Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More halloween food!

Well halloween and the long weekend is over, but I made the most of it and finished it off in the best way possible, which is with food! I first made pumpkin pie a few years ago, in my 3rd year of university I think. I had a friend that loved to cook and bake, just like me, and she had some great ideas. This was one of them, I don't know where her recipe came from but it was so amazing that it converted me into a promoter of adding pumpkin and spice to everything imaginable! I tried to make it here in Ireland once before and it didn't work that well but now I have the trick of working with these bland Irish pumpkins - mash them and strain all the water out! I wasn't sure if it would work but the pie turned out well so I reckon I'm on the right track. All the recipes for pumpkin stuff on the internet call for cans of pumpkin puree, or even pumpkin pie filling, spice included! This is very different to how things are done where I am from, where we generally make everything from scratch, so my recipe includes how to make your own puree, and I have included my recipe for sweet pastry as well.


Sweet Short Pastry

2 cups (300 grams) plain flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
125 grams cold butter
1 beaten egg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Cold water

If you are not using ready-made pastry then this is the first step, and can be done well in advance. You can make pastry and freeze it, or keep it in the fridge for a couple of days. You need to begin this step a couple of hours before you want pie because it must chill in the fridge for at least a half hour.

Begin by sifting the flour and icing sugar together together into a large bowl. Chop butter into small-ish cubes (about 1 cm square) and rub these into the flour with your finger-tips until it is like breadcrumbs (you can do this with a food processor if you don't want use your hands). Then add the egg and lemon juice and keep on mixing (you could do this bit with a big spoon but hands are easier). Add very small amounts of water until the mixture comes together as a dough.

Knead the dough a little to get all the last bits of flour in and form it into a ball. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least a half hour.

Pumpkin Pie
*New and improved as of 20 May 2013*

1 3/4 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin
50 grams butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 cup milk
2 beaten eggs

First, if you need to, make pumpkin puree. It is very simple and doesn't really take so long as you would think. First of all, any pumpkin that is good to eat can be used - including butternut squash. Chop your pumpkin into pieces, remove the seeds and chop the skin off. Then throw it all into a big pot, cover with water and boil until the pumpkin is soft. Drain the water away and mash the pumpkin - to get it really smooth  you will probably need to blend it. Then you are ready to begin.

Mixing the filling is really simple so turn the oven on before you start, to 220 degrees celsius - it has to be really hot to begin with to make the pastry golden.

While the pumpkin is cooking, before you continue to make your pie mixture, roll the dough out large enough to fill a pie dish, of about 22-25 cm diameter. Carefully drape the dough into the dish and trim the top (I really should have taken photos of this!). Place a layer of aluminium foil in the pastry case, and if you have dried beans or some rice you can fill the case with these for blind baking. However I had none and it works because this is not the type of pastry to rise or puff up. The foil is to keep it from getting too brown on the inside. Bake in the very hot oven for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. While the pastry is baking you can finish preparing the pie filling (the rest is really fast). I never used to blind bake, however, and it still worked out fine. The point of it is so that the pastry does not get soggy from the liquid filling.

Now, for the filling you could do it in some specific order, sifting the spices and dissolving the baking soda in heated milk - but you can actually just throw it all in the blender with the pumpkin and whizz it up until it's smooth (or use a hand-blender and a bowl). The last couple of pies I've made I blended the filling and it was so easy and fast.

Pour the filling into the prepared pastry case and carefully place in the oven. I always put a tray beneath it in case it overflows! It does rise a bit while cooking so don't fill the dish right to the brim, only about 3/4 of the way up, and if your dish is too small to fit it all like that you would be better of leaving some out than making a huge mess (as I generally do!).

Turn the oven down to 180 degrees celsius and bake for about 40 minutes (If you have not blind baked the pastry then keep it at 220 for 10 minutes, then turn it down). When it is cooked the filling will be a dark caramel colour and it will be firm all the way through, so if you give the dish a shake it will not wobble in the middle. If you insert a skewer in it will come out clean.


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