Pumpkin Pecan Pie
I’m experiencing fleeting moments of panic that an enormous, animated Thanksgiving turkey is going to bust out of our hallway closet and whack me over the head with a giant, Pilgrim-style belt buckle as soon as I make this confession. Ready? I’ve never particularly cared for pumpkin pie.
……OK, the Macy’s Day Parade-sized turkey did not materialize as I irrationally feared, but it does seem like a crime against American tradition, family values, and every grade school reenactment of the first Thanksgiving dinner to admit that the classic orange dessert does little to ruffle the construction paper feathers on my brown paper grocery bag Native American vest. (Did anyone else make those in grade school?). I digress.
My general attitude towards pumpkin pie is, meh. Often bland, mushy, with a crust that is burned on the edges but soggy on the bottom, pumpkin pie seems better suited as to be a vehicle for homemade whipped cream, versus stand-out dessert.
My family agrees. Six years ago, we stopped making pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner completely (although my Grammy and Poppa do have slices of pumpkin pie with bacon for Thanksgiving breakfast, a custom I enthusiastically endorse). Instead, we put our own twist on tradition by serving a different pumpkin dessert that packs more pizzazz. Pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin bread pudding often make appearances, but this year, my vote is for Pumpkin Pecan Pie.
A super-spiced, pizzazz-packed pumpkin pie filling sweetened with maple syrup, and topped with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon-toasted pecans, this Pumpkin Pecan Pie puts the classic Libby’s recipe to shame. It takes all the best features of pumpkin pie and pecan pie and combines them into a single, dreamy slice.
FYI, the giant Thanksgiving turkey did not appear to punish me for speaking ill towards the classic Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe. Perhaps he agrees.
Even if you are a fan of classic pumpkin pie, this Pumpkin Pecan Pie is still a must-bake, even if you omit the pecan topping. The maple syrup gives the pie a richer flavor than the plain white sugar in the classic Libby’s recipe, and I swapped the cloves for nutmeg, a trick I learned from my Grammy, who as you recall has been eating pumpkin pie for breakfast for the past 20 years. The lady knows her pumpkin pie.
For the fans of pecan pie: you will love this recipe too. That crunchy, toasty, pecan pie topping is still intact and just as addictive as you’ve always known it to be.
This Pumpkin Praline Pie is also ultra easy to make, even for baking novices. The pumpkin filling instructions are only one step long (stir the ingredients together until smooth), and the pecan layer is just as simple: toss the nuts with melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, then sprinkle them into the bottom of the crust. Pour the pumpkin filling over the top, and that’s it!
A few tips to guarantee a perfect pumpkin pie:
- To prevent the bottom of your pumpkin pie from getting soggy: Start the pie at a high temperature on the bottom rack of your oven (this sets and crisps the bottom crust), then a few minutes later, lower the oven temperature and move the pie to the center rack to finish baking completely.
- To prevent the pie crust from burning before the pie is finished baking: Shield the pie crust with foil or a pie crust guard the entire time the pie is in the oven. I use and love this adjustable pie crust shield. It’s cheap, won’t smash your perfectly fluted crust, and can be customized to any size of pie.
- To prevent the pumpkin pie from cracking: Do not over bake! A cracked pumpkin pie is an over baked pumpkin pie, every single time. (If you want to baking science nerd out with me, it’s because the eggs keep cooking after the pie is removed from the oven and crack the pie.) When the pie “jiggles like jell-o but does not wiggle like a wave,” it’s done. An even easier method to tell if the pumpkin pie is done is to take the its temperature (pumpkin pie is done baking at 170 degrees F). I use this digital read thermometer for everything from meat, to bread, to pumpkin pie. It’s fast, accurate, and inexpensive.
- And less essential but fun: For pretty decorative pie crust leaves to decorate the top, roll out extra pie crust, cut it into leaves with leaf-shaped cookie cutters, then bake the leaves separately and place them on the top of the cooled pumpkin pie.
Although it might not be precisely traditional, I’m confident that this deeply spiced, maple syrup-sweetened Pumpkin Pecan Pie could still earn me an invite to that first Thanksgiving dinner, construction paper costume and all.
Pumpkin Pecan Pie
For the Crust:
- 1 recipe Whole Wheat Pie Crust — (this recipe will make 2 pie crusts, one for the bottom, one for the decorative leaves)
- 1 large egg — beaten with 1 teaspoon milk, for decorative leaves
For the Pecan Topping:
- 1/3 cup toasted pecans, — finely chopped
- 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar — light brown is OK too
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled to room temperature
For the Pumpkin Filling:
- 1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree — (one 15-ounce can) not pumpkin pie filling
- 3 large eggs — at room temperature
- 1 cup half and half — at room temperature (do not use fat free half and half)
- 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter — melted and cooled to room temperature
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg — (it's an amazing flavor upgrade to grate your own nutmeg. I use this zester to do it)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Whipped cream — for serving
Place one rack in the bottom of your oven and one rack in the center. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Prepare the whole wheat pie crust according to the recipe directions. Roll out half of the recipe (enough for 1 crust) and fit it into a regular (not deep dish) 9-inch pie dish that is at least 1 1/4-inches deep. Crimp the edges, leaving the crimp tall. Place the crust in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling. Leave the second half of the pie crust in the refrigerator for later.
Make the pecan topping: In a small bowl, mix together the pecans, brown sugar, and melted butter. Set aside.
Make the pumpkin filling: In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients—the pumpkin puree, eggs, half and half, maple syrup, butter, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt—until smooth.
Remove the crust from the refrigerator. Sprinkle the pecan layer into the bottom of the crust (it will rise to the top when baked), then gently pour in the pumpkin filling. Tap the pan firmly on the counter to allow air bubbles to escape. Wait 30 seconds, then tap once more, repeating as needed until you see very few air bubbles. With aluminum foil or a pie crust shield, shield the crust so that it does not burn while the pie bakes.
Place the pie on the bottom rack and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, move the pie to the center rack, then bake the pie for an additional 35-45 minutes, until a knife inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out moist but clean and the temperature of the pie reaches 170 degrees F. When jiggled, the pie will move in the center (like jello) but should not as liquidy as a wave. (The filling may also be bubbling gently—it will calm as it cools.) Let the pie cool to room temperature, then chill.
To make the decorative pie crust leaves: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the remaining pie crust on a lightly floured surface to a 1/8-inch thickness. With cookie cutters, cut out leaf shapes. Beat the egg and 1 teaspoon milk together in a small bowl, then brush lightly over the tops of the cut leaves. With a thin, sharp knife, draw on the leaf veins as desired. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool, then arrange over the top of the cooled pie. Serve pie chilled or at room temperature, with whipped cream.
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