Hopefully you had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. Before you drift off into a tryptophan stupor, I'd like to address a Thanksgiving debate of the best pie choice, if you are limited to a single one. I know some are proponents of the pecan pie, but with a corn syrup base, these can be cloyingly sweet. Others couldn't imagine a Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, but I find that they can be a bit monotonous in texture. Instead, I have a favorite combination pumpkin pecan praline pie that is the perfect marriage of the two standbys. This recipe has special meaning because it comes from the pastry chef Christine Law who baked our wedding cake, and appeared in the San Jose Mercury News in the week before our first Thanksgiving as a married couple.
First you prepare a pie crust. You can do this in a food processor, but if you want to feel more like a Pilgrim you can attempt it by hand, cutting butter into flour and then mixing in just enough ice cold water to get the dough to come together. Then chill the dough before you roll it out and transferring it to a pie pan (a decidedly modern silicone mat makes this part manageable).
Before prebaking it, you cream some butter with brown sugar and pecans, and line the bottom of your crust.
As the crust cools, you can prepare the pumpkin filling. This is best with pumpkin puree from a freshly roasted pumpkin, but you can also use unsweetened canned pumpkin. I've modified the original spicing, omitting the nutmeg, which I dislike, and increasing the ginger, but you can adjust these to your taste. The final pie is delicious on its own, or with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
Pumpkin Pecan Praline Pie
adapted from Christine Law
1 1/2 cups flour
8 Tbsp chilled butter (1 stick) or use part butter and part vegetable shortening
1/2 tsp salt
~5 Tbsp ice cold water
3 Tbsp soft butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup pecan pieces
1 sugar pie pumpkin (for 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, with more for other uses)
1 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1. To prepare the pumpkin, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast cut side down on an oiled baking sheet until the flesh is very soft, about an hour. Scrape out the flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor. Reserve 1 1/2 cups for the pie and save the remainder for another use (pumpkin bread, pumpkin and ricotta ravioli, etc.).
2. For the crust, combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and work into the flour with a pastry cutter until it has the texture of cornmeal. Add water gradually and mix with a spatula until it just comes together into a ball. Wrap in a silicone map or plastic wrap, flatten into a disk, and chill for an hour or freeze for 10 minutes. Roll out to fit into your pie dish. Prick all over with a fork.
3. To prepare the praline layer, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cream together the butter and brown sugar and add in the pecans. Spread over the bottom of the prepared pie crust and bake for 10 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely.
4. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. To prepare the pumpkin filling, heat the evaporated milk until scalding. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and spices. Mix in pumpkin puree, and then gradually mix in the hot milk. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and bake until the filling has set and does not jiggle, about an hour and 10 minutes.