Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"It's a wonderful day for pie."

As odd as it sounds, when it comes to my FAVORITE dishes to eat, I have an automatic mental block when it comes to considering cooking or baking them.  You see, if it's one of my absolute favorite things to eat, chances are I have ridiculous expectations of them as well.  I fear my inability to stand up to my own demands, so I usually just like to purchase these delicious things from my favorite restaurants, stands, or bakeries.

It's Autumn... well, what was briefly Autumn in New York anyway (what on earth is up with this crazy cold weather?!)... and I had my usual cravings for one of my favorites: pumpkin pie.  I sought it out on a whim with some friends while I was visiting them in Bayside.  We hit up Martha's Country Bakery (right by the Bayside LIRR).  The espresso macchiato was superb, but the pie wasn't hitting the spot.  It was a tad too dry, when I was looking for that moist custardy texture.  The pumpkin?  Something was amiss.  Maybe they used butternut squash instead?   Too much ginger?  No cinnamon?  Who knows. Later on we trekked over to Flushing and had the comforting sullung tang (a milky-colored Korean ox bone broth with scallions and rice) at Gahwa.

Anyway, back to the pie theme.  The next day I took the black lab puppy I was dog-sitting for a walk over to Chelsea Market.  I left her outside with a friend while I struggled through the crowds to get to the end of the market where Sarabeth's Bakery humbly stood.  Note to self: do not go hungry to Chelsea Market when there's a Food Network event going on there.  I eventually got there and got my two mini pumpkin tarts.  I'm only mentioning this because those tarts were most excellent.  I highly recommend any pumpkin pie lover to delight themselves with a Sarabeth's pumpkin tart.  Buttery, flaky crust.  Smooth, velvety pumpkin filling.  Salty roasted pumpkin seeds on top.  My friend, Mike Chou and I enjoyed these lovely little goods over by the water on Chelsea Piers during a gorgeous blue sky Fall afternoon... and with the happy puppy too. What a perfect day!

Still wanting to continue my pumpkin-high, I was finally compelled to simply make my very own pumpkin pie.  I stuck to the most traditional pumpkin pie recipe I could think of and walked over to Whole Foods with the shortest grocery list I've ever had.  Pie is much simpler than I thought!  They had cans of sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin pie mix... but the row of canned pumpkins was completely empty.  Damn this pumpkin obsessed season.  They were all out!  And I was certainly not going to cheat by getting pre-made pumpkin mix.  I ended up grabbing a can of sweet potatoes.  They'll work fine.

I remember when I used to think the idea of using canned pumpkins or canned anything was preposterous.  But you know what?  Sometimes it's just not worth the hassle of heating/peeling/scooping/mashing pumpkin for a quick pie.  Huge pain in the butt with little difference in outcome, I tell you.

I was a bit worried when I was putting the pie in my crooked oven.  The oven rack was slanted!  My liquid, orangey-brown filling was spilling off to the side!  Ahh!  Oh, I forgot to mention that I began this spur of the moment attempt at 11pm.  So at this point, I just shrugged and reminded myself that this was just a first time, tester pie.  I closed the oven door and for the next forty-five minutes, let my apartment fill up with the warm and spiced scent of pumpkin pie.

End result?  I was quite delighted with my first time attempt!  It's no Sarabeth's yet, but I'll be making it again this Thursday or Friday.  It was much too easy and too delicious to not take advantage of practicing this season.  I think I might give out pie slices to trick or treaters this Halloween... or to hungry friends.

Below is a recipe for just the pumpkin pie filling.  I will work on different variations for the crust before posting it.

Gastronommy's Traditional Pumpkin Pie Filling:

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 (15oz) can pumpkin*
1 (12oz) can evaporated milk

1.  Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
2.  In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt, and spices.
3.  In a large bowl, beat eggs.  Stir in pumpkin and evaporated milk.  Then stir in the spices from previous step.  Pour mixture onto crust.
4.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
5.  Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes or until middle is firm. (jiggle test!)
6.  Remove and let cool to room temperature.  Enjoy!

*can be substituted with sweet potato.

It's a wonderful day for pie.

Pumpkin Pie on Foodista


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