I must confess to you that I used to hate pumpkin pie.
Okay, maybe hate is too strong of a verb. Still, I used to strongly dislike pumpkin pie. I turned my nose up at it during holidays in favor of apple pie, which my mom always baked at Thanksgiving as an alternative to pumpkin pie.
Part of my strong distaste for pumpkin pie during the first twenty-one years of my life developed after watching a pumpkin pie eating contest in middle school. I’ll spare you the graphic details, but the whole thing rendered the pie unappetizing for several years.
I honestly also cannot remember the last time I had pumpkin pie before the time I had it on Ryan’s 24th birthday. His 24th birthday was a big birthday: first birthday out of college, the first birthday we celebrated as a couple, and his golden birthday. After attending the Valpo Brewfest (which you should totally go to if you’re ever in northwest Indiana in September), we met up with some friends and made a campfire at Ryan’s favorite park. One of our dear friends made pumpkin pie for Ryan, and they honestly had to coax me into trying a slice of the pie.
I surprised myself that night, because I actually appreciated the taste and texture of pumpkin pie. Granted, that pumpkin pie was before I developed my full-blown obsession with all things pumpkin and squash. Since then, I’ve come a long way on pie, probably because pie is Ryan’s all-time favorite dessert and pumpkin tops the list of his favorite types of pie. We even had pumpkin pie as the groom’s cake at our wedding, and when we took the leftover slices on our honeymoon, I enjoyed plenty of slices of my own. I’m a full pumpkin pie convert now.
So for our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, pumpkin pie was the obvious choice for our dessert. The glorious thing about pumpkin pie is that, in terms of pie, it’s not terribly difficult to make. No excess juices that will totally soak the bottom crust and cause the whole thing to fall apart, as we encountered when I attempted to make a bourbon brown sugar apple pie. Pumpkin pie requires less resting time than other pies, so my complete lack of patience when it comes to food wouldn’t ruin it.
Initially, I was going to roast a sugar pumpkin to make our pumpkin pie. I was super giddy when they were giving away free sugar pumpkins at the grocery store, only to cut open the pumpkin days later and realize exactly why it was free: mold. Needless to say, that thing went straight to the trash. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, my week filled up with annual eye doctor appointments, job interviews, and seeing Mockingjay (let’s not joke that it wasn’t a priority). By the time I was done making the breads for the stuffing from scratch, brining the turkey, and preparing the pie crust, I took the lazy route and just used canned pumpkin for the pie.
Let me tell you though, if there’s a difference between canned and fresh pumpkin, you would not have guessed it from this pie. Even with canned pumpkin, this pie was incredibly delicious. Like, restrain myself from a second slice degree of delicious—and that’s a lot coming from a girl who only recently learned to like pumpkin pie.
There’s a couple of ingredients I added to traditional pumpkin pie to enhance the flavor. I used Alton Brown’s pumpkin pie recipe as a starting point for this recipe, because I’ve yet to have an Alton Brown recipe fail me. In addition to pumpkin pie spice, I added vanilla extract and a hint of ground black pepper to season the pie. Yes, you read that right—ground black pepper, like what you use to season your turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and everything savory. Pumpkin pie spice technically should include ground pepper, although most pre-mixed pumpkin pie spices and DIY pumpkin pie spice recipes now exclude it. It sounds strange, but the black pepper helps bring out the flavors of the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice.
In addition to adding some extra flavoring, I also lightened up the recipe a bit. I had underestimated how much half-and-half we would need for Thanksgiving baking and cooking so I did not purchase anymore than we usually buy for Ryan’s coffee. Then I remembered that the green bean casserole needed half-and-half as well, so I used a combination of 1% milk and half-and-half. Any type of milk will work for this, or you can revert to the original recipe and use all half-and-half. The texture of the pie with the milk and half-and-half combination was smooth and perfectly creamy.
The Best Pumpkin Pie
- One unbaked pie crust
- 15- oz pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Dash of ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup half-and-half
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Make the pie crust using your recipe of choice. Chill the dough for 1-2 hours, then roll it out and place it in a greased pie pan.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugar, eggs and egg yolk, salt, spices, and vanilla. Then add the milk and half-and-half and lightly beat until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until sides are set and the center is only slightly soft. Be sure to place a baking sheet under the pie, in case any of the filling drips.
- Cool on a cooling rack for 2 to 3 hours before serving.