Yes, I went there again. I had a tin of pumpkin left, and felt there were still pie mountains to climb. Reach for the stars, you guys. Reach for the pumpkin stars.
On the advice of several astute commenters, I used the recipe on the back of the Libby’s canned pumpkin tin, and felt that this was probably the quintessential pumpkin pie recipe. For the pastry, bored of my usual dense shortcrust effort, I used a recipe favoured by my sister-in-law, who has conquered many a pie mountain already. I believe this comes from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook originally. I don’t know who Fannie is, but by heck, she was all over that pastry.
First, no butter. Yes, no butter at all! Julia Child, put that cow away.
Instead, mix flour and salt and add vegetable shortening in greasy spoonfuls. I found vegetable shortening quite easily in Tesco. It comes in a cardboard box and looks almost exactly, off-puttingly, like hair wax. Press on: it will be worth it.
You mix the shortening into the flour using two knives, dragging them in opposite directions in the bowl. Once you’ve got a knobbly, crumby consistency, you add iced water in tablespoonfuls and mix with a fork, until the pastry starts to come together. It has a resilient, elastic texture that makes rolling out and flipping into the pie dish much easier than usual. Fearful of another pastry collapse, I didn’t trim the sides – and I didn’t blind bake the pastry case either, because I wanted to see what would happen without it.
The filling, then, goes directly on top of the uncooked pastry shell. It’s a mixture of pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar and spice and all things nice. I started to worry about the liquidy filling dripping through the soft pastry, but it held together nicely. Forty minutes later, we had this.
My untrimmed sides looked a bit sloppy, and the filling was wobblier than the last pie. The base was soft and slightly soggy – you’d need to blind bake if you wanted a firm-bottomed pie, I think (ooh-er). I fall somewhere in the middle: as it was, it was a little too soggy, but I do prefer the pastry on the softer side. Next time I think I’d blind bake for five or ten minutes instead of the usual fifteen, and see if that worked as a compromise.
Altogether, though, this was a huge improvement. Well-spiced. Flaky-pastried. Quickly eaten. Even Henry kept it in his mouth instead of using it to decorate his cardigan. Get out the stars and stripes! We made it.
A SUDDEN THOUGHT: Chaps, do you think this would go well with custard? Oh gosh. What a possibility.
Deliciousness: It’s gone. Enough said.
Complexity: Surprisingly, wonderfully easy. This pastry recipe is a game-changer. Just need to work out how to neaten it up a bit.
Washing-up pile: Um, it was late when I finished. Judging by how it felt at 7am this morning, I’m going to say… ninety-two?
Casualties: A good night’s sleep. I embarked on this project after 9pm, when all good projects are begun. ‘Scuse me, I think an afternoon nap is on the cards.