Adapted from SJ Mercury News – originally from Emily and Melissa Elsen, “The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book”
Jan usually makes the desserts at our Sunday meals. Sometimes these desserts are within the theme of the meal. Other times they are just whatever strikes her fancy on the day. Either way, she will find a recipe that is close to what she wants and then she will adapt it “on the fly.”
What I usually receive to post consists of a printout of the original recipe with notes of the, sometimes substantial, changes she has made. Usually, I will have watched her as she works, so I generally know what steps she has taken and I am able to detail the directions. Writing these up usually takes a day or two, so they are not usually posted on the Sunday of the meal with the rest of my recipes.
Jan likes to make her pumpkin pies with fresh pumpkin. She read an article that said that what is sold as canned “pumpkin pie” pumpkin is actually butternut squash. She like to be sure of her food sources, if you cut up the pumpkin you can be sure that it is, in fact, pumpkin. Besides, you then also get to roast and eat the seeds.
Sugar pie pumpkins have smoother skins and are smaller and sweeter than the gourd pumpkins you use to carve Jack-o-laterns. While many recipes call for boiling, microwaving, or steaming the pumpkin, Jan believes the best way to pre-cook the pumpkin is roasting. The dry heat and charring gives the pumpkin flesh a deeper and more complex flavor.
Jan’s Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie
1-2 Sugar pie pumpkins (enough to make 1¾ cups pumpkin puree)
½+ cup dark brown sugar, separate uses
1 single crust pie shell
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram liqeuer
1 cup half and half cream, separate uses
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. each allspice, cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
1 tsp. molasses
2 tsp. lemon juice
1. Quarter the pumpkin(s) and scrape out the seeds.
Tip: Use one large or two small sugar pie pumpkins. Reserve the seeds for roasting.
2. Rub the cut edges and insides of the pumpkin with one teaspoon of brown sugar.
Tip: You are not trying to “sugar” the flesh, just to aid the browning Maillard reaction.
3. Lay the pieces of pumpkin, cut side up, on a lipped baking tray. Broil, 4 inches from the heat, for 30-40 minutes, until the flesh is starting to pick up some browning.
4. Let the pumpkin cool and then scrap the flesh away from the skin. Puree until smooth.
Tip: This puree should be fairly wet. This is not a problem.
5. Put the pie crust in the oven and bake for 15 minutes in a 350° F oven, until just starting to brown.
Note: Do not skip this pre-baking step. If you are so inclined you may make your own crust, but Jan used one from Whole Paycheck.
6. Melt the butter, over a medium-low heat, in a heavy skillet. Continue to cook, whisking occasionally, until it is nut brown.
7. When the butter is dark, but not burmed, quickly whisk in the ½ cup of brown sugar and then the liqueur.
8. Bring mixture to a low boil and simmer until the mixture smells caramelized and starts to darken.
9. Remove the skillet from the heat and drizzle in one half cup of the cream. Whisk until the mixture is smooth.
Tip: When you add the cream the mixture will bubble up furiously. Jan said this was spectacular and most gratifying
10. Let the butterscotch cool for 10 minutes and then stir in the vanilla.
11. Preheat oven to 350° F and place the pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet.
12. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and salt together.
13. Blend in the pumpkin puree, the spices, molasses, and lemon juice until smooth.
14. Wisk in brown-butter butterscotch to the pie mixture and then the rest of the cream.
15. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.
16. Bake on center rack of the oven for 1 hour, until a toothpick, inserted into the center of the pie, comes out clean.
Tip: Rotate the pie pan 180 degrees after 30 minutes and put a pie shield on to prevent the crust from burning.
Note: The original recipe said that the pie was done when the edges were set and puffed slightly and the center as no longer liquid but still quite wobbly. They warned that over-baking would cause the custard to separate. We did not find this to be the case. We cooked the pie until it was firm in the middle without any problems.
17. Cool the pie on a wire rack and serve warm or cold.