Halloween has come and gone, and November is upon us. In New York, the mercury plunged from sweater weather to three-sweaters-and-a-scarf-and-gloves-and-boots-and-a-coat weather. Baby, it is bitterly cold outside. Which means ovens are now free of the sweaters they’ve stored all summer, and it’s time to BAKE! With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, that means pie. Pumpkin Pie. Eggnog. Pumpkin. Pie.
The rich, spiced aroma of pumpkin pie baking practically announces the arrival of the holiday season; I like to help my pumpkin pie bridge the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas even better with eggnog, a special ingredient that was my mother’s secret, until now. You’re welcome, internet. It adds a subtle richness that perfectly suits the flavors of the pumpkin. Add a dollop of whipped cream, and you’ve got the dessert course for just about any party from now until New Years covered.
Pie making has a reputation for being tricky, but a few simple tips make it a breeze to make the perfect crust. A bit of whole wheat flour boosts the nutty flavor, and using very cold butter and very cold water keeps the dough flaky and tender. When it comes to pie fillings, pumpkin may be the simplest of all, and one of the best. I like to use brown sugar to add a caramel-like sweetness and plenty of autumn spices. With a hint of eggnog as the finishing touch, it’s a perfect, simple pie for the holidays.
For Pie Dough
Adapted minimally from Smitten Kitchen; Makes enough for two single crust pies (like this one) or one double crust pie.
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold.
1 ½ cup water + ice cubes
- Fill a measuring cup with about a cup of cold water and add a few ice cubes, and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, and salt.
- Cut butter into small cubes. To prevent all the butter from sticking together, sprinkle half the cubes over flour mixture and stir to coat butter pieces in flour; repeat with remaining half. Using your pastry blender, a fork, or your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture, cutting the butter into smaller pieces and blending them evenly into the flour. When most of the butter bits are about the size of peas, STOP. Your mix will look shaggy and rough, and that is a good thing. We want visible bits of butter in the finished dough, because those little pockets of butter melt into the dough when it bakes, the moisture turns into steam, which expands and makes for a tender, flaky crust. And that’s a good thing.
- Scrape any dough stuck to your pastry blender, forks, or hands back into the bowl. Drizzle about a 1/2 cup of ice water over the flour/butter mix and stir gently with a rubber spatula. Keep adding water, a few tablespoons at a time, and gathering the dough together with your spatula. Do not overmix during this step, or you will develop the gluten in the flour, which will make your crust chewy. So, focus your drizzles on dry areas and scoop the flour mixture together; don’t stir like you would a cake batter. When the dough just comes together to form a sticky, mostly even ball, divide the dough into two portions. Scoop each portion onto a large sheet of plastic wrap; flatten each dough ball into a thick disk with the palm of your hand and wrap them up.
- Chill dough for at least an hour before rolling it out (two is better). Dough will keep in the fridge for up to four days and in the freezer for at least a month; if not baking that day, wrap in additional layers of plastic and seal in a plastic bag to preserve freshness.
For Eggnog Pumpkin Filling
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. (heaping) freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. (heaping) ground ginger
scant 1/4 tsp. cloves
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups eggnog
- Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, whisk together sugars, spices, salt, and eggs until smooth. Add vanilla. Add canned pumpkin and stir until well incorporated; add eggnog and whisk until smooth.
- On a well-floured surface, roll out one round of chilled pie dough to about ¼ inch thick and large enough to line your pie dish with a bit of overhang. Press dough down into the shell and trim the excess crust with a sharp serrated knife. If you’d like the edges of your crust to develop a nice sheen, you can brush them with egg wash (one egg beaten together with 1 tblsp. water); however, the long baking time for pumpkin pie can lead to scorching, so if you choose to use an egg wash, you’ll need to watch your pie carefully.
- Carefully pour pumpkin filling into shell and transfer to oven; bake at 425°F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and bake until a small paring knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean—about 40 to 50 minutes.
- Allow pie to cool completely before serving. Refrigerate pie if not serving within 12 hours.
Tip: To cover the slit made by your knife when you check for doneness, you can form any pie dough trimmings into a ball, roll the dough out to about ¼ inch thick, and cut our decorative shapes with cookie cutters. I like leaves for autumn festive-ness or block letters for a classy monogram. You can also freehand your designs by cutting the dough with a sharp paring knife. Place shapes on a very lightly greased cookie sheet, brush with a bit of melted butter, egg wash (one egg beaten together with 1 tblsp. water), or even a bit of water; sprinkle shapes with granulated sugar. Bake at 350°F until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.