Outdoor temperatures are cooling, leaves are changing colours and there are hints of cinnamon and spice in the air. Autumn's star ingredient, the pumpkin, can now be found in just about everything from scones to squares, lattes to cold brews, and soups to savoury treats. The true coveted indulgence of the season, however, remains the pumpkin pie. A phenomenal pumpkin pie includes a delectably flaky slightly golden crust paired with a silky-smooth center that is bursting with hints of brown sugar, maple and cinnamon.
We reached out to seasoned pastry chef Carly Harding, owner of the legendary Kamloops based Gold Leaf Pastries Ltd., to learn some tips on how to avoid common homemade pumpkin pie mishaps and gather a little inspiration on how to take your pie to the next level.
Flaketastic crust – it's not in the hands
No matter what your recipe calls for (butter or shortening), adjust it to be ¾ butter to ¼ shortening to help in achieving that flaky perfection you are after. Pie crust recipes call for cold water and they mean COLD. Tap water in this case will not do. Be sure to add ice cubes to lower the overall temperature and gently add your water folding your dough (avoid squishing it) ever so gently with a spatula. When ready, your dough will look marbled and not evenly blended. Place it in the fridge to cool further overnight and bake it the next day for optimum results.
Pre-cook for perfection
Have your past pumpkin pies flopped onto plates without any form? Pre-cooking your pie shell before adding the wet filling will dramatically change the consistency of your finished pie in allowing the crust to remain crisp. Roll out your chilled dough onto a floured surface. Place within your pie shell and cook until a light golden colour. Remove your shell and let cool completely before adding your wet filling.
Infuse with Flavour
The difference between a good pumpkin pie and a showstopping pumpkin pie comes down to the ingredients used and the layering of flavours within. In a pinch, a store-bought pumpkin puree can do the trick. However, to experience a true flavour explosion, Carly recommends roasting your own pumpkins in the oven and pureeing them with tantalizing flavours such as maple syrup, vanilla bean and cinnamon. Control your pie's sweetness by blending in whipped cream with hints of brown sugar rather than a pre-sweetened condensed milk. Mix your ingredients until blended, however, be sure to not whip or overmix as this can lead to a stiff pie center that cracks upon leaving the oven.
A glistening pie to top off your gathering
To achieve a glistening finished pie, do not overcook your core. Give your pie a small shake when nearing the end of its baking cycle. You want the edges of your pie to look set and your pie center to have a slight jiggle to it when moved, as it will continue slowly cooking when removed from the oven. The pie will appear slightly puffed when it comes out of the oven but will settle in place as it cools. Let the pie cool to room temperature before preparing to serve. Top off your pie with candied pumpkin seeds or pecans (toast them in maple syrup and brown sugar) and a flavour-infused whipped cream (add a hint of cinnamon or nutmeg, maple syrup or even a dash of Kahlua).
Baking is an artform and like all artforms, is accomplished through trial-and-error learning opportunities. If you have time, bake a test pie or two before the date of your gathering. Autumn is a season to gather and enjoy. Whether indulging in a pie of your own creation, or one from your local bakery or patisserie, savour in the moments you share with others.