Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pumpkin pie from scratch

For the readers who noticed I stopped doing a blog a day in November (did anyone notice??) I would like to say that although I was fully prepared to finish the month out, it seemed like overkill. No one was commenting and it was perhaps just too much information to take in. So, I called it quits. And now on to today's blog.

Thanksgiving is one week from tomorrow. I have a guest list of approximately 13 people and I plan on making 8 dishes. There has been a change of plan and now we are doing Thanksgiving at our apartment, which means using this kitchen:

This will be the third Thanksgiving I have prepared on Thanksgiving day (not to mention 3 others I've done at random times of the year just for the hell of it) and the second from this country, so I'm confident in my ability to pull it off even in a minuscule kitchen and with almost no culinary supplies.

What I wasn't confident about, however, was the pumpkin pie. You see, I've only made two or three pumpkin pies before, always using canned pumpkin, and I don't remember them turning out especially well. Also, canned pumpkin is not available here. Last year Katharine brought a can with her, and although Renée's friend Jen is coming this week, I thought to myself several weeks ago, "Why not try it from scratch?" (What I cannot make from scratch and what Jen will bring because there is simply NO substitute is a can of French's fried onions. Mmmmm, green bean casserole.)

Of course, this wasn't something I could try the day before and have it be a disaster, so last night I set about making my very first pumpkin pie from scratch. (I have to say, it's a much different experience baking a winter pie in a summer dress with 90% humidity making me feel gross and sticky.)

I have my Aunt Kathy's perfect pie crust recipe memorized so that wasn't a problem. I couldn't find a rolling pin at the store where I bought the pie dish so I made do:

Then it was on to the filling itself. I boiled, drained, and pureed about 4 cups of fresh pumpkin. Although I consulted several recipes I didn't follow any one and improvised to my own tastes while accounting for Argentinean ingredients. For instance, condensed milk only comes sweetened down here and I don't like very sweet pies, so I didn't add any sugar. I also really, really like a cinnamony pie so I added about twice as much cinnamon and nutmeg as most recipes called for (I did not have cloves, allspice, or ginger). I used 2 eggs instead of 3 or 4 since I like a nice dense pie, and mixed everything together:

I love that color! The filling looked and tasted delicious and had the right consistency. I even managed to make pretty pie edges which is a constant shortcoming of mine (which might have also influenced why my Halloween empanadas fell short since the concept is the same). It looked good to me, pre-oven:

Of course, then there was the matter of the oven itself. You might recall that since I can't turn the oven on I don't use it, but the pie left me no choice. Sol was on her way out the door but gave me a tutorial on turning the oven on and then turning it back on when it goes off, which it did several times. Every time I was able to turn it back on and I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself. Don't laugh.

Most recipes recommended baking for 15 minutes at 425 farenheit (210 celsius) and then 40-50 minutes at 350, but guess what, folks? Ovens here don't have temperature settings in farenheit OR celsius. It's just a nob with varying sizes of circles indicating 'hot' and 'less hot.' So, I baked for 15 minutes on 'hot' and then a full hour on 'less hot' after checking it several times. When I finally took it out, it looked perfect:
Renée came over for dinner and sangria and, after letting my orange masterpiece cool for several hours, we finally cut into it. The vanilla ice cream came from the heladería next to my apartment and the pie came from heaven itself:

My first bite was so satisfying. It was a perfect, American-style pumpkin pie and my nervous little heart swelled with pride for the second time in one night. I am not much of a baker and I hate using recipes (greatly contributing to my not being a good baker). This will be the first Thanksgiving where I make the dessert so it was sort of like the last Thanksgiving "first" I had to face.

Renée admitted to me that she was sure she'd enjoy it but never expected it to taste so much like the pies her sister makes. "No offense but I thought it would taste more... earthy" she confessed as she took a second slice.

One thing I definitely could have done - a constant issue with my pies and quiches - is make the crust thinner. Limited counterspace, no rolling pin, and a decisive lack of patience all contributed to a thick crust. I also forgot to brush the edges with egg whites but they were still flaky and delicious. For Thanksgiving I'll be sure to remember both of these things.

So, I'm one step closer to being ready for the much anticipated holiday. I would love to hear your Thanksgiving plans and what, if anything, you will be cooking. (Read: a thinly-veiled request for comments. Stop being a lurker and write something if you're a regular reader! Post anonymously if you want! It's painless and gratifying!)

Sooner or later we're going to have to figure out how and where to SEAT 13 people... but there's more than a week for such plans so, fiddle-dee-dee. I'll think about it tomorrow.


Renée said...

"... the pie came from heaven itself"

Freaking high-larious! I had another slice today after lunch. Still delish even the day after with helado. And had I known you were going to post that pic on your blog, I would have wiped the Sangria off my lips and run a comb through my hair.

ElizaBeth said...

Haha sorry, I can take it down if you want! I thought you looked adorable though, I would never hav posted a bad picture since in my family we have a strict 'don't put ugly pictures of me into the universe' rule.

Did your roommates enjoy the pie?

Anonymous said...

Scott's family will be joining mine this Thanksgiving, which is, frankly, a terrifying prospect.

Mike said...

Hello from Hillman/Columbia City! The pie sounds delicious, and I am duly impressed as a fellow non-baker. In fact, in comparison to my baking "skills," such as they are, you are an expert rivaling my grandmother! As for our plans for Turkey Day, Jenn and I are hosting the main course of a progressive dinner. The Melone/Pickrell household will be the site of appetizers, and the Helds will host dessert. The Hollimans will also be joining the group and adding goodies. So far, we have the requisite turkey and stuffing, sweet potatoes, broccoli casserole, bread pudding, and pumpkin creme brulee on the menu. The Hellcats miss you, but it sounds like you are having, and will continue to have, a wonderful time.

AmberAnda said...

Congrats on your baking experiment! I'm so glad it turned out heavenly. You have inspired me to get baking, as I have several sugar pumpkins from the farm, and need to atone for a runny pumpkin pie from last year. What I really want to make though is a bourbon pumpkin cheesecake...

Erica said...

I did miss your blog for the days it was gone! The pie looks delicious, and I'd love to have your crust recipe! Everyone complains that they are so hard to make, but I think a good tender/flakey crust can even make a sub-par pie taste good. Looking forward to more Thanksgiving dinner related posts!

On a completely unrelated note, I have friends living in your old apartment building in Philly!

Katherine said...

Your kitchen looks just like mine! Ok, my kitchen is a little bigger. Your pie is beautiful. You are so brave to use substitutions. Pies take forever to make and to think it may not turn out is an hour or so of torture. I watched a pie contest on TV last nite. the contestants had to make 4 pies in 3 hours! some of them were professionals and even they forgot some of the ingredients. Not sure why pie making is such a challenge but the consistency of the cooked filling and the crust are unknown until the END.
Anyway, have a great dinner and keep writing. I love to read your writing. Hope you are secretly writing a book. Love, Aunt Kathy

WTU said...

hey hey hey! just one thing... ES LO MÁS NUESTRA COCINA!!! there u have it, I said it :-P

AmberAnda said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that I am very happy to have been on the eating side of one of your random-date Thanksgiving feasts. Starting 2009 with bacon-wrapped turkey and homemade stuffing was awesome.

Sara said...

I love how you say you are "confident" that you can pull it off with a tiny kitchen and no supplies. I'm not. I'm hoping to get invited somewhere... Anybody? Anybody?

ElizaBeth said...

Clare - just breathe, you will get through it!

Mike - so glad to know you're reading! Your Thanksgiving plans sound awesome, please send pictures if you can. Tell Jenn and any other Hellcats I said howdy.

Erica - I hope to be in Philly in(May??) 2010. Tell your friends to be good to my building in the meantime.

Amber - no words necessary. The Thanksgiving-as-breakfast pictures are all we need.

Aunt Kathy - as if giving me your pie crust recipe weren't enough, you always share encouraging words and it gives me the warm fuzzies. Thank you.

Sara - if you fancy a pop over to BsAs you can enjoy the holiday here!

Sol - ya sabes que amo nuestra cocina!! A partir de ahora voy a tratarla con mas respeto, jajaja.