Pumpkin spice is an American phenomenon. Like other quintessentially American flavours – red velvet springs to mind – it is more than simply a pudding to the Americans. Lip balms, scented candles, coffees; nothing is safe from the pumpkin spice combo. It’s actually a pretty simple combination, not too far removed from a standard mixed spice: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove, but one that so evokes autumn that for America it is virtually synonymous with the start of the season.
Many of these pumpkin spice-inspired products don’t even pretend to include pumpkin, and until 2015, the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (‘the PSL’ to its aficionados), which brought the craze to the UK, was no exception, although it does now include a token amount of pumpkin puree. But of course, pumpkin spice was made for pumpkin pie, and that’s how we’re employing it here: beating it into a custardy, pumpkin-stuffed filling encased in buttery, flakey pastry. Like many of our American culinary imports, this dish is unapologetically sweet, but it hums with the flavours of autumn, and the warmth of the eponymous spices.
This pumpkin pie is a straightforward one, which uses tinned pumpkin, rather than requiring you to roast and blitz a pumpkin yourself, but will also work well if you find yourself with an excess of scooped pumpkin flesh in pumpkin season – it also suits butternut squash if you’d rather, and if you choose not to tell, no one will be any the wiser. The pastry, as befits an all-American import, is borrowed from an American pie maker extraordinaire, Four & Twenty Blackbirds, a pie shop in Brooklyn. It’s a ‘pie crust’ pastry, flakier than shortcrust, and a little more robust.
Makes: One nine-inch pie
Takes: 30 minutes, plus chilling
Bakes: One hour 15 minutes
For the pastry
160g plain flour
½ teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons caster sugar
100ml cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
For the filling
425g tinned pumpkin puree
397g condensed milk
75g light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. To make the pastry, stir the dry ingredients together. Rub the butter through the dry mixture until most pea-sized lumps of butter remain.
2. Combine the water and vinegar, and add to the flour butter mixture one tablespoon at a time. Using a knife, mix the water through the mixture, bringing it together as a dough; you will almost certainly not need all the water, so go slowly, and stop as soon as the dough comes together. Wrap and chill for at least half an hour, but as long as overnight.
3. On a well-floured surface, roll the pastry into a 14-inch disc. Roll this disc onto your rolling pan, and then roll it out onto a 9 inch deep-dish pie plate. Using your fingertips gently manipulate and press the pastry so it sits flush against the tin. Use the overhang pastry to create a crust by folding it in on itself: you’re going for a rustic look here, so bumpy and uneven is fine!
4. Prick all over with a fork, line with ovensafe clingfilm or baking paper, and line with dry rice or baking beans. Chill for another 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake for 20 minutes, before removing the baking beans or rice and lining; the crust should be able to support itself, so leave it for another five minutes or so if it can’t. Bake for a final 10 minutes without the lining, until the interior pastry is dry, and has taken on a little colour.
6. Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C. Place all the ingredients for the filling into a large bowl, and whisk together, breaking up the eggs, until the mixture is smooth and combined. Transfer to a jug. Pour the filling into the pie filling and place in the oven for 45 minutes until the edges are puffed, and the middle jiggles rather than sloshes when moved. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least two hours before slicing and serving.