Pumpkin pie: A concept unknown to my palate until I first moved to the United States of America to work back in 1998, in Colorado Springs. (yes!) And not far behind the unknown pie, there was Thanksgiving, of which I had never heard of. To put things into context, yes, I was literally coming down from my mountain and was very much anchored in European traditions. The things I knew about the USA was pretty much everything I saw on Beverly Hills 90210, or Will Smith on the Prince of Bel Air, for those of you who know it, you can picture what I mean.
As I was by myself in the States, I’ve got invited by a very nice family for Thanksgiving which I thought was a very nice gesture. Wow! It was the first time I tried marshmallow topping on sweet mashed potatoes and together with that, a glass of milk with a roasted turkey. Ah! The turkey… The largest roasted poultry we had back home was chicken or duck and when I saw that giant roasted bird I thought wow, America really makes everything bigger!
Seriously, I wasn’t sure if all these foods were meant to be like that, and I later learned that it was the tradition.
I guess this is what we call cultural differences! Then came the pecan pie and the pumpkin pie; I liked them both very much, with a preference for the pumpkin pie, although the lingering whiskey flavour in the pecan pie was very pleasant. The pumpkin pie was delicious; yet, this huge mass of spiced pumpkin curd was rather “boring” in texture, especially after the third slice!
A few weeks ago, I happened to be invited as a judge for a cake competition in Macau. And again, I had this overall sensation of having massive cream and mousse layers built on a tiny sponge or biscuit. Of which I wish there was more of to balance the overall experience.
So, I thought what would I do different? With Thanksgiving approaching, I thought of doing a little touch up to the classic pumpkin pie. Nothing changed in the recipe; it’s a true-to-the-heart classic pumpkin pie, made with fresh pumpkin, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. As a matter of fact I added pumpkin seeds in the dough for the crust to make it even more interesting in terms of texture.
To give it a better balance, I measured three layers of curd and 3 layers of crust in good proportion to give me an inch tall hybrid tart/cake, however you want to call it, and it turned out visually very attractive and in perfect balance of textures. It was a bit tricky to bake the pumpkin curd as a whole tray to later freeze it and cut circles of, but it was worth the effort. Not too much crust and not too much curd. With that, I added a little crystallized rosemary to bring a touch of herbal flavour which contrasted very well with the overall roundness of the pumpkin.
At the cake competition, one of the contestants had up to 6 different flavours in a single cake. As you bite into the massive layers, flavours get mixed and confused. The point I am trying to make here is that a cake doesn’t have to be the usual 3 inches tall (or sometimes ridiculously more); it can be lower, well balanced and elegant. Flavours can be limited to 2 or 3 and need to contrast each other’s. Colours can be settle, simple, yet attractive. Of course, I am not reinventing the wheel here…
A very simple crust, with a nice pumpkin filling is all you need as long as it is made with love and care. Happy Thanksgiving!
Let’s get working…
- 190 g Icing Sugar
- 300 g Butter
- 2 g Salt
- 30 g Almond Powder
- 30 g Chopped Pumpkin Seeds
- 110 g Eggs
- 500 g Cake Flour
- Mix smooth butter and icing sugar and salt
- Add the almond powder, pumpkin seeds and eggs
- Add the flour and mix into a smooth dough
- Refrigerate for 3 hours and laminate it as thin as the pumpkin seeds allow you to
- Bake at 190C for about 15 minutes, cool and optionally spray in white cocoa butter
By the way, to obtain super flat layers of dough, bake them sandwiched between two trays!
- 800 g Pumpkin Puree
- 800 g Cream (35% fat)
- 150 g White Sugar
- 150 g Brown Sugar
- 4 pcs Eggs
- A pinch of Salt
- 1 tsp Cinnamon Powder
- half tsp Ginger Powder
- half tsp Clove Powder
- Prepare an oiled baking tray and stick plastic film on the whole surface
- Mix all the ingredients into a smooth batter
- pour the batter in the tray at around 1 cm thick and bake it at 170C for about 30 minutes
- Cool the tray and freeze it
- Once frozen cut discs of pie and build the “Cake”
Alternatively, you can bake individual layers in rings to avoid wasting the pie (although it won’t be wasted!)
Crystallize fresh rosemary in egg white and sugar and allow drying for 1 or 2 days in a warm and dry place!