Thursday, 6 November 2008

Foodie weekend: Pumpkin pie

For too many years now, I've been promising to make my "traditional" Halloween pumpkin pie but not quite getting round to it.

I say traditional because although pumpkins, let alone pumpkin pie, were not part of my childhood Halloween in Scotland (or Australia, come to think of it), I did make this pie faithfully for many years when the Young Man was, well, younger (g).

This year, I thought I'd try it with the fragrant sweet spice blend instead of cinnamon. Especially since we were making the pie for a Halloween party hosted by a dear friend whose hubby is not partial to that spice. If you want to go this route, you'll probably want to double (or more) the "cinnamon" in the recipe. Just to be sure, taste it before filling your pie crust. Taste it twice or even three times if need be (g).

Given the price of butter in Japan these days, I followed my dear friend H's lead and made the pastry with half lard/half butter, with an extra pinch or two of salt to make up for the salt missing from the butter. Lard, sold in squeezable bottles here in Japan, is much easier to handle than butter, and gives a nice light crust.

I usually roll my pastry between two sheets of food wrap, which prevents it from sticking to the counter top and minimises cleanup afterwards. Double bonus!

The recipe is from a food column that Tamako Sakamoto had in the Japan Times many years ago (its seems to have ended in 1999!) . Even my photocopy is tatty round the edges and covered in stains. Evidence of many happy Halloweens past, and hopefully more to come in future.

I might not have grown up with pumpkin pie at Halloween, but fellow party-goer C, who hails from the US, pronounced the pie a success, even if it was a little light on the cinnamon (g).

Pumpkin pie

200 g plain flour
100 g butter (or 50 g butter + 50 lard + 2 extra pinches of salt)
Pinch of salt
5 tbsp cold water

300 g pumpkin, peeled weight
50 g butter
100 g sugar
2 egg yolks
150 ml heavy cream (also works with what is called "whip" in Japan)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or 1 1/2 tsp fragrant sweet spices)
1/4 tsp allspice
Dash of vanilla extract

1 Sift flour and salt in large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter (& lard, if using). Alternatively, blitz flour, salt and fat in the food processor. Stir in water and blend until dough holds together. Wrap and chill until ready to use.

2 On a lightly floured board, roll out the pastry to a 5 mm thickness. Place the pastry in a lightly buttered 21-cm round pie dish. Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork and chill 30 minutes longer.

3 Now prepare the filling. Remove seeds from the pumpkin, wash and cover with food wrap. Microwave on high until very tender. Peel with a knife while warm. Push through a sieve or smooth in a food processor (you may need to add some of the cream to keep the blades whirring).

4 Cream butter in a mixing bowl and add pumpkin, sugar, egg yolks, remaining cream, cinnamon (or sweet fragrant spices), allspice and vanilla extract. Mix well..

5 Preheat the oven to 200 C. Line the shell with two layers of aluminium foil, weighted down with beans or aluminium pie weights. Bake in the oven for 10 min. Remove the foil and beans or weights Reduce heat to 180 C and continue baking for 15-20 min until the pastry turns lightly coloured.

6 Fill the shell with pumpkin mixture. Bake for 30 min or until set.


PS I wonder if the Scottish Halloween is still homemade, with tangerines, nuts and apples the "treats" of the day like it was in my day (god that makes me feel old), or if Halloween is the same commercial "event" that is has become here in Japan?...

PPS The bottle of South African wine in the photo was a terrific foil for the pie. Especially as it provided a ready excuse for our dear hostess to regale us with tales of when she visited said winery.

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