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Pies 102: Fillings for a single-crust pie

November 24, 2009

So, in my last post I made a pie crust (well, two of them technically) and blind-baked it before adding the fillings.

Now it’s time to fill them with something delicious and yummy! My family traditionally serves two pies on Thanksgiving: pumpkin and chocolate pecan. Pumpkin is far and away my favorite, so my pie quest this year has been in search of the best possible pumpkin pie. But I am still going to tell you about chocolate pecan pie- you just have to wait til the end of this post.

Okay, so this pumpkin pie recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen. It is a pretty fussy recipe, what with the canned yams, maple syrup, and pulsing in a food processor. However, it is mind-blowingly delicious. How delicious? I made one this weekend and it was gone in 15 hours. And people who are not related to me even told me it was the best pumpkin pie they had ever had. So if you, like me, think Thanksgiving isn’t really about the turkey but the pumpkin pie… this is YOUR pumpkin pie!

Pumpkin Pie (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated – recipe here)

Serves 8

Prep time: 30 minutes     Baking time: 45 minutes


  • 1 pre-baked pie crust of your choice, whether it’s my vodka crust or store-bought.
  • 1 cup heavy or double cream – but buy a pint so you can whip the extra!
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs + 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup (drained) canned yams – or substitute an extra 1 cup of pumpkin puree, OR 1 cup pureed sweet potatoes
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • Preheat the oven to 400F/205C.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs + yolk, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, combine the pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, spices, and salt. Simmer over medium heat, stirring often and mashing with a spoon, for 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove the pumpkin-yam mixture from the heat. (At this point I transferred the mixture to my KitchenAid, because the next part involves some mixing. You can use a hand mixer or a whisk in a really large bowl). Slowly whisk the cream-egg mixture into the pumpkin mixture. You have to go verrry slowly with this, because the hot pumpkin can cause the cool egg and milk to curdle if you dump it all in. This is important!
  • Now, transfer the whole mixture to a food processor and pulse until it is thoroughly mixed and chopped and blitzed to a creamy yummy pumpkiny custard. This is the fussy part. If you don’t have a food processor, I would not disapprove of you saying, “Screw it” and just pouring it into the pie shell. It might still have some errant strings from the yams or pumpkin, but the world will not end.
  • Pour the pumpkin custard into the pre-baked pie shell. You might have more custard than fits in the shell. I had enough to bake a second pie! But if you don’t have that much, you can also bake it in custard cups, which is almost better than a pie. Oh, and it’s a good idea to put a pan under the pie plate in case it bubbles over!
  • Bake at 400F/205C for 10 minutes. Then, reduce the oven to 300F/150C and bake for an additional 25-40 minutes. It’s done when almost the whole thing is set BUT the very middle should still be a little jiggly. Remove from the oven and it let cool for 2 to 3 hours before eating.
  • Serve with fresh whipped cream. (Oh my God PLEASE don’t use Cool Whip!)

The second pie is chocolate pecan pie. It’s very rich, so I can’t eat a lot. However, it is very easy to make. My younger brothers bake this pie to impress their girlfriends’ families. It seems to work!

Chocolate Pecan Pie (adapted from one of my dad’s recipes clipped from the newspaper)

Serves 8-10

Prep time: 15 minutes     Baking time: 40-45 minutes


  • 1 pre-baked pie crust – it’s pretty crucial to use a deep-dish pie plate for this recipe
  • 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup (golden syrup for you Brits?)
  • 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
  • In a large saucepan, combine the corn syrup, sugar, and butter and heat over medium-high until bubbly. Let boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly (and be careful since this is really, really hot). Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature-ish.
  • Place the pecans and chocolate chips in the pre-baked pie crust.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla, then add to the corn syrup mixture.
  • Pour the corn syrup mixture over the pecans and chocolate chips in the pie plate.
  • Make sure you place the pie plate on a baking sheet, as it has a very strong tendency to bubble over. Trying to pry the contents of this pie from the bottom of your oven would ruin anyone’s Thanksgiving!
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes or until set. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, or alone.

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