Tag Archives: pie crust

Pumpkin ricotta pie

13 Nov

There’s a reason nobody ever asks me to cook Thanksgiving dinner: I’m not wired for it. And can’t be trusted to do things the traditional way.

Let’s face it, my idea of a Thanksgiving feast isn’t so much about the bird and the stuffing and the side dishes as it is about starting things off with my mother’s manicotti (and possibly ending them with cousin Josephine’s biscotti). Not exactly what most folks expect when they gather to celebrate such a uniquely American holiday, and so I don’t blame people for keeping me away from the kitchen year after year.

Last Thanksgiving I did manage to snooker my way into the dessert portion of the festivities, by promising to bake a simple and completely traditional pumpkin pie.

“You’re not gonna screw around with it, right?” asked My Associate, understandably dubious of my intentions. “We’re talking about a straight-up, old-fashioned pumpkin pie. That’s what you’re offering to make, nothing else?”

Anticipating the woman’s resistance I had come prepared with unimpeachable evidence to prove that my motives were pure.

“Is this traditional enough for you?” said I confidently, holding in my hand an original edition of Joy of Cooking. “It’ll be by the book, I swear.”

Once given the go ahead I had every intention to follow Joy of Cooking‘s recipe to the letter, and in fact did so in every way but one: At the last minute—while no one was watching—I decided to, well, not exactly bake a straight-up old-fashioned pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

There was some very nice fresh ricotta in the fridge, you see. It was only a small amount, leftover from the batch of mom’s manicotti that I had prepared and stored away earlier in the day.

“Why not?” I muttered, looking around to see that I was indeed alone. “Nobody will even notice.”

The full list of ingredients is below but basically the deal is this: Instead of using the 2 cups of pumpkin that the recipe called for, I went with 1 1/2 cups pumpkin and that 1/2 cup ricotta in the fridge. They’re about to be spoon-mixed with the two eggs that are in the recipe.

Then the white and brown sugar and spices are mixed in.

Along with evaporated milk.

The pie crust is one that I swear by. It’s from Cook’s Illustrated and the complete recipe is below. Pour the mixture into your pie shell and bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

And there you have it, a not entirely traditional pumpkin (and ricotta) pie that’ll go along just swell with your Thanksgiving feast.

One other thing. People did notice. Who knows, they may even request the pie again this year.

Of course, I can’t promise not to mess with the recipe all over again.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

For the pie crust
From Cook’s Illustrated
NOTE: This recipe is for a double crust but only the bottom crust is needed here.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water
Directions
Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses.
Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).
Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together.

Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
 
For the filling
Adapted from the original Joy of Cooking
 
1 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin 
1/2 cup ricotta (This is the only alteration I have made. Should you be looking for Joy‘s recipe simply ditch the ricotta and go with 2 cups of pumpkin.)
1 1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
2 slightly beaten eggs
 

Beth’s famous pie crust

1 May

It’s as good as it looks, yeah.

Nobody — and I mean nobody — makes a pie crust like Beth, Queen of Bakers. Nobody that I’ve met, anyway. And I’ve met a few. There’s a reason why people are always asking for her recipe. I’d ask for it myself if I didn’t have my friend Beth around to make it for me every once in a while.

Just look at this thing! Is it the most gorgeous pie that you have ever laid eyes on or what? Inside there is ground pork and beef and lamb and lots of spices. A wonderful filling, to be sure, made expertly by my closest associate. But let’s not kid ourselves. In the matter of pies, be they savory or sweet or anywhere in between, Crust Rules! We don’t call our Bethie “Queen” for nothing.

So swell a pal is she that, whenever I am in the vicinity on pie-baking days, Beth makes sure to prepare plenty of extra dough for use in other things. My favorite extra has to be her empanadas, the tastiest, flakiest ones on this Earth. Every year she and her no-good companion Tom spend a week visiting. Lots of cooking goes on at the house, contributing to a dizzying variety of leftovers. Perfect fillings for perfect half-moon-shaped pastries. Beth freezes them for me, to enjoy after she has gone. I love this woman.

I emailed Beth a couple days back to tell her that I might be down for a visit soon. When the subject of food came up, as it so often does, I asked if she would mind sharing her recipe here. She said that would be okay.

Lucky for you.

Beth’s Famous Pie Crust
Recipe
Yields one 9-inch crust

1 ¼ cup all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp buttermilk powder (optional, but I prefer using it)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled in the freezer to make it super cold
4 tbsp rendered leaf lard, cut into small pieces and chilled (also in the freezer)
3-5 tbsp cold water with 1 tsp chilled cider vinegar added (Note: mix and chill a little extra in case you need more; chill these in the freezer also)

In a large bowl combine until evenly distributed: flour, salt, baking powder, and buttermilk powder (if using).

With a pastry cutter, cut in half of the shortening into the flour mix; then cut in the other half. The dough should look like clumpy sand. From this point on, it’s very important to handle the dough gently to avoid winding up with a tough crust.

Add the chilled water/vinegar one tbsp. at a time, mixing very gently with a fork.

When mixture will hold together into a ball (but is not wet) it is done.

Gather it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk.

Chill before rolling out and preparing the pie of your choice.

When pie is finished, make sure to give a little taste to my friend Meatball. He loves the stuff.