We were meeting at a friend of Jan’s place for lunch to be introduced to her new half brother—long story, but the friend has know him for most of her life and Jan first found out about him two months ago. My job was to bring the bread and dessert, I decided on pumpkin pie without the crust.
Many of the pumpkin pie recipes on-line are loaded with sugar. Being a diabetic, I am constantly lowering the sugar content of my recipes. A pie does not need to be sickly sweet to be tasty.
Jan made a brown butter pumpkin pie a few years ago. Starting with her recipe, I added and subtracted freely to come up with a new dish for the gathering. Out went the crust and in came more spices.
Around our house pie crusts are not really considered a necessity—yes, for berry pies which need the extra support; no for firm custardy pies. If it tastes like pumpkin pie, does it really matter if it comes out in neat wedges or scoops? You are going to smother it in whipped cream and gobble it down in moments.
Note: Crusts are fatty starches which are neither pie filling nor whipped cream.
Normally, prefer to start a recipe like this with fresh sugar pie pumpkins. Jan read an article that said that what is sold—In America—as canned “pumpkin” puree is actually butternut squash. If you cut up the pumpkin yourself, 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, The best way to precook the pumpkin is roasting—the dry heat and charring gives the pumpkin flesh a deeper and more complex flavor.
Note: Unfortunately, when I went to the store for ingredients, none of them had sugar pie pumpkins. I had to make do with canned.
Karl’s Crust-less Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie
1 29 oz. can pumpkin puree
OR 1-3 Sugar pie pumpkins (enough to make 3½ cups pumpkin puree)
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
⅓ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup half and half cream, separate uses
½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh ginger, finely grated
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ginger, ground
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. white pepper, ground
3 cloves, ground to a powder
2 tsp. lemon juice
¼ cup crystallized ginger finely diced
2 cups whipped cream
1. If you are using canned pumpkin skip to step 2. If using fresh pumpkins:
a. Quarter the pumpkin(s) and scrape out the seeds.
Tip: Use one large or two small sugar pie pumpkins. Reserve the seeds for roasting.
b. 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.
c. 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.
d. 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.
2. Melt the butter, over a medium-low heat, in a heavy skillet. Continue to cook, whisking occasionally, until it is nut brown.
Tip: Do not heat the butter over a high heat or the solids will separate from the oils and your caramel will not form a sauce. For this dish it is not critical, a broken sauce will taste the same as a well done one when it is mixed into the pumpkin.
3. When the butter is dark, but not burned, quickly whisk in the brown sugar.
4. Bring mixture to a low boil and simmer until the mixture smells caramelized and starts to darken.
5. Remove the skillet from the heat and drizzle in one half cup of the cream. Whisk until the mixture is smooth.
Tip: It is important that you let the butter and sugar cool slightly before you add the cream in SLOWLY. Too hot and the butter will break and not form a butterscotch sauce.
6. Let the butterscotch cool for 10 minutes and then stir in the vanilla.
7. Preheat oven to 400° F and Pam a large baking casserole.
Note: You to not want to fill your casserole dish to the rim. You will have about 5-6 cups of pie filling. You want at least half an inch of free space around the edge of the casserole after it has been filled.
8. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, the rest of the cream and salt together.
9. Blend in the pumpkin puree, the spices, and lemon juice until smooth.
10. Whisk in brown-butter butterscotch to the pie mixture.
11. Pour the mixture into the casserole.
12. Bake on center rack of the oven for 1¼-½ hour, until a toothpick, inserted into the center of the pie, comes out clean.
13. After 30 minutes of baking, garnish the top of the custard pie with the chopped crystallized ginger and rotate the casserole 180 degrees, so that it cooks evenly. Continue baking until done.
14. Cool the pie on a wire rack and serve warm or cold with whipped cream on the side.