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Award Winning Pumpkin Pie

Award Winning Pumpkin Pie

It’s not just my family’s commendations that make this pumpkin pie award winning. This modern take on a classic was submitted into the pie category at the Chicago’s Best Baker Contest 2019, where it stood out and became one of the few award-winning desserts. It was one of 5 mouthwatering desserts I entered into the contest, earning me the overall title of Chicago’s Best Baker.

This recipe has a delicious twist that separates it from a traditional pumpkin pie. It all starts with a strong foundation, a cream cheese pie crust. It’s the best I’ve ever eaten, and my family and friends can’t seem to get enough of it either.  Though the crust is good enough to eat by itself, the real secret to this pie is ginger. I add ground ginger into the filling and ground ginger snap cookies into the pie crust. This really is the perfect dessert to share with family for Thanksgiving.  But be warned… if your family is anything like mine, there won’t be a chance for a second piece.

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Cream Cheese Pie Crust Ingredients
Ingredients for Cream Cheese Pie Crust1:
Preparing the Pie Crust Ingredients:

When making pastry dough, all ingredients should be cold to ensure a flaky texture when baked.  Place cubed butter into the freezer for 30 minutes before preparing the dough so it can freeze solid.  Also, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. 

Making the Dough:

Begin by pouring the flour mixture into the food processor and adding the cold cream cheese in 3-4 pieces.  Turn on the food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. 

Next, add the frozen butter cubes and pulse until the butter is approximately the size of a pea.  Check the mixture to ensure there are no large chunks of butter. 

Pour in the cream and vinegar and pulse until the butter is the size of small peas.  The mixture will not hold together in the food processor unless pinched.  If it forms a ball in the food processor, you have mixed it too much.

Tip out half the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap.  Use the plastic wrap to knead the mixture into a circular disc.  Do the same process with the remaining dough.  Place both discs of dough, covered with plastic wrap, into the fridge for 45 minutes. 

Roll out half of the dough on a lightly floured surface (or between two pieces of parchment paper) until it measures approximately 13-inches in diameter.  Place the pie dough in the 9-inch pie plate and gently make sure the dough is in contact with all edges of the plate without stretching the dough.  If the dough is stretched, it will shrink while baking.  Set the pie plate aside while preparing the pecans and gingersnap cookies.  The dough should be soft enough for the cookie and nut crumbs to be easily pressed into it.

Place the gingersnap cookies and pecans into a food processor and process until finely ground.  Pour the crumbs onto the dough in the pie plate.  Spread the crumbs and gently press them into an even layer using your fingers or the back of a spoon.  The crumbs should cover the bottom and about half the side of the pie crust.  Place the crust back in the fridge while preparing the filling. 

Ingredients for Pumpkin Pie Filling:
Preparing the Oven:

At least 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.  I like to do this before I start gathering and preparing the filling ingredients.  Set the rack at the lowest level in the oven. 

Making the Pumpkin Pie Filling:

Whisk together the eggs and vanilla in a small measuring cup with a pouring spout and set aside. 

Combine the milk and heavy cream in another container with a pouring spout and refrigerate until needed.

In a small saucepan, stir together the pumpkin, brown sugar, spices, and salt.  Cook the mixture until it simmers over medium heat while stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn2.  Reduce the heat to low and continue stirring for an additional 3-5 minutes or until the mixture is thick and shiny. 

Pour the mixture into the food processor and process for 1 minute.  With the motor running, add the milk and cream until fully incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, close the lid, and add the egg mixture a third at a time while the motor is running.  Mix for about 5 seconds after each addition.

Pour the pumpkin pie mixture into the pie crust and smooth the surface with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Refrigerate the pie for 30 minutes before baking.  Now is also the time to roll out the second half of the pie dough to decorate the top of the pie.  Make a cute design or simply create a decorative border.  I used a leaf cookie cutter (this one is similar to the one I used) and a silicone leaf mold to get the vein impressions on the dough.  If you don’t have a mold like mine, you can add veins with the tip of a sharp knife.  I also used a pumpkin cookie cutter and added lines for the pumpkin sections. 

Baking the Pumpkin Pie:

Place the pie on the lowest rack in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, rotate the pie and use an aluminum foil ring to cover the edges of the crust so it doesn’t burn.  Continue baking for another 20-30 minutes, or just until a knife inserted into the filling comes out almost clean.  It is likely there will be some small cracks.  If there is a large starburst crack in the middle however, the pie has been over baked.  If the pie shakes a lot as you are removing it from the oven, it needs more time. 

Award Winning Pumpkin Pie

Set the pie on a cooling rack and cool for at least 1 hour before cutting. 

This pie should be stored in the refrigerator and brought out approximately 30 minutes before serving. 

This is such an easy pumpkin pie to make when guests are coming over (like maybe for Thanksgiving) because it can all be done ahead of time. No need to worry about “day of” baking. I absolutely love this recipe and I hope you will too!

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Notes:
  1. This recipe makes enough dough for a full top and bottom crust on a 9-inch pie.  If you only want a bottom crust without decoration, you can halve the recipe.  Additionally, if you would like to use this pie crust for non-pumpkin pies (which I definitely recommend), leave out the pecans and gingersnaps.
  2. The pumpkin will stain a silicone spatula orange.  Just a heads up if you are particular about the way your spatula looks.

Award Winning Pumpkin Pie

This pumpkin pie is perfect for Thanksgiving with its deliciously spicy filling and flaky cream cheese pie crust.
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Pie Crust

  • 12 Tbsp (170g) unsalted butter, cubed and cold
  • 2⅓ cup + 1 Tbsp (290g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp (3g) salt
  • ¼ tsp (1.1g) baking powder
  • ½ cup (128g) full-fat cream cheese, cold
  • 3 Tbsp (45 ml) heavy cream, cold
  • 1 Tbsp (13 ml) apple cider vinegar, cold
  • 4 (29g) 2-inch gingersnap cookies
  • ¼ cup (25g) pecan halves

Ingredients for Pumpkin Pie Filling

  • 3 (150g) large eggs
  • ½ tsp (2.5g) vanilla extract
  • cup (161g) whole milk
  • cup (155g) heavy cream
  • 15 oz can (425g) unsweetened pumpkin
  • ¾ cup (163g) light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp (4.4g) ground ginger
  • tsp (3.3g) ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp (3g) salt

Instructions

Preparing Pie Dough Ingredients

  • Place cubed butter into the freezer for 30 minutes before preparing the dough.
  • Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Making the Dough

  • Pour cold flour mixture into the food processor, add cold cream cheese (cut in 3-4 pieces), and process until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  • Add frozen butter cubes and pulse until butter is the size of a pea.
  • Pour in cream and vinegar and pulse until butter is the size of small peas. The mixture will not hold together unless pinched.
  • Tip out half the mixture onto plastic wrap and knead until the mixture forms a circular disc. Repeat with the remaining dough. Refrigerate both discs for 45 minutes.
  • Roll out half the dough on a lightly floured surface (or between two pieces of parchment paper) to 13-inch diameter circle and place in the pie plate. Do not stretch the dough or it will shrink while baking. Leave crust out while preparing nut/cookie crumbs.
  • Place gingersnap cookies and pecans into food processor and process until finely ground.
  • Pour crumbs onto pie crust, spread crumbs, gently press crumbs into an even layer on the bottom and halfway up the sides using your fingers or the back of a spoon, and place in the fridge while preparing the filling.

Making the Pumpkin Pie Filling:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C for 45 minutes before baking the pie. Set the rack at the lowest level in the oven.
  • Whisk together the eggs and vanilla in a small measuring cup and set aside.
  • Combine the milk and heavy cream in a measuring cup and refrigerate until needed.
  • In a small saucepan, stir together the pumpkin, brown sugar, spices, and salt. Cook the mixture until it simmers over medium heat while stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and continue stirring for an additional 3-5 minutes or until mixture is thick and shiny.
  • Pour the mixture into the food processor and process for 1 minute and then add the milk and cream while still processing. Scrape down the bowl, close the lid, and add the egg mixture a third at a time while motor is running.
  • Pour mixture into pie crust, smooth the surface, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Roll out the second half of the pie crust and decorate the top of the pie.

Baking the Pie:

  • Place pie on the lowest rack in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, rotate the pie and place an aluminum foil ring to cover the edges of the crust, and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes until a knife inserted into the filling comes out almost clean.
  • Set the cooked pie on a cooling rack for at least 1 hour before cutting. Store the pie in the refrigerator and bring out approximately 30 minutes before serving.

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