I made that!

PreThanksgiving Day Pie Camp – Part 1

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on November 8, 2009

Every year, right around this time, something wonderful takes place. My friends gather for OUR version of Thanksgiving – without the family squabbles, awkward conversation and mediocre food. We call it PreThanksgiving, the idea being to celebrate right before everyone shuffles off to their families. I’m the proud owner of a giant deep fryer, which is where John shows the turkeys what’s what. Friends show up bearing delicious side dishes (people in San Francisco can COOK!) and before the night finishes there will be at least 2 and if we’re lucky all of the following events: an impromptu dance party, a food fight, kings cup, a piñata, a flip cup championship and music performances of songs written about each other.

My role in all of this: the pie, of course. I fancy myself a bit of a pie ninja, so there’s pressure to deliver something special each year. I usually make 3 pies: a pumpkin pie, a nut pie and a fruit pie. This year my pumpkin pie was the wild card, a pretty complicated construction consisting of 3 layers of pumpkin custard, crème fraîche whipped cream and a pumpkin caramel mousse.


First step: roasting a pumpkin. Pretty simple, I just sliced it in half, scooped out the seeds, placed it cut side down on a tray with a bit of water and let it roast until it was soft (about an hour). Then I scoop out the flesh from the skin, purée it and let the water drain out.


Then there’s my crust. I don’t make pie too often, since I get kinda geeky with it and my crust alone is a bit of effort. I’m a firm believer in baking the crust all the way through, to avoid any soggy pie unpleasantness.


While the crust was cooling I prepared my first layer, the pumpkin custard. This recipe (Sherry Yard, 2 for 2!) called for pumpkin purée, spices, sour cream, egg and cream.


I baked the custard in the crust until it set.


I let that cool and then whipped some cream, crème fraîche and maple syrup until it was pretty stiff. I spread that on the custard layer and popped it in the fridge to chill while I got to work on the 3rd layer.

whipped cream

I started by making a caramel.


I mixed spices, brown sugar, pumpkin purée and gelatin into the caramel and let it cool.


Then I whipped up some meringue and cream, folding each into the caramel mixture to form the mousse.


I topped the pie with the mousse and let it chill some more in the fridge. Sadly, I don’t have a picture of the slice, so you can’t see all the pretty layers (another reason to make it yourself!). Once unveiled, this pie didn’t stand a chance of surviving PreThanksgiving Day intact.



Pumpkin custard layer:

Dough for 1 (9-inch) pie crust

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 eggs

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup  pumpkin puree

1/2 cup sour cream

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons brandy

– Roll out pastry into a 12-13 inch circle, transfer and center into 9 inch deep dish pie pan. Trim edges and place in freezer for 20 minutes.

– Line with foil, fill with weights (dried beans) and then bake in 400 degrees oven for about 20 minutes, or until beginning to brown and look set. Lower temperature to 350 and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans and continue baking for another 10-20 minutes, until fully baked. Set on wire rack to cool.

– Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, ginger and cinnamon. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the brown sugar, pumpkin, sour cream, heavy cream and brandy.

– Pour the mixture into the springform pan on top of the cooled pastry. Cover the pan with buttered aluminum foil and bake until the custard is just set, about 1 hour.

– Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature.

Whipped cream layer:

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup creme fraiche

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons maple syrup

– Combine the heavy cream and creme fraiche in a large mixing bowl and beat until it starts to thicken and swell. Add the sugar and maple sugar and continue beating until stiff.

– Spread in an even layer on top of the pumpkin custard and refrigerate.

Caramel pumpkin mousse:

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 cup sugar

4 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin

3/4 cup plain pumpkin puree

3 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

3 tablespoons sugar

– Place  2 tablespoons water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Stir, then let it sit for 1 minute.

– Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger in a mixing bowl. In a heavy saucepan, combine the 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and the lemon juice and cook over high heat until the mixture turns a caramel color.

– Remove the caramel from the stove and stir the brown sugar mixture into it. Add the softened gelatin and stir to dissolve. Whisk in the canned pumpkin and set aside to cool.

– Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

– Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they foam. Add the cream of tartar. Continue to beat, adding the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar in a slow, steady stream. Beat until the egg whites are stiff and shiny, about 2 minutes.

– Lighten the warm pumpkin mixture by folding in one-third of the beaten egg whites. Pour the remaining egg whites over the top and carefully fold them into the pumpkin mixture using a rubber spatula. Fold in the whipped cream.

– Carefully pour the mixture over the whipped cream layer and smooth the top. Refrigerate for 2 hours until set.

8. To serve, gently unmold the pie from the pan and set it on a plate. Garnish with additional whipped cream if desired.


5 Responses

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  1. Adelina said, on November 9, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Okay….this is definitely a recipe I have to try out soon!!!

    Love your step-by-step photos! Your pumpkin puree looks absolutely smooth and silky!

    Thanks for sharing and for posting!

    • brandi said, on November 9, 2009 at 8:10 pm

      Your welcome! Let me know how it turns out!

  2. Mimi Yan said, on November 9, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Did you make pate brisee for the crust? It looks so super flakey!

    • brandi said, on November 9, 2009 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you! I made a 3:2:1 ratio dough and then did 3 book folds as if it was puff!

  3. Amanda said, on November 2, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    WOW! This looks awesome! I will definitely be trying out your pie dough this Thanksgiving. And this tasty 3 layer pie will be part of my Thanksgiving arsenal this year!

    I absolutely love the use of a quiche pan as well.

    Thank you for sharing terrific ideas, love your site!

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