Instead of making traditional pumpkin pie, this year I surprised my family on Thanksgiving with a pumpkin meringue pie! There are three elements to this pie, so I made each one on a different day. The cream cheese pastry crust is simply flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. The exquisite filling — I could not stop licking the bowl! — is made with an infused cream and pumpkin puree. The topping — that's made minutes before serving — is a classic meringue. The hardest part was rolling out the dough, but after a few emergency calls to YumSugar, it was ready to bake. For the to-die-for recipe,
Cream Cheese Pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup cream cheese (2 ounces), softened
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
3 tablespoons ice water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 quart heavy cream
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg
1 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs, separated
One 29-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin puree (3 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
4 large egg whites
- Make the crust: in a food processor, combine the flour, brown sugar and spices, if using, and pulse to mix.
- Add the cream cheese and pulse until the mixture is sandy. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
- In a small pitcher, combine the ice water with the egg, oil and vanilla and pour into the food processor; pulse until the dough just forms a ball.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into 1 large disk for a tart or 2 small disks for pies.
- Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out each disk of Cream Cheese Pastry to about 1/8 inch thick. Fit the rounds into two 10-inch glass pie plates and trim the overhang to 1-inch. Fold the overhang under the rim and crimp decoratively. Line the pie shells with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake the pie shells for 30 minutes, or until lightly colored around the edges. Remove the foil and weights and bake the shells for about 5 minutes longer, or until lightly browned and dry. Let the pie shells cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, simmer the cream with the cinnamon sticks, cloves and nutmeg over moderately low heat until reduced to 21/2 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool, then strain; discard the spices.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar with the egg yolks until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. At low speed, beat in the pumpkin puree. Gradually add the cream and beat until blended.
- In a stainless-steel bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly beat in the granulated sugar and continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy. Stir one-fourth of the beaten egg whites into the pumpkin filling to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites. Pour the filling into the pie shells and smooth the surfaces. Bake the pies for about 1 hour, or until the custard is lightly golden and just beginning to crack all over. Let the pies cool completely on racks.
- Make the Meringue Topping: in a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil; stir just until the sugar dissolves. Boil, without stirring, until the temperature registers 220° on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
- In a large stainless-steel bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until firm. Beating constantly, carefully add the hot sugar syrup to the whites in a thin steady stream; be careful not to splatter against the beaters or the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat the meringue until stiff, glossy and slightly cool.
- Preheat the broiler and position a rack 8 inches from the heat. Starting from the edge of the crust, Spoon the meringue all over the pies and spread with a spatula, making decorative dips and swirls.
- Broil the meringue for about 30 seconds, shifting the pies as necessary for even browning, serve.
Makes 2 pies.
Make ahead: the pies can be prepared through Step 5 and refrigerated overnight.