Spice-kissed Pumpkin Pie

Spice-kissed Pumpkin Pie Recipe

I just updated this recipe to include a quick pat-in-pan crust option. This pumpkin pie recipe was inspired by Kathy FitzHenry. Her name might not ring a bell with many of you, but few people have had a bigger impact on my cooking in the past year than Kathy. Kathy FitzHenry and her partner Bill Mc Gaughey toil away in the back of the Presidio's Officers' Club creating wonderful small-batch spice blends under the name The Occasional Gourmet (also known as Juliet Mae Spices). Kathy's dry harrisa stopped me in my tracks at the Fancy Food Show last year, and her rose petal cinnamon is my favorite secret baking ingredient. Kathy invited me to visit her at work where she showed me how she makes her vibrant, fragrant pumpkin pie spice blend. I then went on to use it in my favorite pumpkin pie made from a rich, roasted pumpkin and coconut milk base, and baked in a hazelnut-lined crust.

So, let's start at the beginning. Using good quality, freshly ground spices can transform culinary creations. The blend I made with Kathy certainly took my pumpkin pie to delicious new heights. Having command of the language of spices can give you endless ways to make your culinary creations "your own" - and that is something I'm always thinking about - how to evolve my culinary point of view. For example, it took some time but I eventually realized that I'm most excited about cooking with all those deliciously underutilized whole grains, a wide range of locally grown produce, big flavors, and plenty of texture and colors. I think spice blends are the next frontier for me and I'm curious about all the new and unexpected ways they might intersect my current cooking palette. I don't really know how it will play out yet, but that's why I bug Kathy. She has much to teach me, and she is generous with her knowledge.

pumpkin pie recipe

What makes Kathy's spice blends different from many other spice blends you might encounter is that she makes them to order in small batches. This means she grinds her spices the same day she blends and seals them. When you grind spices to order you're preserving the essential oils in the spices - which is critical. Other producers grind in bulk and use those pre-ground spices over the coming days and weeks. No good. Think about all the countries where cooks shop daily for spices, there's good reason.

When you are doing your own spice blends at home be sure to seek out whole spices that aren't tired and stale - grind them just before using if possible. You can make the same pumpkin pie spice blend we made in your own kitchen using a small blade-coffee grinder with no problem, the spice ratio and recipe is down below. Kathy likes the Braun mini-grinder for spice grinding. Or you can let Kathy do the work for you - her spice blends come in tiny, air-tight, resealable mylar bags and are available through her site if you aren't local - she has also been kind enough to offer 101 Cookbooks readers 10% off any purchase you make on The Occasional Gourmet before 12/3/07 (thank you Kathy!)...

pumpkin pie recipe

What Kathy knows about spice blends could fill volumes, but one thing in particular struck me as important. Kathy approaches blends the way a parfumeur might approach making a scent - by using bass notes, midnotes (like tumeric or coriander), and top notes (like rose petals). I was talking to her about how she goes about creating her blends and she mentioned that major spices tend to fall into five basic flavor groups:

Sweet: allspice, anise, cassia, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla

Pungent: ajowan, asafetida, caraway, cardamom, celery seed, cloves, cumin,
dill seed, fenugreek seed, galangal, ginger, juniper, licorice, mace, nigella, orris root, star anise

Tangy: amchur, barbery, black lime, caper, kokam, pomegranate, sumac, tamarind, zest

Hot: chile, horseradish, mustard, black/white pepper, wasabi

Unifying/Amalgamating: coriander seed, fennel seed, paprika, poppy seed, sesame, turmeric, fennel seed (and she notes: Who would think? But it is a wonderful bridge spice to orange)

A bit about today's pumpkin pie recipe. While many traditional pumpkin pie recipes use cream or half-and-half, I like to use coconut milk. Pumpkin and coconut milk - its perfect! And for you traditionalists who are worried about the coconut milk flavor - it isn't at all pronounced. I also make a toasted hazelnut paste and spread it across the bottom of my pie crust before baking - in addition to adding another layer of flavor, it also helps keep the crust from getting soggy. You can skip the hazelnut paste if you like. I typically use a simple pate brisee for my pie dough, but I use whole wheat pasty flour in place of all-purpose flour. I'm also going to include an alternate pat-in-pan graham cracker crust for those of you who want a quick and easy homemade crust for your pie but don't want to deal with a traditional crsut. For those of you pinched for time during the holidays - I'll note some time-saving tips in the head notes of the recipe as well. And of course, related to this post - use the best spices you can get your hands on. Thanks again Kathy and Bill for letting me spend the morning with you, I can't wait to come back and witness the curry powder coming together!

Spice-kissed Pumpkin Pie Recipe

As I mention above, freshly ground spices, make all the difference in a recipe like this. For the filling, you can also substitute roasted sweet potatoes or other roasted winter squash as the base ingredient. If you are pinched for time you can also use canned pumpkin puree (but I really prefer the flavor that comes from roasting my own). If you used canned puree, be sure it is pure, non-spiced pumpkin puree. You can certainly use a store-bought crust if you like, for a pie like this I use a standard pie dough recipe (pate brisee). I use whole wheat pastry flour in place of all-purpose flour - pictured above. Alternate crust option: you can make a simple pat-in-pan graham cracker pie crust by giving 2 cups well-crushed graham cracker crumbs, 1/3 cup melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of honey a whirl in a food processor. Then press (intensively) into a 9-inch pie pan, and proceed with filling.

You can use the filling in tarts, or for individual pies/tarts as well. I love to use deep, dark Muscovado sugar in place of standard brown sugar for its flavor, but some people are turned off by the darker color it lends to the filling.

1 pie crust (of your choice), see head notes for pat-in-pan option
2 cups hazelnuts (divided) , toasted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice blend*
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon arrowroot (or cornstarch)
1 1/2 cups of roasted pumpkin puree*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 extra large eggs PLUS one for glaze, lightly beaten
1 cup coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the middle.

Puree 1 1/2 cups of the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor until they turn into a hazelnut paste, past the 'crumble' stage. Set aside. Chop the remaining 1/2 cup of hazelnuts and set aside seperately, these will be sprinkled on top after the pie is baked.

To make the pumpkin pie filling, whisk together the brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice blend, salt, and arrowroot. Stir in the pumpkin puree, and vanilla. Now stir in the eggs and coconut milk until just combined. Set aside.

Before filling the pie crust, crumble the hazelnut paste on top of the pie dough into the pie plate, quickly and gently press it into a thin layer across the bottom creating a layer of hazlenuts that will sit between the dough and the filling. Using the last egg gently brush the decorative edges of the pie dough. Use a fork to prick the pie dough a few times to prevent air bubbles. Fill the pie crust with the filling and bake for about 50 minutes - the center of the pie should just barely jiggle when you move the pie - the edges should be set.

Let the pie cool a bit, this makes slicing less messy. Serve straight or with a dollop of bourbon-spiked, sweetenend whipped cream or creme fraiche, and a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts.

Makes one 9 or 10-inch pie.

Kathy's Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

1 tablespoon freshly ground cassia cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
scant 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger (pre ground)

Use a coffee grinder to separately grind each of the following: cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Smash the cinnamon a bit before grinding it. The spices should be powder-fine, and sifted into a bowl together. Stir in the ground ginger, and use in any recipe calling for a pumpkin pie spice blend.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

1 3 lb. sugar pie pumpkin
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Carefully cut the pumpkin into four big wedges - get rid of the stem. Scoop out the seeds and pulp (you can toast the seeds if you like), drizzle then rub the pumpkin wedges with olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt, and then bake on a baking sheet (middle rack) until tender throughout - about an hour. Scoop flesh out of the skins and puree with a hand blender or mash well by hand.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

  • That looks simply scrumptious!

    Snehal
  • Thank you so much Heidi for the SPICY info. It is really good to have and worth knowing. I love spices! This pie looks and sounds amazing. Happy thanksgiving :)

    Colleen in South Africa
  • Patsy: It would absolutely work as a baked pudding...I nearly always make my grandmother's pumpkin pie recipe that way because I love pumpkin but don't feel that strongly about pie crust. And hey, that way you can convince yourself it's healthy! A waterbath is unneccessary (in fact, I think the slightly browned/caramelized places on the edges are the best part).

    lisa
  • I had been looking for a fancied-up pumpkin pie recipe and today this appeared on my RSS - score!! Meanwhile, I have all this coconut milk I've been looking to use up! I am way too excited about the hazelnut paste addition. Thanks for another great recipe, Heidi!!

    The Flying Trapeze
  • This sounds delicious. Does anyone think it would work as a baked pudding/brulee done in ramekins and a waterbath? The crust has never been my favorite part, and now that I have wheat issues...

    patsy
  • are we sharing secrets? Kathy's dried rose petal powder is something from another place! Zow. So lovely to see you writing about her here, Heidi! I'm sure the two of you together is a sight and scent to behold. Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you for giving us so much.

    shuna fish lydon
  • Great primer on blending spices! Many thanks. I have a grinder and grind a few fresh but have never really known enough about the blending!

    Katie
  • Wow, thanks for a super-informative and inspiring post. I've been thinking a lot about spicing and flavouring lately, and it really helps to read more about blending spices. So exciting!

    hanne
  • I totally love spices, I gained an appreciation for them going through the souks in Marrakesh, the smells were unbelievable. I have bookmarked The Occasional Gourmet and will definitely order from them. Do u have any suggestions for nuts? I had a hard time finding Brazil nuts and even hazelnuts. Thanks!!!

    Jeannie
  • Heidi, you read my mind! And probably everyone else's mind this time of year. I am planning to make a Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving *tonight* and this was exactly what I needed!!!

    sugarlaw
  • love the nut base! can't wait to experiment with that! i find the flavor is even richer if you toast the spices before grinding -- Indian style. just put all of the spices to be ground into a small skillet and toast over med-low heat, shaking periodically, until they're heated through and slightly more brown. also, i find that cinnamon is easier to grind in "flat bark" style than in sticks. you can get a large bag of good, strong cinnamon in flat bark pieces for next to nothing at most Indian groceries. I will never go back to pre-ground cinnamon! The flavor difference is marked -- that sweet, fiery flavor that you get from cinnamon oil-flavored candies is available in every cinnamon recipe this way.

    chickadee
  • Heidi, I think you should add Autumn Millet Bake to your list of Thanksgiving recipes--it is definitely on mine! This pie recipe looks divine, btw.

    janek
  • Thank you for this mini-tutorial. I'll visit her online.

    tut-tut
  • Oooh, I just dribbled. The passionate use of a pallette of spices can be compared to painting a picture or writing a poem, I am sure.

    Sharyn
  • I must admit I've never had pumpkin pie, but your recipe is tempting me to try and make it myself! You are very lucky to learn from Kathy. I adore spices, and would have loved to be there with you! Hey, maybe she should organise some courses/lectures? :) I live in the UK, and unfortunately I wouldn't be able to come, but I'm sure there would be people who are interested!

    maninas: food matters
  • I must admit I've never had pumpkin pie, but your recipe is tempting me to try and make it myself! You are very lucky to learn from Kathy. I adore spices, and would have loved to be there with you! Hey, maybe she should organise some courses/lectures? :) I live in the UK, and unfortunately I wouldn't be able to come, but I'm sure there would be people who are interested!

    maninas: food matters
  • I so agree with your comparison of spices with perfumes! I always felt the same way. Blending spaces is very delicate art and I appreciate it very much. This all sound wonderful. You are so lucky to have an opportunity to learn from such a inspiring teacher!

    FreshAdriaticFish
  • There are fantastic spice blends that can be created simply by trying using different ones together, but there is always something to be said for finding the best and using it to full advantage. Will def. try adding a nut butter to the base of some of my pies. mmm ganache torte with walnut nut base.

    Joanna
  • I love what British-Australian chef Skye Gyngell does with herbs - she uses the same system of base and top note herbs, which I've found very useful in my kitchen. I hadn't seen the same system applied to spices, so Kathy's sweet/tangy/pungent/hot/unifying 'philosophy' seems very helpful. Thanks for sharing this, Heidi!

    Pille
  • I love the concept of a "bridge spice"! I was contemplating something similar recently, specifically whether shiitake broth and won ton wrappers used to make ravioli created enough of a bridge between Italian and Chinese ingredients that I could use flavorings from both cuisines in a tasteful way. Michael The Herbivoracious Blog

    Michael Natkin
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