Saturday, November 30, 2013

the recipe that made me a pumpkin pie convert

Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone!

I hope you all had a great time giving thanks with your family and loved ones over delicious, coma-inducing food.

I have to admit I was never a big fan of pumpkin pie. Or sweet potato pie. It may sound like a crime to those of you steeped in Thanksgiving tradition, but I only started celebrating this holiday when I moved to this country ten years ago. So I don't have a lot of memories attached to pumpkin pie. Apple pie, however, is a different story, but pumpkin pie just didn't appeal to me that much.

Until I tried this bourbon pumpkin pie from Harvest Moon Cafe , this delightful cafe and restaurant (with an attached garden herb shop) in Columbus. Since then, I've been determined to re-create it at home. A friend of mine joked, "maybe it's the bourbon?" Ha! Maybe it is. The funny thing is, I don't even like to drink (alcohol). My body just does not tolerate it well at all. I do like to use it in my cooking and baking though, as the heat allows the alcohol to evaporate, leaving behind some good flavor.

This recipe has been adapted from a couple of different recipes, including this one and this one. I use a deep pie dish for this as I like a thick crust, and also because the recipe makes a pretty good amount of filling.

This pie is insanely addictive. I even had it for breakfast. You've been warned. (Hey, pumpkin is a vegetable, right?)

breakfast of champions

Bourbon Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust and Pecan Streusel


  • Crushed/ground gingersnap cookies (about 1 ¼ cup crumbs, ground in a food processor)
  • 10-12 graham crackers (ground in a food processor) - you could also use more gingersnap cookies in place of the graham crackers, but I found that the cookies were already very sweet and I didn't want an overly sweet crust. I suggest you taste your ginger cookies first :) You'll want to end up with about 2 cups of crumbs total (gingersnaps and graham crackers combined)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • 1 ¾ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated makes a world of difference, trust me)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • a dash of allspice
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups pumpkin puree (from one 15-ounce can)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans


  • 1 cup heavy cream, whisked to medium peaks (make sure your cream is very cold when you start; I also like to keep the bowl and beaters in the fridge to keep them cold before I whip the cream)

  1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine gingersnaps, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in melted butter. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie dish (use a deep pie dish). Refrigerate for 15 minutes, then bake until the crust is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 4 tablespoons of the butter and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar with the flour and pinch into moist crumbs. Stir in the pecans.
  3. Make the filling: Bring milk, bourbon, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and whole egg with cornstarch and granulated white sugar in a medium bowl.
  4. Gradually whisk about 1/2 cup milk mixture into the egg mixture. This process of adding a small amount of a hot mixture to eggs is called tempering - instead of mixing the egg mixture directly into the hot milk (which can result in the eggs getting scrambled in the hot liquid), we need to slowly bring up the temperature of the egg mixture. Slowly add a little more (about a quarter to a half cup) of the milk, stirring to blend. Gradually whisk in remaining milk mixture. Return entire mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until bubbly, about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat. 
  5. Immediately whisk in pumpkin, stirring until no longer lumpy. Then add 1 tablespoon of butter, for good measure. Julia Child would approve.
  6. Pour the filling into the cooled gingersnap crust, smoothing the top. Sprinkle the pecan streusel evenly over top. Bake for 45 minutes, then let cool on a wire rack.
  7. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. Serve with whipped cream.   

Recipe adapted from Camille Styles and Food & Wine magazine

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