by Belle Waring on November 26, 2004

My dear, dear, deluded fellow Timberteers. Pumpkin pie is not replusive. Pumpkin pie is a silken cloud of holiday deliciousness. Last night I served the full Thanksgiving dinner to 16 people, many of whom, being British or Australian or Spanish or some such nonsense, had never eaten pumpkin pie before, though they had heard of this fabled treat. To a man and woman, they all thought it was delicious. Delicious, I say! Of course, it was a totally unorthodox pie actually made of kabocha squash. I adapted this recipe from the NYT and let me tell you, it will knock your socks off.

1 kabocha squash (you could also use a small, firm, sweet variety of regular pumpkin)
10 oz (1 1/3 c) cream cheese, room temperature
1 c sugar
1/4 of a nutmeg, grated
1 1/2 t best quality garam masala
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 T bourbon
2 eggs, room temperature

7 digestive biscuits, like McVities
1/2 c macadamia nuts, toasted
1/3 c light brown sugar
grated zest of one lime
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 c unsalted butter, melted

1. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, Roast in a 350 F (175 C) oven for forty-five or so minutes, until soft. When cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh and pass through the medium disk of a food mill, or process in a food processor or blender till smooth. Measure out 2 1/2 c puree. Feed the rest to the baby; she’ll like it.

2. Finely chop the macadamia nuts. Crush the digestive biscuits (I do it in a plastic bag with a rolling pin, but if you have a food processor it would do this, and the nuts, nicely.) Mix all the crust ingredients together and press onto the bottom and sides of a glass pie dish. Bake the crust at 300 F (150 C) for 10 -15 minutes, till set and nicely browned. Let cool on rack (but leave the oven on).

3. For filling: whip cream cheese with sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat paddle attachment, or in a mixing bowl with electric beaters, till light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in puree, bourbon, spices, and salt. Add eggs, beating just to combine and scraping down the bowl. Mix thoroughly but do not over beat.

4. Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 300 F (150 C) for 40-50 minutes, until the center is just set. Cool. Some crème fraîche would not go amiss here.



Kieran Healy 11.26.04 at 1:31 am

Of course, it was a totally unorthodox pie actually made of kabocha squash.

Aha! An auxiliary hypothesis.

I am sure (I mean that literally) the pie was delicious. To be honest, I’ve been known to eat the odd slice of pumpkin pie without choking. I am not a piedealogue. It is merely my Irish, pumkin-less “habitus”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitus that drives my tastes.


fightingdem 11.26.04 at 3:46 am

Got a few complaints, huh?


johne 11.26.04 at 5:16 am

In the US, commercial pumpkin pie and canned pie filling (to pour in your own shell, perhaps with the addition of some extra spices) is usually made of other varieties of squash. The commonly available varieties of pumpkin have been bred for shape, color, and how handsome they’ll look as jack-o’lanterns.


djw 11.26.04 at 6:39 am

A properly made pumpkin pie is a glorious thing, but sweet potato pie is better, especially when comparing the cheap-and-easy versions (I’m sure Belle’s pumpkin pie kicks my sweet potato pie’s ass, but I’ll put it up against a mere mortal pumpkin pie any time).


belle waring 11.26.04 at 7:49 am

fightingdem, I scoff at your skeptical attitude! I’m telling you, it was aknowledged to be hella tasty by all! people were tearing up about the American dream and shit! and djw, sweet potato pie is indeed tasty.


Anthony 11.26.04 at 1:20 pm

OK Belle, I’ll grant that they *said* it was delicious (and what good guest wouldn’t?)
But that they all thought it? That’s a big claim.
Well, I dunno. I’ve been told a couple of times that “this is the real pumpkin pie” an still just found it a nutmeggy pile of oversweetened pumpkiny guck. I do not like it in the west. I do not like it in New York. (I do not like it on my vest. I do not like it with a fork).
That said, every time I’m offered it I still just eat it up and say yum. It seems the appropriate thing to do.


rea 11.26.04 at 2:03 pm

“I do not like it in the west. I do not like it in New York. (I do not like it on my vest. I do not like it with a fork).”

You do not like it? So you say! Try it, try it anyway! Try it and you may, I say!

(From memory, so perhaps not strictly accurate. The grandkids and I no longer even get the book before reciting the whole story, we know it so well).


Silent E 11.26.04 at 5:42 pm

Huzzah! Ample liquor and spice are essential for a good pie. I’d add the following: egg whites.

Julia Child’s recipe calls for a half-dozen fluffy whipped egg whites to be gently folded into the filling immediately prior to filling the crust. The result is very light, with a wonderfully smooth texture.


agm 11.26.04 at 11:12 pm

Those who naysay pumpkin pie are elitists smoking some good stuff. For there may indeed be wretched pumpkin pie, but to recognize this is to merely acknowledge that any dish, from sushi on down, can be rendered distasteful by culinary violence. However, my mother’s recipe, which contains no alcohol and gets made for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, is quite excellent. And that characterstic taste is supposed to contain other spices as well (nutmeg, allspice, others I’d need to check the recipe for).

That being said, my number one pie is pecan, and I find anything made with sweet potatos (except lightly-herbed fried sweet potato slices) to be quite horrid. I’m thankful that where I come from enough pecans are grown each year that they are a year-round item, not seasonal one!


David Tiley 11.27.04 at 4:22 am

Struth! What a lot of replusive pother. And so close to Xmas, when you could be making the pudding and the cake, also featured on this site earlier and in no way intrinsically implausible.

Perhaps that is why you like it. All the bits seem so antithetical, but it works. A kind of metaphor for the melting pot.


hope 11.27.04 at 5:23 am

Cream cheese? Garam masala? Bourbon? Digestive biscuits? Lime??!!

The concoction you served may have been delicious. But it was most emphatically NOT pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin pie contains pumpkin, condensed milk, spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg), egg, sugar, a smidge of salt and a couple tablespoons of flour for texture. Subbing squash for pumpkin is actually OK. All that other stuff – not OK.

Call me a purist.


Nick Fagerlund 11.28.04 at 8:37 pm

Call me a purist.

Heh… I was waiting for that post.

Y’all should see the stuff that goes into the pumpkin pies we bake when there’s vegans about.

Though Belle’s actually looks surprisingly adaptable. Vegan cream cheese (almost indistinguishable), some of that Earth Balance margarine (the only no-trans one I’ve found to be palatable and meltable), and some flax gloop and you’re good to go.


Jeremy Osner 11.29.04 at 4:27 pm

AGM — allspice is the primary ingredient in garam masala and I believe there is some nutmeg in it as well.


Jeremy Osner 11.29.04 at 4:30 pm

Oh shit, or maybe it’s cloves instead of allspice. Now I’m not sure. But either way, that essential pumpkin-pie flavor is in there.

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