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November 22, 2009

The most fabulous pumpkin pie in the universe

PumpkinPie2.jpgI woke up this morning thinking about the pumpkin pie discussion, and whether there could be a fabulous pumpkin pie. I decided if anyone could make one, it would be James Beard. Which is why I was in the basement going through my old cookbooks at 5:30 a.m.

One of my favorite cookbooks of his is Menus for Entertaining, first published in 1965. I only have it in a small paperback, and the pages are quite yellow and brittle now. Each menu is more interesting to read than the last, and the recipes are excellent (although in this day and age useless for many people because of their fat content). ...

This search also led me to Amazon just now to see if Menus for Entertaining is out of print, which indeed it is. There are, however, used copies available -- some of them staggeringly expensive. But I also found a hardcover edition "Like New" for $10, which I promptly bought.

The search for the quintessential pumpkin pie so far this morning has cost me $14. I need another cookbook like I need more leaves in my yard.

Anyway, I found a Rich Pumpkin Pie recipe under Beard's menu for Thanksgiving dinner.  In fact, I better give you the whole menu. It's quite unconventional, because he thinks cranberries interfere with the taste of the wine. It's expensive to make and elegantly simple, with a first course to have with cocktails and champagne. With the turkey and cheese courses, he suggests a fine Bordeaux, a Lascombes or Chateau Haut Brion, and a sweet sauterne for dessert:

Caviar or smoked salmon

Buttered pumpernickel or rye

Turkey with tarragon crumb and spiced sausage stuffing

Pan sauce with giblets

Mashed yellow turnips with butter



Rich pumpkin pie

Now for the pie itself. I don't know how a pumpkin pie with candied ginger and cognac would go over if any children were being served. This is obviously a most adult Thanksgiving.

2 9-inch rich pastry shells [I've always had good luck making a crust with half sweet butter, half shortening; but he gives a recipe with egg as well. EL]

2 cups mashed pumpkin (canned is "ideal")

6 eggs

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoons ground cloves

1/2 cup finely cut preserved or candied ginger

1/2 cup cognac

1/4 teaspoon mace

Fill pie shells with foil and beans and bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. Remove foil and beans. 

Place pumpkin in a bowl and make a well in center. Add lightly beaten eggs combined with the heavy cream, seasonings and ginger. Blend thoroughly. Correct the seasoning -- you may want a spicier pie. Pour into the partially baked pie shells and bake at 375 degrees till the custard is just set.

Beard serves it slightly warm with cognac-flavored, sweetened whipped cream.

(Los Angeles Times photo by Kirk McKoy)


Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:12 AM | | Comments (24)


Well--that should put everyone to sleep! Better serve it with very strong coffee.

Captcha political commentary: tonsure Mayor

Elizabeth, I've always had much better luck with Their prices are better and, because they are a front end for hundreds of book stores around the world, it is easier to find really obscure stuff.

My mother had that cookbook. Besides the pumpkin pie, that menu sounds really good. I'd miss the cranberry sauce, though.

oh my!! That sounds really tasty.

I'd like to see the tarragon crumb and spiced sausage stuffing recipe.

Captcha: barn kepler

Because we are not cooking at home this year, there will be no oyster stuffing. I have Hal to thank for that!

I've given up on pumpkin pie - nothing really matches a good pumpkin-brandy spiced cheesecake with gingersnap/walnut crust!

captcha: lots ormolu (and just in time for the holidays, too!)

I bought a fresh pumpkin at the market this morning to try Henry Hong's pie recipe from City Paper last year.

I'm not in charge of the pies for Thanksgiving, but I just wanted to see how it went. I'll report back.

I want to hear. When I made a pie from fresh pumpkin, it didn't make much difference -- at least not enough to justify the trouble. But there is something about doing it from scratch....EL

Ginger wakes up any recipie..this sounds amazing!

Captcha: moveable Morton

We're all invited, right?

cognac and candied ginger sound pretty good to me. Even without the pie!

captcha: outh hilario

Dahlink, why is it my fault that you're not cooking at home this year?

Captcha: poniards level


captcha = enuff Awreddy

Oh, Hal. I knew as soon as I posted that somebody would misread that. I was thanking you for the great recipe, not blaming your for our holiday plans!

Dahlink, I knew exactly what you meant.

Once upon a time, I had come across a top ten list of great cookbooks that included James Beard and Julie Childs among others... I thought I saw it on the NY Times website but for the life of me, I can't seem to find the list again... Any thoughts on 1) where I can find a similar list (not much luck on google) or 2) what tomes should be included?

That's an interesting question you posed, GregBWorking. I don't have such a list, but I bet this group could compile a good one.

My own view is that a good cookbook should be more than just a compilation of recipes, even excellent recipes. It should convey an understanding of the nature of the cuisine it presents, so that one knows why the ingredients are combined in a particular manner.

I know what you mean about the story that accompanies a recipe. My fave one (that I own) is "The Madison County Cookbook" (hardcover edition, 512 pages, Citadel Press).
The stories that accompany the recipes make them somehow more meaningful than a "just the facts" type cookbook!

What's all this talk about pumpkin pie, African Americans traditionally make sweet potato pie, not pumpkin

Good point, Crystal, and sweet potato pie is very tasty, too.

I wouldn't turn down a nice, big slice of either.

I love to research recipes and pumpkin pie recipes included. A couple of years ago, I tried the pp recipe on the back of Shurfine Pumpkin and have used it ever since. Ain't fancy, but a keeper(and a splash of Jack Daniels just before you pour it in the shell, makes all the difference.)

a splash of JD sounds mighty good too, ruth. ahhh, I love pumpkin pie! Although, I must say, pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin mousse are right up there too. In the savory category, pumpkin soups are awesome. I just don't know how anyone could not like pumpkin.

Lone Lady, my favorite cookbook is a fundraiser from a church that was part of an estate sale. The woman who'd owned the cookbook had written notes about the recipes and had clippings from newspaper recipes stuffed all through the book. I think you'd enjoy it too although the commentary isn't part of the "proper" cookbook.

food shill captcha - have purdue

Joyce, too funny!

My family has made that exact pumpkin pie recipe every year for more than 30 years - straight out of my Mom's copy of the James Beard cookbook.

We don't use the candied ginger and substitute ground (better texture) and kick up the spice amounts a little bit, but otherwise the same right down to the big hit of brandy.

It's absolutely fantastic, with a really rich custard and very delicate pumpkin flavor.

I'm making it at a friend's house this year, left home without my recipe, Googled James Beard brandy pumpkin pie, and found this article. Highly recommend it.

I followed the filling recipe exactly, using a nicely drinkable cognac and very finely hand-minced crystalized ginger (too sticky for a food processor). I poured it into pie shells made from the Martha Stewart recipe (very very easy if you've cold butter and a food processor). The pies were excellent and worth the added expense. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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