Pumpkin pie, the quintessential fall dessert that has somehow snuck its way into three holidays and I am certainly not complaining. This was/is a family favorite for us (which almost all in this series are, but this one was made the most often). My mother would make this for holidays, just because, and most importantly my sisters birthday (October babies unite). This recipe is relatively easy compared to the other recipes I’ve read (some pumpkin gymnastics people be tryin’ to pull), and it will be a showstopper, promise.
What makes this recipe so fantastic is it elevates the basic pumpkin pie recipe to something truly magnificent. I find (and so does my mom) that most pumpkin pies don’t follow cardinal pie basics. For example, with all pies you should season your crust (you should season every component while cooking, so why shouldn’t pie crust be seasoned?). Another mistake I see is under-seasoning the filling. Pumpkin ain’t got a whole lot going on, so help a brother out and season the sucker like the ‘Moooore pepper!!” lady from Alice in Wonderland. Lastly, prebake your crust. I thought this was basic cooking knowledge, but apparently not. You want to prebake your crust because the bottom will cook while the filling is cooking, but the top part of the crust that’s touching the filling will get all sorts of soggy sitting there. So prebake your crust to avoid a gross raw texture in the middle.
So beyond being insanely easy, this pie is also the perfect dessert to make the day before it’s needed (but you can eat it right out of the oven too). Thanksgiving is always crazy and I’m sure you’ve experienced something like this: You just placed the last dish in the oven and now you’re looking at dinner being done in the next hour. Everyone’s telling you they’re starving and you just want the darn thing done, but the finish line is finally on the horizon. You stand up feeling triumphant wondering how you managed to get everything into that tiny oven when you glance at the counter and see a casserole dish just sitting there, mocking you. How do we ever survive Thanksgiving? So, if Thanksgiving is as crazy for you as it is me, then it’s a relief knowing this can be cooked ahead of time and not take up any precious space. My mom makes this pie the day before and places it in the fridge overnight (covered), then pops it into the oven to warm just before serving. She actually prefers to do it this way because she says that the flavors seem to develop better overnight (I just do what she says).
Gluten-Free Crust Options
Let’s talk crust. If you’re gluten-free like me and have never delved into the horrors of pie crust, I got some survival tips and tricks.
If you are looking for a prebaked shell that’s ready to go, I like to use Wholly Wholesome’s Gluten Free 9-inch pie shells. They are tasty, flaky and the price is pretty good. Plus, you can defrost them slightly, and then pinch the edges to give it a more homecooked feel 😉 . Each package comes with two crusts, and they have a video about how to take the last crust and make it into the top crust, which is great to use for lattice, little decorations, or to add to the outer crust and make something real fancy. Also, cover the crust while baking, it will burn before the filling is finished.
Homemade Recipe and Recommendations
If you are looking to make your own pie crust from scratch, I salute you. Such a brave soul. I have tried and enjoyed this recipe for pie crust, but have a few recommendations. First, don’t forget to add some ice water (I missed this ingredient/step the first time and my crust was dry which equals crumbly and hard to shape). Second, the crust needs to be pre-baked with pie crust weights or beans to help it from rising. However, I found that only doing this step caused a raw tasting/textured crust, so I recommend prebaking while weighted, and then removing the weights and placing back into the oven to cook the crust a bit longer (5-10 minutes). Lastly, when placing the filled crust into the oven, start with covering it with a crust shield or foil. It will burn before the pie is done, so just start by covering. Bonus tip: use a vegetable peeler on the butter so you don’t have to cube it, coat in flour, and the flatten every small cube. If you find the butter melting too quick while you are holding it and peeling, place in the freezer for 15 minutes and wrap a paper towel around it as a heat shield.
You can also go crustless and make this filling in individual ramekins if you want to skip the actual horrors of gluten-free and pie crust co-existing. I would butter the ramekin, fill with filling and then cook at 350°F for 15-20 minutes (depends on ramekin size), or until there is no noticeable jiggly lake in the center (should jiggle uniformly like a very hard jello). You could also use a gluten-free graham cracker or ginger snap (storebought or homemade) crushed on top for a crust-like addition.
If you have another gluten-free pie crust recipe or product that you love, please share with me below! I’m always looking to try new things.
How to Create Easy Pie Crust Designs
If this is your first time doing any sort of crust decoration, here are my two tips to make something look like a pro. First, start with something easy. The above design in my pictures looks really nice, but in reality, it’s just 12 leaves punched out and some rather cursory veining put on, but it still looks really impressive. Secondly, copy someone else. Look up pie crust designs and find something that is manageable and try copying it. I found this picture and liked how it was all one leaf size (very easy) and how it looked like a wreath to just one side of the pie. Okay, here’s a bonus tip: if something just isn’t working move on and try something else or think of how you could simplify it. I wanted to do a braided outer crust, but it wasn’t working for me, so I abandoned the idea.
In the images used here, I used premade Wholly Wholesome 2 Pack Gluten-Free Pie Crusts for everything (not sponsored), but this should work on any crust. I first took out my bottom crust and let it defrost for 15 minutes at room temperature. I then prebaked it for 10 minutes at 350°F. I then filled the crust and followed the rest of the instructions below.
For the decorative leaves, I used the small red leaf cutter from a Wilton Gum Paste Floral set, but it seems they are no longer included in that kit. You can really use anything you like though (highly recommend a plunger cutter).
- Let the second crust in the pack defrost for 30 minutes at room temperature
- Punch out the leaves from the bottom of the crust (it’s a good thickness and you don’t need to worry about re-rolling it).
- Transfer the punched out leaves to a clean plate and begin etching the leaf veining into the leaves with a toothpick (I strongly recommend a plunger cutter where it will imprint a design while you cut, much quicker).
- Keep the crust cool and return to the freezer for 5-10 minutes to harden if they are becoming too soft. I usually make the main middle leaf vein first, then lightly make the veins shooting off by dragging from the middle leaf vein to the edge (going the other way will chip pieces of the crust away causing the design to become messy). Slowly increase the depth of the vein by scratching off a little at a time until it is the desired depth and wipe off the toothpick after each swipe. You’ll get the hang of it after your first few tries.
- Bake the leaves for 9 minutes at 350°F or until they are the same golden brown as your filled pie crust (want them to match to make it look less like you cooked them separately and just added it on).
- Once the pie and leaves are done and completely cooled, make a mock pattern on a plate, then transfer that to the pie carefully. Just gently place the leaves on (don’t press down in case you decide to move something later), and pay careful attention to the order of the layers (which leaves are on top/bottom/in the middle of two leaves for depth purposes). And you’re done!
A Passed Down Pumpkin Pie Recipe
A traditional pumpkin that is creamy, best served warm, and will be a showstopper.
See above for gluten-free pie crust recommendations and how I created my pie crust leaf design.
- Two 9-inch deep dish pie crusts
- 24oz (2 cans) evaporated milk
- 4 large eggs
- 29oz can of Libby’s Pure Pumpkin (my mom says you have to use this brand or something of high quality)
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar (lightly packed), plus a bit more for the crusts
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (plus a bit more for the crusts)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Prebake crust. Using a fork, poke holes in the bottom of each pie crust, set on a cookie sheet, and put into the preheated oven for 10 minutes to prebake. When the crusts are done, sprinkle the bottom of the crusts with a little it of brown sugar (like a teaspoon or two) and a bit of pumpkin pie spice (or just cinnamon).
3. Make filling. After the crusts have finished prebaking, start making the filling (this gives the crusts enough time to cool). In a large bowl (high sided would be best), place the eggs and evaporated milk and beat with a hand mixer (or whatever works for you) until the eggs and milk become very frothy (about 2 minutes). Gently fold in the rest of the ingredients until well incorporated (you can use the hand mixer if your bowl isn’t too full, just don’t tell my mom 😉 ).
4. Fill and cook pies. If they aren’t already, place the prebaked and seasoned crusts onto a baking sheet. Give the mix a nice stir before filling. Using a ladle, fill the pie to the edge of the crust where it begins to turn. The pie will slightly inflate while cooking, but then completely deflate when it is removed from the oven, so fill it to where you would like it to be at the end of cooking. Try not to get any filling on the outer edge of the crust, because that area of the crust will burn. Cover the crust with aluminum foil or a pie shield. Gently and carefully place the filled pies into the oven to bake for 50 minutes (up to 70-90 minutes if higher altitude). To test if the pie is done, give it a jiggle, and the whole thing should uniformly and lightly jiggle like a very stiff jello (if just the center is moving it is probably underbaked, it should just barely jiggle throughout the whole thing).
5. Create crust decorations. While the pie is cooking, you can start creating any additional crust decorations to place onto the finished pie. See above for detailed instructions.
6. Let pie cool and serve. After the pie is done cooking, let it completely cool for 30 minutes before serving. My mother prefers making this the day before, storing covered in the fridge after completely cooling, and then popping into the oven until warm when ready to eat. She says the flavors set better if left overnight and re-warmed.
7. Enjoy! Serve your pie cool or warm with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. If you made the crust decorations, add some to each slice when serving for a nice touch.
8. Storage. Let the pie completely cool before covering with plastic wrap and placing into the fridge. Enjoy within 3-5 days of the first bake.
That’s it, a super simple yet elevated and delicious pie recipe! I hope you guys enjoy it and let me know what you think in the comment below!
Have Extra Filling?
Since I use premade GF pie crusts, I can’t get them in deep dish form which leads to an excess of pie filling. We use up the extra in a few ways (of course you could half the recipe, but meh). First, you can cook it without the crust for a crustless pie/custard dessert or create a nontraditional crust from graham crackers or ginger snaps. We will also add it to french toast batter or use it to fill french toast. We have also used it as the liquid ingredients in pancake mix (there are eggs in the filling, so it works great). We haven’t come up with many other uses besides that, so if you have anything, let me know!
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*Nothing in this post is sponsored, and I have not received any type of compensation from the brands mentioned, just my honest opinion/suggestions!*