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Spiced Pumpkin Pie with Meringue Topping

Serves: Makes 1 (10-inch) regular pie or 1 (9-inch) deep-dish pie, serving 10 to 12

Ingredients:

Filling:
  • 1 recipe Flaky Pie Dough (recipe follows)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg (about 20 grates on a whole nutmeg)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups (12 ounces) heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (1-¾ ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • Whipped cream, for serving


Pie Dough:
Yields one 9-inch pie crust

  • 1-¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup ice water


Meringue:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 10 tablespoons granulated sugar


Procedures:

This recipe takes an American classic to celebration status with a careful blend of spices and heavy cream, outshining the stale spice mix and evaporated milk of less enchanting recipes. Ever notice how spices clump up and don’t blend well when added to a custard? The trick is to blend them first with the eggs, whose fat helps the clumps disperse evenly, before adding any liquid to the custard mixture.

To make the dough: Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender, two knives or your fingers, cut or rub the butter into the flour mixture until the butter pieces are the size of peas. Sprinkle ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over the flour mixture. Stir and fluff the flour mixture with a fork until shaggy clumps form. Pick up the large clumps and squeeze to test for moisture. If clumps hold together, transfer them to a work surface and continue adding tablespoons of ice water and stirring.

Gather the clumps of dough together on a work surface. If the butter feels soft, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before proceeding. If the butter still feels cold, knead the dough gently 4 or 5 times. If dough falls apart, return it to the mixing bowl and sprinkle teaspoons of ice water and mix with a fork until dough holds together when squeezed.

Flatten the dough into a disk about 6 inches wide, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.

To prepare the pie shell: Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you are ready to roll it to allow it to soften slightly. Generously flour a work surface and place chilled dough disk on the flour. Dust the top of the dough with flour.

Using a rolling pin, roll chilled dough into a circle, turning and flipping the dough as needed with a bench scraper to prevent sticking, until the circle measures 14 inches wide and 1/8 inch thick.

Starting at one edge, roll the dough around the rolling pin and lay it gently on top of a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie pan. Gently press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough so it overhangs the edge of the pan by 1 inch. Fold the overhanging dough under itself around the pan edge, then crimp or form a decorative border. Chill the lined pan for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375° F and place a rack in the bottom third.

Prepare the pie shell for blind baking: Line the chilled pie shell with heavy-duty foil, pressing the foil firmly and smoothly into the crevices of the pan. Fill the pan with pie weights. Make sure the weights reach up the sides to the rim of the pan (the center does not need to be filled quite as full).

Bake the shell for 20 to 22 minutes, until the foil comes away from the dough easily (if it doesn’t, then bake another 5 to 6 minutes and check again). Remove the pan from the oven, close the oven door, and lift out the foil and weights from the shell; set them aside to cool.

Return the pan to the oven to continue baking the shell for about 10 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven, close the oven door, and check to see if any cracks have formed. If you see a crack, very gently smear a tiny bit of reserved dough over the crack to patch it—you need only enough to seal the opening. Return the pan to the oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the crust is a nice golden brown all over. Transfer to a rack and cool slightly. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F.

Make the filling: While the pie crust is baking, whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl to break them up. Add cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and salt and whisk well to blend evenly. Whisk in the cream, brown sugar, granulated sugar and pumpkin and blend well.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer directly into the tart shell and bake until the custard is set, about 30 to 40 minutes. Test by tapping the side of the pie pan—the center of the pie should look firm and move as one piece. Transfer the pie to a rack and cool completely, about 2 hours.

Make the meringue: Bring an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of the double boiler. Place the egg whites and sugar in the top of the double boiler off the heat. Set on top of the simmering water and whisk constantly (not vigorously, just enough to keep the whites moving) for 4 to 5 minutes, until the egg whites are hot to the touch and the mixture reaches 160 °F on an instant read thermometer (the mixture should look frothy, but not whipped).

Remove the whites from the heat each time you test their temperature. When they are on the heat, keep whisking to prevent scrambling. If that happens, there is no recourse and you will have to begin again, so watch carefully.

Transfer the hot egg whites to the bowl of the stand mixer. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl. Whip on high speed until the whites have cooled to room temperature, increased in volume and resemble marshmallow fluff. Spoon the meringue into the pastry bag.

Next, pipe the meringue onto the pie, starting at the outside edge of the pie and circling inward, then upward. You can choose to divide the pie in slices, adding a dollop of meringue onto each slice or pipe around the entire surface.

Gaze the meringue: Place the pie on a baking sheet, making sure nothing nearby can catch fire. Ignite a chef ’s torch and lightly glaze the meringue with the tip of the flame, rotating the baking sheet to carefully toast all the sides. The meringue will brown instantly so move quickly; don ’t hold the flame in one place for long. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving time.

Cindy Mushet and Sur La Table, The Art & Soul of Baking (Andrews McMeel)

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