Give Thanks this Year with Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving! Photo credit: Emily Novak

By guest blogger, Emily Novak, Pastry Chef at One80 Restaurant.

American, Emily Novak is Pastry Chef at One80 Restaurant, Copthorne Hotel in Wellington. She has the challenge and privilege of preparing the pumpkin pie for this year’s annual Thanksgiving lunch for the clients of the Downtown Community Ministry, one of our most special events of the year. Emily has graciously agreed to share her pumpkin pie recipe with us all – enjoy!

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As an American overseas in New Zealand, one of the things I miss most is the holidays with my family. The weather starts to cool, the leaves change colors, the holiday buzz begins to fill the air, and my whole family gets together to remember how thankful we are for the blessings we have. Good food, good family, good friends, good health. 

The Thanksgiving holiday started off as a shared meal between the Pilgrims and the Native American Indians, and has transformed quite a bit over the years. Nowadays most Thanksgiving Day traditions kick off with the Macy’s Parade- a multi hour parade featuring floats, dancers, singers, mega-sized balloons of different characters, and ending with Santa in his sleigh- and then continues on to game after game of American Football (Gridiron). However, in my family, the TV is really just background noise for everyone in the kitchen making Thanksgiving dinner. I grew up in a large family and most of our time spent together revolved around food- which is probably how I ended up as a chef. Some of my favorite memories are cooking with my parents or sharing the meal and quality time together with the people I love most.

When the American Embassy asked if I would be interested in helping create a Kiwi Thanksgiving Dinner, I was elated. The opportunity to connect with the community through food is so important to me, and I feel honored to get to share my family’s pumpkin pie recipe with my New Zealand family this holiday.

To start off the process, we need to cook down the raw pumpkin pieces. Carefully cut off portions of your pumpkin, remove the seeds, and peel away the tough rind.

Step 1: To start off the process, we need to cook down the raw pumpkin pieces. Carefully cut off portions of your pumpkin, remove the seeds, and peel away the tough rind. After you have your cleaned pumpkin pieces, chop them into roughly equal sized chunks to be roasted in the oven. Place the chunks into a pan and cover with aluminum foil. Don’t add oil or additional water to the pieces because it will change the consistency of the filling later on. Roast the pumpkin pieces in a 180°-190°c oven until they are tender (show no resistance when you push a knife or fork through them).

Once cooked, remove any extra liquid that has collected at the bottom of the pan (normally about a teaspoon or so) and blend the pumpkin into a smooth puree. Then place this puree in the fridge to cool.

While your pumpkin is roasting, we can go ahead and make the pie crust. One of the most important pieces here is that your butter is COLD. We want a flaky tender crust, and warm butter will make your dough tougher and more crumbly. You can chop your butter into 1.5cm cubes and set them in the fridge until you are ready to mix the dough. In a mixing bowl place all your dry ingredients for the crust- plain flour, salt, and caster sugar. Give this a little mix to combine all the dry ingredients before adding in your chunks of butter. 

While your pumpkin is roasting, we can go ahead and make the pie crust.Using the paddle attachment and low speed, mix the butter and dry ingredients until they form a sandy texture and there are no major chunks of butter remaining. 

After achieving this consistency, add 30-60 ml of ice cold water (warm water will melt your butter!). Add just enough water so that the dough begins to come together, and then stop your mixer. Over mixing and adding too much water will also make your crust tougher. 

Once you have your dough, make it into a flattened disk, wrap with cling film, and place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. The flour contains gluten proteins which need to relax and loosen in the cold, and it will also be easier to work with a dough that is slightly firmer.

When your pumpkin puree is cooled to at least room temperature, and your dough is resting in the fridge, we can go ahead and make the pumpkin pie filling. The process is super simple- crack you eggs and beat them slightly first. The add the rest of your ingredients to the bowl- cream, brown sugar, cinnamon (I always add extra), ground ginger, ground cloves, salt, and your pumpkin. 

Mix everything until it forms a homogenous mixture. This can then be set aside until we are ready to fill the pies.

Once the crust has rested for 20 minutes in the fridge, roll it out with a bit a of flour. Make sure the crust is rolled out large enough that it will cover the bottom and sides of the pie pan, and any left over extras can be used to make decorations. Grease the pie pan with some butter or cooking spray, and gently press the pastry dough into the pie pan. Do not “dock” the dough or poke holes in it with a fork- the filling will run through and stick. Once the dough is in the pan, you can decorate the edges with your fingers, a fork, or small cut outs of the left over dough attached with a  bit of water or egg wash. 

When your pumpkin puree is cooled to at least room temperature, and your dough is resting in the fridge, we can go ahead and make the pumpkin pie filling.Re-chill the formed empty pie crusts for another 20 minutes to again relax the gluten. Once chilled, the pie shells can be filled with the pumpkin mix and placed in a 180° oven for 20-30 minutes. The pie filling should be set, but the middle may still appear to be “wet” when fully cooked. If you are unsure, test a knife into the filling of the pie. If the crust beings to brown too quickly before the filling is set, place a strip of foil around the edge of the crust. 

After removing the pies from the oven, allow them to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge.

Once Cooled, garnish with whipped cream, ice cream, pecans, or even a little maple syrup. 

The finished result!
The finished result!

Most importantly, this dessert tastes better when shared with friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving!