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pumpkin and cranberry pie

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Pumpkin pie

What is it with classic holiday desserts and their Marmite quality? For the uninitiated: Marmite is the hideous (delicious) yeasty gunk(spread) that you put on your breakfast toast everyday (stay away from the farthest you can). There – that hopefully explains what ‘Marmite quality’ means.

We have the Christmas pudding. The Americans have the pumpkin pie. Both loved or hated in equal measures.

Pumpkin and cranberry pie

Christmas pudding is an over-fruited, over-boozed (yes, there is such a thing, when it comes to food) concoction which is weirdly steamed instead of baked. You then put a flame to it, probably in a weak attempt to turn it to ashes so no one has to eat it, but the flame dies smothered with fruit and booze and the pudding is thrown at the defenceless, over-turkeyed Christmas crowd.

Pumpkin pie is a strange product: delightful shortcrust pastry case ruined by the bland and sickly at the same time, vegetable (wrong on so many levels) goo. Search ‘why I hate pumpkin pie’ and you get a thousand returns. Still invariably it rides out at Thanksgiving, Halloween and festivities in between the two. They’d serve it at Christmas too if the Christmas celebrations weren’t somewhat austere in America.

A slice of pumpkin pie

But there are lovers of both too, of course, otherwise they would perish in culinary hell with tongue in aspic and syllabub. For those lovers I have tried my best featuring a baked, unboozed Christmas pudding and now zinging up the blandness of a pumpkin pie with cranberries. What do you know? It is an improvement – and marrying the festive, autumnal couple clearly produces a stable relationship.

pumpkin and cranberry pie


INGREDIENTS

  • For the crust:
  • 250g (2 cups) plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 70g (½ cup) icing sugar
  • 100g (7 tbsp.) butter, cold and diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp. crème fraiche or soured cream
  • For the cranberry layer:
  • 120g (1 cup) dried cranberries
  • 100g (scant ½ cup) orange juice
  • For the pie filling:
  • 250g (1 cup) tinned pumpkin puree
  • 70g (4 tbsp.) maple syrup
  • 70g (1/3 cup) soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves (or 5 cloves, ground)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 120ml (½ cup) evaporated milk or double cream

METHOD

Cranberries and pumpkin filling

To make the pastry, stir the icing sugar and the baking powder into the flour. Rub the butter into the mix with your fingers or an electric mixer until it resembles rough breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and the cream and mix until it just comes together. Gather it into a ball, wrap in cling film, flatten into a disc and chill for at least 30 minutes or longer – it will happily sit in the fridge overnight or freeze – defrost before processing further.

To make the pie shell, roll out the pastry into a disc to the thickness of a £1 coin – about 3mm. You can bring it back to almost room temperature, place it on a floured surface and beat with the rolling pin to even a flatter disc. Then roll it into a 30cm/12inch round. Transfer it into a 20cm/9in pie dish or a tart tin. If it breaks, just press the broken off bits back to the main pastry layer. Crimp the edges or cut the surplus. Prick it all over with a fork.  Bake it with or without baking beans: the pastry will puff up a bit more if no baking weights are used and it will be flatter and more compact if baked with pie weights – up to you; more pastry or more filling is the choice. Either way, chill the pastry for 30 minutes before baking.

Pie crust

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3. If using baking beans, scrunch up some parchment, place it in the pie dish over the pastry and pour baking beans, pie weights or simply copper and bronze coins on the parchment.  Bake for 15 minutes on the bottom oven rack, carefully remove the parchment with beans and bake for 5 minutes more, until a little coloured. Leave it in the dish on a wire rack to cool down. It will keep at room temperature overnight, if you want to bake it ahead. Keep it in the dish all the time.

To make the cranberry layer, put the dried cranberries in a small saucepan with the orange juice and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated and the cranberries are plumped up. Leave to cool.

To make the pumpkin filling, place the pumpkin puree in a large bowl, add the maple syrup and the brown sugar with the spices and stir together. Beat the eggs, whisk into the pumpkin mix and gradually whisk in the evaporated milk or cream. It should be creamy and quite runny consistency.

Filling a pumpkin pie

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3. Press the cranberries into the bottom of the pie shell, pour in the pumpkin filling and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1 hour, until set.

Cool on a wire rack before cutting. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraiche and some scattered dried cranberries.

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