So, Thanksgiving is next week. Flights are booked. Recipes are dog-eared. Friends and family are invited. My dad will celebrate his 50th birthday. What’s on your menu this year? Wait. Don’t answer that. Not yet. What I want to know, what I really need to know, is this: could you love a pumpkin by any other name?
Melissa Clark, who has led us to many good dinners before, breaks it down. She tested nine different varieties of squash and pumpkin to find the one that’s best for pie. The champ? Butternut. Save the sugar pumpkin for Halloween carving; it’s all trick and no treat.
Butternut squash, that old reliable winter squash that is easy to peel and easy to find at the grocery store, turns into soup, roasts well, but now and forevermore, it also belongs in your pie. Clark says the taste is richer and sweeter than a pie made with regular pumpkin.
Lynne Rosetto Kasper of The Splendid Table also knows what’s up. She converted to butternut squash a while ago for its brighter taste. As for making your own purée, it’s not a big deal. This is especially easy if you roast the squash the day before you make the pie. It doesn’t require much effort and freshly puréed squash will reward you with a richer, fresher pie. For bonus points, make the pie dough ahead, too.
What about the can? You can swap in the ubiquitous Libby’s canned pumpkin if you’re pressed for time. That 100% pumpkin puree is made from Dickinson pumpkins, a variety grown exclusively for Libby’s and similar to our old familiar friend, butternut squash. The Dickinson is shaped like a pumpkin, but the skin and the flesh of the vegetable look a lot like butternut. They are related. Both come from the same species, C. moschata. No wonder this can is America’s favorite pumpkin. I’m betting you’ll love this pie made with butternut squash. The line between squash and pumpkin is blurry anyway.
A couple other things. Buy fresh nutmeg and grate it yourself. It is far better than the stuff that is already ground. You can tell just by the way it smells. If you are also working on your pie game, you’ll find some tips for crimping, etc. here: A Cozy Kitchen, Martha Stewart. I need to work on my crimping, but the pie dough I used here is easy and tastes like everything pie crust should be. It doesn’t look perfect, but like Clark says, it definitely looks homemade.
Telling Danny that I’d used butternut squash in this pie felt like telling a kid the truth about Santa. He went on and on about how I simply could not call this a pumpkin pie. He had his doubts. I let the pie bake, cool, and then we tried it. Now he’s on my side. Butternut squash is sweeter and easier to use than regular pumpkin. It belongs in your pumpkin pie. The squash can be roasted a day or two ahead and the pie dough can be made ahead as well.
This dough comes together so easily and bakes up incredibly flaky. Use it for sweet or savory pies, quiches, or galettes. Dough can also be frozen up to 3 months and thawed in the fridge overnight before using.
2 1/2 cups (320 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a stand mixer or food processor. Add the butter and combine at slow speed or pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with different sized piece of butter, including some larger pieces. Drizzle 1/4 cup ice water over the mixture. Mix or pulse until the mixture just starts to hold together. Add up to another 1/4 cup ice water, a tablespoon at a time, if the mixture is too dry.
Divide the dough in half and place each on a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap loosely with the plastic and press into a disk using a rolling pin. Refrigerate until firm, wrapped well, for 1 hour or up to 1 day.
Makes enough for one 9-inch double crust pie or 1 galette or two 9-inch single-crust pies.
Recipe from Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts.
for the pie:
a 2 1/2 to 3 pound squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (try a fresh one. it will rock your world)
a pinch ground clove
Heat oven to 400°F. Place the squash on a baking sheet, toss with olive oil to coat, and then roast until tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Stir once or twice while it cooks to keep the bottom from browning too much. Let cool and then puree in a food processor until smooth, adding a splash of water if you necessary to get it going. Squash can be roasted the day before and kept in the fridge until needed.
Heat oven to 375°F. Roll out the pie crust on a lightly floured surface to make a 12-inch circle. Carefully transfer the pie crust to a pie plate. Trim excess dough, leaving no more than 1/2 an inch hanging over the edge. Crimp edges. (I skimped on these crimping steps, but found helpful videos later. My crust was delicious and flaky— I love ya, pâte brisée! — but no beauty queen. Next time!) Prick the crust all over the bottom with a fork. Chill crust in the fridge for 30 minutes. Cover pie with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights, rice, or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Then remove foil and weights, and bake until the crust is a pale shade of gold, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool crust on a wire rack while you whip up the filling.
Heat oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups squash purée, eggs, cream, dark brown sugar, bourbon, ginger, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and clove. Pour mixture into slightly cooled pie shell. Place the pie on a large baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden and the center of the pie jiggles just slightly when the baking sheet is shaken, about 50 minutes.
Let pie cool completely before serving. Serve with whipped cream.
Serves about 8.
Adapted from Melissa Clark via The New York Times.