Let me say right off the bat: I am not fond of pumpkin pie. If pumpkin pie was the only available option for dessert, I’d be pounds thinner … ‘cause I would be doing without. For me, it has too much of a one-dimensional texture. But because I love the drama and festiveness of this most celebrated seasonal recipe, I find myself baking a pumpkin pie during the holiday season. (My pumpkin pie is just one of the 50 million that are baked and consumed annually, according to Libby’s.)
Every once in a while, I stumble upon an article or book that offers a fresh spin on a traditional recipe. It often renews my interest in certain ingredients and introduces me to new ones. My most recent recipe find is so amazing that I made a last minute change to this column so I could share it with you … Bruleed Pumpkin Pie! You begin with a very rich, heavenly spiced, baked pumpkin custard. Just prior to serving, it is sprinkled with a layer of sugar which is caramelized with the aid of a propane torch or a broiler. This layer solidifies, creating a delightful textural contrast between the soft pie custard and the brittle sugar topping. The pie makes a wonderful crackling sound when you cut it!
What I love about this version of pumpkin pie is that it must be made ahead – as you have to freeze the crust for a few hours and then chill the pie overnight.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I am now the proud owner of a propane torch … imagine the surprised looks on the faces of my guests when I whipped it out just prior to serving the pie. It made for wonderful “dessert conversation”.
PUMPKIN PIE CRUST, CUSTARD and ASSEMBLY
adapted from a recipe from the Los Angeles Times
Single pie crust — can be homemade or store bought (shame on me, I used store bought)
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
3 eggs plus one egg yolk
2 tablespoons Brandy
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (please do not leave out this spice – it adds great flavor)
1/4 to 1/2 cup superfine sugar for bruleeing (it comes in a “milk carton” type container and it called bakers sugar)
Press your pie crust into a standard pie pan (not deep dish). Freeze for several hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, cream, milk, eggs, egg yolk, Brandy, light brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom until well blended. (I bought one of those “airline” size bottles of Brandy at the liquor store for 99 cents)
Pour this mixture into the frozen pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes, turning once for even browning. (You may want to cover your crust edges with foil to keep them from browning too fast.) After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees F (remove foil from the crust edges) and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and let cool completely to room temperature. Cover and chill overnight.
Just before serving, carefully fold strips of aluminum foil over the edges of the pie. Do not cover any of the custard with the foil. Scatter the superfine sugar (baking sugar) evenly over the top of the pie and brulee under a hot broiler until the sugar caramelizes. (Or use a propane torch if you have one.) Serve immediately, with a dollop of whipped cream.