.
If you blind baked the crust, fill crusts with pumpkin mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until all but the center is set and the crust is golden brown. (If you are not blind baking, follow instructions under note above). Let cool on a wire rack and keep at room temperature if serving the same day, otherwise refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!