Have you heard? Libby’s is anticipating a pumpkin shortage come Thanksgiving time due to heavy rainfalls that washed out pumpkin crops earlier in the season.
At least, so internet reports. The internet also once warned me of a banana shortage and a bacon shortage, and so far, neither of those tragedies have befallen us.
Few dishes epitomize the warm and comforting harvest foods of Thanksgiving as much as the pumpkin pie. Of course, there’s turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, fresh cranberry-orange relish, cornbread, stuffed sweet potatoes, you name it, but pumpkin pie steals the show.
Unless you count my childhood. I was never fond of pumpkin pie when I was young, so my mom made apple pies to bring over to the family meal. I’d greedily dive into the flaky double crust filled to the brim with sweet cinnamon sugar apples, and then I’d savor the leftovers for breakfast over the holiday weekend.
Okay, and now I need to make some sort of apple pie/crisp/crumble for the blog.
So, you could always have apple pie for Thanksgiving, in case this shortage does indeed rob us of our beloved sugar pumpkins. Or, you could follow this recipe for the best pumpkin pie ever – or, more appropriately, the butternut squash pie ever.
Yes, I put butternut squash into a pie. Actually, I used a butterkin squash, which is a hybrid between a sugar pumpkin and a butternut squash; for all intents and purposes, it is similar to butternut in terms of taste and texture, so let’s just call it a butternut.
I usually try to take better and more photos, but (a) pie is ridiculously difficult to photograph and (b) I’ve spent half this week under the weather because I’m impatient and imprudent and I took so many medications for my stomach that, well, I made myself feel worse for a couple of day there. I may be book smart, but I am not always the most real-life skills smart. So, you’re going to have to take my word that once you try this aromatic and rich butternut squash pie with an oat crust, you won’t go back to normal pumpkin pie.
Butternut squash provides a sweet taste, creamy texture, and vibrant orange hue to pie, thus bringing all of the desirable characteristics of pumpkin without being so, well, pumpkin-y. For all of you who aren’t seduced each fall by the siren call of pumpkin everything, this pie is for you. Butternut squash is milder, smoother, and, honestly, easier to work with.
The flaky crusts melts in your mouth with a buttery flavor, yet also offers enough structure to create a study and beautiful pie. And before you claim that pie crust exceeds your baking skills, let me tell you that pie crust overwhelmed and intimidated me until I developed this recipe, which I adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s All-Butter Pie Crust recipe.
I cheat a bit with my pie crust. Instead of meticulously crumbling the butter (and I use only butter, no shortening) by hand or brandishing a pastry cutter, I use my food processor to make pie dough. This method creates a flakier crust (and less mess, which is always a plus in my book). How? The blade of the food processor quickly chops the butter into miniscule pieces and evenly distributes it throughout the dough. There is no wasted time or transfer of heat from your hands to cause the butter to soften and melt.
Gluten is desirable in baking soft breads, chewy bagels, and fluffy muffins, but its role is less significant in pie crust. You don’t add any leavening to pie crust, so you are not creating any gas bubbles to fill the structure created by the gluten. Too much gluten can lead to a stiff, heavy crust, which is why you want to avoid using bread flour in pie crusts.
Rolled oats are naturally gluten free and, when ground, create a light, delicate, gluten-free flour. Oat flour incredibly simple to make and is ready in less than one minute: for ½ cup of oat flour, you use your food processor to finely grind a heaping ½ cup of rolled oats. This flour works wonderfully in pie crust to render a delicate and flaky crust. I used approximately a 2:1 ratio of organic all-purpose flour with freshly ground oat flour, because the crust still does need a little gluten for structure.
Here’s one final secret about this pie before I share the recipe with you: even though it tastes decadent and creamy, this is actually a lightened-up recipe. Butternut squash as such a delicious natural sweetness to it that you need only add a bit of brown sugar to the filling. I drastically cut down on the amount of cream and instead used a mere ½ cup of half and half (for an even lighter pie, you can use your choice of milk, but the final result may not be as creamy.
And since it contains a hearty serving of the fiber-full, carotenoid-rich butternut squash, that means you can practically have it for dinner, right?
Butternut Squash Pie with an Oat Crust
For the butternut squash puree
- 1 butternut squash
For the crust
- Heaping 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 to 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour*
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup cold water**
For the pie filling
- 1 3/4 cup butternut squash puree
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Dash ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup half and half
For the butternut squash puree
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. Roast for 45-60 minutes until soft. Let cool for at least one hour.
- Once cool, scoop the flesh out and discard the skins. Place the butternut squash flesh into a food processor or high-speed blender and puree for 2-3 minutes, until smooth.
For the crust
- Place 1/2 cup of water in the freezer. Grind the oats into a fine flour in the food processor, then add the flour, salt, and sugar and pulse to combine. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the food processor; pulse until a fine crumb forms. Slowly stream the cold water in while pulsing, until a smooth dough forms. Place in a container and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
- Once the dough has chilled, dust a clean surface and a rolling pin with flour and roll the dough out into a circle, using your pie pan to help you measure the exact size. Lubricate the pan with butter and transfer the dough to the pan and use a fork to crimp the edges.
For the filling
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine the butternut puree, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl and beat until well combined and smooth (1-2 minutes with a mixer, 2-3 minutes by hand). Throughly whisk in the salt, spices, and half and half. Pour onto the pie crust.
- Bake the pie for 45 minutes. It should be firmly set along the edges and slightly soft in the center when it is done (this prevents the pie from cracking).
- Remove from heat and let cool for at least three hours before serving. Store in the fridge.
*Edited to add* Since I created this recipe, I have started making the filling with 1/3-1/2 cup pure maple syrup and 1/2 cup coconut milk instead of half and half with excellent results.
Looking for more butternut squash recipes? Try these whole grain pumpkin spice butternut squash muffins, this autumn harvest pizza, or these roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes. You can also find more squash recipes in my Eat to Run e-cookbook!
Questions of the Day:
Apple pie or pumpkin pie?
Is there a type of food that you always find difficult to photograph?
What are your weekend plans? –> Good luck to everyone racing the Hartford, Chicago, and all other races this weekend!