There’s nothing quite as pallid and depressing-looking as a Thanksgiving dinner store-bought pumpkin pie. And it tastes about as good as it looks. With its machine-stamped crust and thick, gummy filling it usually sits untouched on the sideboard among the crumbs of other desserts, the November equivalent of December’s fruit cake. A first-rate pumpkin pie has a crisp, buttery crust, and is filled with a lighter-than-air concoction that perfectly balances fragrant spices and the subtle earthy flavor of freshly baked pumpkin. I’ve had some wonderful pumpkin pies over the years, but none of them, alas, made by me.
I’m not a baker. Some people, my sisters and sisters-in-law among them, are born to the task. They have the same feel for dough that poets have for sound or dancers rhythm. They’ve somehow mastered the alchemy of timing and touch that goes into really great baking. But what about the rest of us? Well, I think I’ve come up with a simple solution: learn to cheat. I’ve discovered two inexpensive secret ingredients that allow someone like me who’s all thumbs around a rolling pin to create Thanksgiving’s signature dessert with very little trouble and even less time. Lean in close while I whisper this to you. The first is Libby’s canned pumpkin purée which a professional French chef I know claims is “just as good as home-made and a lot easier.” The second, courtesy of a sister-in-law who’s also a successful cookbook writer, is Pillsbury’s frozen pie crusts which are a fail-safe substitute for the time-consuming effort of creating a pâte brisée.
Here’s a simple recipe for whipping up your very own pumpkin pie using these secret ingredients. When asked by the recognized bakers in your family where you bought it, you can answer — as I plan to do — with a smile and small shrug of modesty: “I baked it myself.”
Home-made Pumpkin Pie
- 1 3/4 cups Libby’s pumpkin purée
- 1 3/4 cups sweetened condensed milk
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground clovers
1 (9-inch) Pillsbury frozen pie crust, unbaked
- Combine Libby’s pumpkin purée and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes.
- Pour into prepared Pillsbury pie crust (read directions on package).
- Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
- Reduce heat to 350 degrees; bake 50 additional minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack