Pumpkin Pie from Real Pumpkins

Sarah and Tammy took the German pumpkin situation into their own hands — literally — last week when tackling the time-honored American Thanksgiving dessert option. Canned pumpkin puree is hard to come by around here. You’ve got to have a military post hook-up or have flown it in with someone who otherwise travels light. Note to those reading and thinking about moving to Germany: fill up extra space in your shipping container with hard-to-find canned goods. Even if you don’t like them yourself, they are worth their weight in trade.

So here’s the weird part: the cute little good-for-cooking pumpkin varieties are pretty easily available in Germany. Most supermarkets and organic markets seem to carry them. But does that mean that everyone is cooking with pumpkin from scratch? I don’t think so. You see the occasional pumpkin soup or pumpkin-infused pasta sauce around here in restaurants, but I don’t get the impression that pumpkin is a part of standard Bavarian cuisine. So what are they doing with them? Not making pie, as far as we can tell.

I found this recipe online for pumpkin pie from real pumpkins and they set to work. This recipe is very generous with metric conversions and dietary and preparation alternatives (nice!) and Comic Sans (less nice). But oh well. The content is solid, with lots of ideas for extra pumpkinny usage.

Sarah and Tammy opted to roast the cleaned-out pumpkin chunks in the oven to soften up the flesh as described in her recipe for pumpkin purée. The upshot here was avoiding too much moisture in the puree.

pie crustsThis is the part where I got involved. I whipped up a pie crust from our standard recipe. We were worried that the crust might have been a little too thin (you can see the pie pan pattern through it!), but it came out just fine — probably owing to the reduced moisture from the roasting method of puree collection as well. I even had enough dough left over to make a midget pie, too. Sarah does the fluting (looks nice, right?) and you can see that I was in charge of the midget pie and went for the more rustic (read: lazy) look. Here are the pie filling ingredients we used — see the original recipe for alternatives:

1 cup (210 g) sugar
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I ground fresh nutmeg shavings and cloves together in our spice grinder to make ours a few months ago; individual proportions are available in the original recipe)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3 cups pumpkin puree
18oz (530ml) evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Note: don’t get confused by the milk nomenclature here in Germany. Evaporated milk is known in Germany as “Kondensmilch” and Sweetened Condensed Milk is called “Kondensmilch, gezuckert” — at least in our supermarkets. You’ve got to look pretty carefully at the labels. You’ll probably find them in the same section as the canned coffee creamers.

one pie, one custardMix all that stuff up together, in no particular order, though I submit that if you add the spice ingredients last, you’ll have less chance of your spices collecting on the bottom of your mixer bowl. That happened to us, and you can see spicy plumes in our midget pie and crustless pies. All three still tasted great, but the spice distribution was uneven and obviously more concentrated in the midget and crustless pie.

two pies and a custardThen fill your pie shells right up to the top. With our 9″ pie shell, we still had enough for the midget pie, and still some left over, which we baked as a crustless pie in a non-stick loaf pan. Bake the pie at 425°F (210°C) for the first 15 minutes and then turn the temperature down to 350°F (175°C) and bake another 45 to 60 minutes, until a clean knife inserted into the center comes out clean. You can see what happens if you forget to reduce the heat after the first 15 minutes on our crustless pie. Still totally edible but with more of a skin developed on the top layer.

This is a fluffier-than-I’m-used-to variety. I normally think of pumpkin pie as a dense and heavy custard, and I enjoy that, but this lighter variation was really good.