Last week, I got it in my head that I wanted to a make a no-bake pumpkin pie. And I wanted one lighter and on the creamy side. Well, a few pies later and more time than any no-bake recipe should require, I learned an hour in the oven is well worth it and requires much less effort. Now, where do I begin? Should we talk about the flaky pie crust? The smooth, light as air creamy filling? Maybe the thin layer of caramel that makes my toes wiggle with excitement just typing the words?
I've searched years for the perfect pie crust recipe and posted my favorite one by Dorie Greenspan over the summer. The recipe for this pie is pretty much the same except I substituted rendered leaf lard for half the butter. I've been in love with the stuff ever since Melissa Clark wrote about it three years ago in the New York Times. Vegetarians beware, and same goes for the faint of heart when reading Clark's description of the process for making it. My babysitter asked one day, and the poor thing nearly fainted when I told her. Once you get past that, though, you're in for a treat. It really does make for the best piecrust. And Clark is right about that porky flavor. It's a crazy taste sensation but for a girl who loves swine, mix it with caramel, pecans and pumpkin...I almost fell off the chair just thinking about it. In fact, there's a bit of drool hanging from the corners of my mouth.
Now, for the filling. I had just made some of caramel sauce and decided it would be a perfect layer nestled between the crust and pumpkin filling. I was right, and am not at all shy about claiming bragging rights. Warming the spices in a skillet before adding to the pumpkin mixture really awakens the flavor, so it's well worth the extra few minutes and dirty skillet. Cream is my other secret ingredient, so while this pie isn't going to make the American Heart Association's top 10 list, it'll definitely win first place at your Thanksgiving table.
caramel pecan pumpkin pie
makes one 9-inch deep dish pie
One single Dorie's Perfect Pie Crust (just halve the recipe)
1/2 cup caramel sauce
3 large eggs, beaten
15-ounces fresh or canned pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
5-ounce can evaporated milk
5 ounces heavy cream
1 cup chopped, very lightly toasted pecans
Preheat oven to 425ºF. Fit unbaked piecrust into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Spread caramel sauce evenly over bottom; set aside.
Heat spices in small skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Add 2 eggs, pumpkin puree, warmed spices, evaporated milk and cream to a medium bowl. Whisk together until well combined. Pour into piecrust over caramel layer. Evenly sprinkle chopped pecans on top, gently pressing them into the filling. Brush edges of crust with some of the remaining beaten egg (store the rest in the fridge if you plan on making more pies this week). Bake at 425ºF for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature 350ºF and bake for another 45 minutes, until the center is set (will look firm and not jiggly—no it's not a real cooking term, but you get the point, right?). Let cool completely before serving.
A few notes: I'm tempted to up the caramel sauce to 1 cup next time I make this. Also, don't toast the pecans too much since they will cook during the baking process. I used the empty evaporated milk can to measure out the cream since it was 5 ounces anyway. And if you're a vegetarian, or the mere thought of rendered leaf lard sends you running for the hills, feel free to sub shortening or use all butter for your pie crust.