The holidays are all about homemade.
Store bought pies/cakes/cookies are perfect for when you forgot you were supposed to bring treats to your kid's class... or you're stoned and can't resist those soft sugar cookies with the puffy pink frosting and sprinkles.
Store bought has no place at a holiday gathering.
Which is why I was kind of freaking out last Wednesday night when I realized I'd committed to bringing a pumpkin pie to Thanksgiving and I had jack squat prepared.
It was either buy a Kowalski's in-store special or make my own-- something I have never done before. I'm really not much of a baker.
Randomly, we did have a whole pumpkin (thanks to Aunt Barb & her impressive garden). That, mixed with the shame of bringing a store-bought pie to Josh's parents house propelled me to cut that gourd in half, stick it in the oven for an hour and hit up the grocery store for supplies.
By the way, this all started at 9 PM.
Nothing like a deadline.
I used Andrew Zimmern's recipes for pie crust and pumpkin pie filling. This was for two reasons: it sounded easy & I had tasted the final product before and knew it was delicious.
The crust was surprisingly easy to make. Combine the ingredients and voila!
However, there were a few plot twists post-dough assemblage (aka I didn't read the recipe all the way through before I started). Apparently, you have to chill the prepped dough in the fridge for an hour. Whoopsies! Wish I would've known that earlier in the day.
Next plot twist: Apparently, there are things called pie weights. They are designed to weigh down your pie crust. News to me! I was fresh out and didn't have any of the other pantry staples people lean on when they're fresh out of pie weights, like uncooked beans or rice.
Instead, I used some rocks we found at Lake Superior.
Next, it was time to whip up the filling.
Since I'd never made a pie, let alone a pumpkin one, I wasn't sure what the filling should look like pre-cooked. Initially, I mixed all the ingredients in my Kitchen Aide mixer, but the consistency seemed too lumpy. My real-not-canned pumpkin needed help.
I dumped my lumpy filling into my Vitamix. Not sure that was the right move, but the contents came out smooth, creamy and tasted just like delicious pumpkin pie (obviously I had to try it).
I filled my par-baked crust with the pumpkin mixture and placed it in the oven for about an hour.
And then, because it was nearly 11 PM and I was feeling punchy, I took the crust scraps and excess pie filling and made the tiniest pumpkin pie ever.
That's the cutest, right?
Okay, wait one hour. Ding! Big pie's done.
I set the big pie on a cooling rack.
Then, with the tiniest spoon ever, I took a bite of the tiny pie.
It just wasn't that good.
The crust was perfect. Flaky, savory, delicious. But the filling fell flat. I love pumpkin pie, but man. The consistency was perfect, but it just lacked that distinct pumpkin spice.
Two and a half hours later and I got mediocrity. What a letdown.
Of course, I still brought the pie to Thanksgiving.
And there it sat, on a beautiful cake stand, sandwiched between a homemade apple pie with crumble top and the most beautiful GD pumpkin cheesecake I've ever laid eyes on.
As the night wound down and we all had our second round of leftovers, I looked at my pathetic pie. There was one slice missing and it was the one I'd taken for myself.
By the end of the weekend, one more piece was missing. I think it was Josh's mom taking pity on my pathetic Charlie Brown dessert.
God bless her.
My first pie was a minor failure. But that's how you learn, right?
Because I can, I asked the recipe creator himself what went wrong. His suggestion: add a dash of nutmeg. Like less than a teaspoon. Next time, I'll give it a whirl.
If there is a next time... 'cause truth be told, the store-bought pumpkin pies put mine to shame.
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