Published November 1, 1993.
For the best of both worlds--pumpkin pie with a smooth, delicious filling and a crisp crust- --precook both before baking.
A pumpkin pie is no more than a variation on custard pie, and it presents the baker with the same challenge--making the crust crisp while developing a filling that is firm but still tender. After baking countless pumpkin pies, we found it necessary to take a threefold approach.
The best pumpkin pie, one that combines modern techniques for a crisp crust but that has a soft, custard-type filling reminiscent of the Colonial era.
First, we began baking our crusts almost completely before filling them; that way we knew they would start out crisp. Next, we made sure that both shell and filling were hot when we assembled the pie, so the custard could begin to firm up almost immediately rather than soaking into the pastry. Finally, we baked the pie quickly, in the bottom of the oven, exposing the bottom of the crust to the most intense heat. But baking at high heat has its perils--when overbaked, custard will curdle, becoming grainy and watery. No matter what the heat level, however, curdling can be averted if the pie is taken out of the oven immediately once the center thickens to the point where it no longer sloshes but instead wiggles like gelatin when the pan is gently shaken. Residual heat finishes the cooking outside the oven. Furthermore, as with many older recipes, this recipe calls for heavy cream as well as milk and a good quantity of sugar. These ingredients not only improve the flavor but also protect the texture, as both fat and sugar serve to inhibit the curdling reaction.list of recipes