The Best Ever Pumpkin Pie


Ok, so I know that Thanksgiving is over and unless you are like me and will make pumpkin pie any time you get the chance, you probably won't be using this recipe until next year. But file it away! I am very comfortable saying it is the BEST EVER pumpkin pie. Why? Unlike most pumpkin pies, it isn't dense, but it is like and fluffy, almost like a mousse. Also, Tucker and I came up with two really cool ways to top it: a creme brulee top, or a praline top... if you want to add anything at all.

Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Crust
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup vegetable shortening , cold, cut into two pieces
2 tablespoons vodka , cold (it sounds weird, but just trust me)
2 tablespoons cold water

Filling
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can (or regular canned yams if you can't find candied ones)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon table salt

1. For the Crust: Process 3/4 cup flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

4. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies (I use dry pinto beans, but almost anything works). Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake 5 to 10 additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove pie plate and baking sheet from oven.

6. For the Filling: While pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.

7. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. This is the most important step, don't skip it even though it is time consuming! This is what makes this pie special. Rewhisk mixture and transfer to warm prebaked pie shell. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.

THE TOPPINGS
If you want to top your pie at all (this isn't necessary because it is amazing pie all by itself) these are the two toppings we have made:

Praline Topping
Inspired by Cook's Country

Ingredients
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Directions
While pie is baking, toss pecans, brown sugar, and salt in bowl. Add corn syrup and vanilla, using fingers to ensure that ingredients are well blended. Bake the pie most of the way -- until it is puffed and cracked around edges and center barely jiggles when pie is shaken. Scatter topping evenly over puffed filling and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until pecans are fragrant and topping is bubbling around edges, about 10 minutes. Cool pie completely on wire rack, at least 2 hours.

Creme Brulee Topping
Cook the pie and let it cool completely. Shortly before serving, sprinkle white sugar over the top of the pie and then lightly toast with a kitchen torch, being careful not to burn the crust. Let cool, serve. NOTE: we tried this with other kinds of sugar and it seems that only plain white sugar will work (others will burn).

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