This column was originally published in the Hamilton County Herald on Oct. 28, 2014.
This past weekend, on a sunny Saturday morning, hubby and one of my sons went with me to a pumpkin patch. I wanted to get a few pumpkins to bake with, so I dragged them along.
We ended up really enjoying ourselves. The weather was perfect – the fresh morning air was invigorating – and children were running, laughing, and having all kinds of fun. Lunch at one of their favorite restaurants afterward added to the enjoyment!
And I got my pumpkins! I came home and immediately made a delicious pumpkin pie for a small group of friends. Believe me when I say it was delicious! I put a slice back for my mom, but other than that, it was gone in a matter of hours, and it got rave reviews. (No, hubby did not eat any. Pumpkin looks too much like squash to him, so he just looked at it, made a “yuk” face, and then went about his business. Some people just don’t know what they’re missing!)
This wasn’t an ordinary pumpkin pie. It was a Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie, and I topped it with spiced whipped cream and homemade Almond Brittle. Now do you believe me when I say it was delicious? This pie was as fresh and fun to make as the sunny morning spent in the pumpkin patch!
I made mine out of fresh pumpkin, and if you do the same, don’t be surprised that it’s not as orange as canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin has food coloring in it. If you use fresh pumpkin, it’s a light orange color and has more fiber content – which is one thing that makes it so good. Canned pumpkin has been strained and processed to the point that a lot of the fiber has been removed.
To use a fresh pumpkin for pies, breads, and cookies, here’s what I did: I rinsed the outside of the pumpkin very well in the sink and then cut it in half. I then scooped out the seeds. (Don’t worry much about the stringy stuff; it cooks into the pumpkin.) Next, I placed the pumpkin half in a microwave safe dish, cut side down, and added about a quarter of a cup of water. I used a deep dish pie plate; my pumpkin was just round enough to fit it perfectly.
I then covered the pumpkin with plastic wrap and placed it in the microwave. Next, I cooked it about 15 to 18 minutes (cook it until the pumpkin is very tender). When it was done, I removed the pumpkin and allowed it to cool (about five minutes). Finally, I scooped out the pulp, threw away the shell, and mashed the pumpkin by hand. (You can also place it in a food processor until it’s smooth. Don’t expect it to be as smooth as canned pumpkin – it won’t be.)
It was so easy! My half pumpkin made about two cups of pulp. If you have leftover pulp, store it in the refrigerator for another recipe. My pumpkin could have made two pies, but I made only one.
The Cream Cheese Pie recipe is from Paula Deen, although she used canned pumpkin, and the Almond Toffee and Spiced Whipped Cream is from Southern Living. (I changed them up a bit, but not much.) Enjoy!
Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups fresh pumpkin, mashed
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pre-made pie dough
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place one sheet of pre-made pie dough into a lightly buttered, nine-inch pie pan and press along the bottom and all sides. (You might have to roll it out some for it to fit properly.) Pinch and crimp the edges. Fit a piece of aluminum foil to cover the inside of the shell completely. Fill the shell up to the edges with pie weights or dried beans (about two pounds) and place it in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the foil and pie weights, and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the crust is dried out and beginning to color.
For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined. Add the eggs, half-and-half, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger, and beat until incorporated.
Pour the filling into the warm piecrust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set. Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Top the pie with spiced Whipped Cream and Almond Toffee.
Spiced Whipped Cream
2-1/2 cups of heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Beat heavy cream and spices together on medium until foamy. Gradually add powdered sugar. Whip until peaks have formed. (Do not over beat; it will turn into a nice-tasting sweet butter!)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons of butter
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds (I used sliced)
Spray a piece of parchment or wax paper with cooking spray. Set aside. Place butter and brown sugar in skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until bubbly. Add almonds. Mix in well and continue cooking until almonds are beginning to brown. Pour mixture onto parchment paper, spreading it into as thin a layer as possible. Allow to cool. Break into pieces. Sprinkle on top of whipped cream.
Kay Bona is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.