Pumpkin Pecan Praline Pie

In Britain, it is traditional to celebrate special occasions – including Christmas and weddings – with the help of a fruit cake. Although opinions are divided, it’s my experience that most people really do enjoy the rich mix of fruit, nuts and peel that has been combined with spices and soaked (usually repeatedly, over a period of weeks and even months) in alcohol. Finished with a layer of marzipan and icing, these cakes are often beautifully crafted and decorated, forming a striking showpiece – the centre of attention – in many celebrations. With this is mind, I find it difficult to understand the general consensus here in the U.S., where the glorious fruit cake is treated with ridicule. Indeed, it is almost as much of a tradition for Americans to mock “fruitcake” as it is for the British to venerate it, and it is the regular subject of – often hilarious – jokes and sketches.

From the opposite perspective – and I’m certain that I’m in the minority here – pumpkin pie has always baffled me. Quite simply, I don’t get it. The smooth purée filling has a rather uninteresting texture, a problem that is compounded by the relatively bland taste of the pumpkin. And while spices are added to improve the flavour, the result can be an overwhelming impression of cinnamon, or a product that is sometimes just too sweet. Yet I remain convinced that not all pumpkin pies are created equal, and that there must be many fabulous versions waiting to be enjoyed. In searching for something more remarkable I came across the following recipe, which appealed to me for a number of reasons. Importantly, it combines two classic American desserts – incorporating both pumpkin and pecan. The main attraction here is what the pecan mixture adds to both the texture (a satisfying crunch) and flavour (a toasted, nutty taste). Taken from a book published by America’s Test Kitchen, this is hopefully also a relatively authentic recipe, which is of consequence to me as I continue to learn about the culture and tradition of food in the U.S. It was relatively time-consuming to prepare, and I was concerned both that the pecan topping was going to sink into the pumpkin filling (fortunately this didn’t happen), and that it was going to be too sweet, but surprisingly it wasn’t. Served with fresh whipped cream it was definitely a success at our Thanksgiving celebration, and I would certainly make it again.

Recipe: Pumpkin Praline Pie

Ingredients

Pie Crust
6 ¼ oz all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
3-4 tablespoons iced water
Filling
15 oz plain pumpkin purée
5 ¼ oz dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup evaporated milk
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Topping
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
3 ⅓ oz dark brown sugar
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons agave nectar (substituted for corn syrup – but any sugar syrup should work)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Method

For the crust: Process the flour, brown sugar and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 10 1-second pulses. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl and add 3 tablespoons of the iced water, stirring the dough until it sticks together. Add the extra tablespoon of water if required. Form into a 4 inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour before rolling.

Remove from the fridge and place onto a lightly floured surface, rolling to a 12-inch circle, ⅛ inch thick. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, trim and flute the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then freeze for 20 minutes.

Heat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5. Line the chilled dough-lined pie plate with a double layer of foil and fill with pie weights. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the pie weights and foil and continue to bake until the crust is firmly set and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

For the filling: Heat the oven to 350°F / 180°C / Gas Mark 4. Mix the pumpkin, brown sugar, spices and salt in a food processor until smooth, about 1 minute. Cook the mixture in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat until thickened, about 4 minutes. Take off the heat and whisk the evaporated milk into the pumpkin mixture, then whisk in the egss and vanilla. Our into the warm pie shell and bake until the filling is puffed and cracked around the edges and the centre barely jiggles when the pie is shaken, about 35 minutes.

For the topping: While the pie is baking, combine the pecans, brown sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the sugar syrup and vanilla, using your fingers to combine. Scatter the topping evenly over the puffed filling and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake until the pecans are fragrant and the topping is bubbling around the edges, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 2 hours

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About Georgina

Originally from the South of England, I've also had homes in Australia (Canberra) and the US (Los Angeles). I've been based in the UK city of Sheffield for a couple of years now. My blog is about adventures with food - markets, ingredients, books, recipes, places I've eaten and other related experiences. It focuses on stories from Sheffield, South Yorkshire and nearby Derbyshire, as well as places farther afield.
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