Pumpkin Pie

It’s always a tradition to serve pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, but too many times the crust is soggy and the filling curdles and becomes watery and grainy when baked. Perhaps you think you have made a flawless pumpkin pie, only to have it crack as it is cooling. I have been there before and it is always so irritating! Over the past few years I have tried several recipes trying to find the perfect pumpkin pie recipe. I have definitely found it with this one. :)

Silky smooth filling baked in a tender, flaky crust. The secret to the incredible flaky and tender crust is vodka. Since gluten forms readily in water, by replacing half of the water with vodka you are left with a dough that stays soft and malleable. Don’t worry about using vodka in the crust, the alcohol vaporizes in the oven. The silky smooth filling is like no other pumpkin pie I have ever tasted. The flavor is incredible. The addition of maple syrup boosts the pumpkin’s natural sweetness, while the sweet potatoes intensify the pumpkin flavor. Simmering the filling for this pie might seem like an unusual step, but the benefits are threefold; it concentrates and enhances the flavor, drives off moisture, and prevents the crust from becoming soggy by allowing the filling to firm up quickly in the oven.

The best way to judge doneness is to insert an instant-read thermometer into the center and have it register 175 degrees. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, don’t worry, just bake until the edges of pie are set and the center 2 inches of the pie look firm but jiggle slightly. I have noticed after baking this pie several times that the cooking time will vary based on how warm your crust and filling are when you put it in the oven. If you feel that the pie is not finished baking after the recommended time, just watch it closely and bake until the center 2 inches of the pie look firm but jiggle slightly. The pie finishes cooking with residual heat so it is not necessary to bake until the center is completely set. If you bake it to that point, you most likely will have a crack form as it is cooling. Serve this pie with cinnamon ice cream or whipped cream for an incredible Thanksgiving dessert.

Pumpkin Pie

Silky smooth Pumpkin Pie baked in a tender, flaky crust.

Yield: one 9-inch pie


For the Crust:

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into two pieces
2 tablespoons vodka, cold
2 tablespoons cold water

For the Filling:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon table salt


For The Pie Dough: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process 3/4 cup flour, salt, and sugar until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 pulses. Transfer mixture into medium bowl.
Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. Using a folding motion, use a rubber spatula to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten the dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on floured work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into a 9-inch pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 15 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove pie pan from refrigerator and trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
Remove pie shell from refrigertor and press a doubled 12-inch piece of aluminum foil inside the pie shell, and fold the edges of the foil to shield the fluted edges. Evenly distribute 2 cups of ceramic or metal pie weights over foil. (you can also use dried beans or pennies if you have no pie weights). Bake on rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes. Carefully, remove foil and weights by gathering sides of soil and pulling up and out. Place pie shell back into the oven and continue baking until lightly golden brown, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Remove pie plate and baking sheet from oven.
For the Filling: While pie shell is baking, whisk together cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla in a medium bowl; set aside.
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and slowly whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of spatula to press solids through strainer. Rewhisk mixture and transfer to warm prebaked pie shell. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set, the center 2 inches of the pie look firm but jiggle slightly and an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees, 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Recipe Notes:
The best way to judge doneness is with an instant-read thermometer. The center 2 inches of the pie should look firm but jiggle slightly. The pie finishes cooking with residual heat; to ensure that the filling sets, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.
To ensure accurate cooking times and a crisp crust, the filling should be added to the prebaked crust when both the crust and filling are warm.
Serve at room temperature with whipped cream.
If candied yams are unavailable, regular canned yams can be substituted.
Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor; do not substitute

Source: Cook's Illustrated, November 2008

One Year Ago: Maple Oat Pecan Scones 

21 Responses to “Pumpkin Pie”

  1. #
    jennknee — November 8, 2011 @ 11:15 am

    Wow…this is awesome. We are past our thanksgiving up North here…but this recipe is definitely saved and will be done at Christmas time when I’m home :) Your step by step instructions are great…very helpful

  2. #
    Erin — November 8, 2011 @ 11:25 am

    Wow how amazing to add vodka to the crust! Thankfully for me, my dad perfected pumpkin pie long before I ever cooked one for myself, so I have never strayed from the recipe he passed to me. However this one if different enough to give it a go!

  3. #
    Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide — November 8, 2011 @ 11:33 am

    Wow, the proof is in the pie. I love the crust idea too. Our favorite pumpkin pie recipes have used either brandy, maple syrup or loads of cream.

  4. #
    ChgoJohn — November 8, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    What a gorgeous looking pie! You’ve really nailed the best recipe for optimum results. When I make my next pumpkin pie, yours will be the recipe I follow.

  5. #
    The Teenage Taste — November 8, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

    I’m not crazy about pumpkin, but I am crazy about good homemade pumpkin pie! This looks perfect! :-)

  6. #
    Connie — November 9, 2011 @ 3:59 am

    Your pie is stunning! My mom makes them every year for Thanksgiving. I can’t wait!

  7. #
    The Café Sucré Farine — November 9, 2011 @ 7:21 am

    I learned so much from you today, I always wondered what made pumpkin pies crack, now I know! This looks fantastic! I will definitely try it out!

  8. #
    Judy — November 9, 2011 @ 11:54 am

    Christina, your pumpkin pie is simply gorgeous! Making me hungry for Thanksgiving already :)

  9. #
    Bluejellybeans — November 11, 2011 @ 5:14 am

    Great recipe!

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  11. #
    Lacy — November 14, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

    Wow!! This looks so good…vodka crust, brilliant! And the filling, delicious! I haven’t had pumpkin pie in almost a year, these pictures are killing me right now.

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  17. #
    Terri Orr — November 24, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

    We did it! I only hope they taste as great as they look on the cooling rack. But I followed the recipe and have two heaping pies with a bit of filling left over. The recipe says it yields one pie?

    • Terri Orr replied: — November 27th, 2011 @ 10:55 am

      Delicious–huge hit at the family gathering!

    • Christina replied: — November 30th, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

      I am so glad that you enjoyed the pie! :) I made one for Thanksgiving too and it was a huge hit! I have made this pie several times and sometimes have extra filling and sometimes I don’t. If I have any leftover filling I bake it without crust in another pie plate and use it to make pumpkin pie pockets or crepes!

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  19. #
    david — September 25, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

    A friend of mine thought it would be a good joke and dumped a pick-up load of pumpkins on my doorstep. I lost count at 60. Little does he know that with you help he will be getting some back: But I will leave then in the form of pies, etc…
    In todays economy I hate to see food going to waste so I will can a lot of pumpkin puree in the deep freeze and donate pies, etc… to the local shelter and food shelf. It’s a good thing I love to cook and bake.

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