Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Different Type of Pumpkin Pie

Also known as

Baked Whole Pumpkin

I got this from a cookbook that doesn't necessarily claim its recipes are historical, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, (by Jeff Smith; published 1987) but it does say "This dish was a favorite of George Washington."  I also found a web page that lists a similar recipe from Eastern Europe.

ISBN 0-688-06347-0
Instead of your usual pumpkin puree mixed with eggs, sugar, and spices and baked in a crust, this starts with a highly-spiced egg and cream custard and bakes it inside the pumpkin.

It's great for the gluten-intolerant among us and is an unusual way to serve a holiday dessert.

(Page 177)

1 pumpkin, 5 - 7 pounds
6 whole eggs
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 brown sugar (packed)
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons butter

Cut the lid off the pumpkin just as you would for a jack-o'-lantern.  Remove the seeds and save for toasting later.

Mix the remaining ingredients together with the exception of the butter.  Fill the pumpkin with this mixture and top with the butter.  Cover with the pumpkin lid and place in a baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the mixture has set like a custard.

The butter floats!
Serve from the pumpkin at the table, scraping some of the meat from the pumpkin with each serving.  

Fresh out of the oven.

Serves 8.

My Notes
Be sure to wash the outside of the pumpkin first.

When cutting the top off the pumpkin, I recommend aiming for a wide opening to make it easier to scoop out the custard later.

Before preheating the oven, check to see where the shelf needs to be set in order to fit the pumpkin in its pan.  You don't want it hitting the top of the oven.

I put all the custard ingredients into a bowl and beat it with a whisk.  I think next time I would beat the eggs first then add the other ingredients.

The butter should be cut into small pieces and dropped onto the top of the liquid custard, where they will float.

This is truly an easy recipe to put together.  The benefit is that you don't have to mess with a pie crust!

Baked custards are typically put into cups and baked in a pan with water around them -- this moderates the heat so the eggs don't scramble.  The pumpkin does this well since the walls are so thick.

It took my 7 pound pumpkin 2 1/4 hours to get the custard set.  When the custard looks set, push a table knife into the middle of the custard and lift it out.  If it comes out clean, the custard is done.

Plan ahead!  If you don't think the whole dessert will be eaten after baking, make sure you have enough room to store the leftovers in the refrigerator.  

The Verdict
It is not pretty to look at.  In fact, my dinner guest thought perhaps it wasn't going to taste good at all, because the custard is brownish and the spices tend to float to the top, looking somewhat muddy.  Scooping it out with the pumpkin looked a little strange, too.  But we gave it an honest try.  
This does look pretty weird.
The custard is actually very tasty and delicate in texture.  It was reminiscent of flan.  I know this to be accurate for a baked custard, which many in my culture haven't had (unless they like flan) and our taste buds are accustomed to those thicker, heavier instant puddings.  This almost feels like something is "missing" in the mouth-feel because it is so delicate.

This is not visually appealing, either.
Eating the custard alone was good; eating it with the pumpkin definitely added more to the flavor.  The pumpkin alone was bland. 

We both decided the flavor was better with a light sprinkling of cinnamon sugar over the top.  Based on that, I would put in more brown sugar in the original recipe.  The Eastern European recipes recommended 3/4 cup (versus this recipe's 1/2 cup) and only use less if you had a very sweet sugar pumpkin.  I think that would be much better. 

Finally, I would not put in two tablespoons of butter on top.  I think I would use one tablespoon at most because the top of the custard was just swimming in butter, which was not appealing.

After all of these comments, how would I judge it?  Success!  It was good, just different from what I am normally used to.  The delicate texture is definitely a plus.

If I did this again, I might alter the flavor a little by either putting in brandy flavoring, rum flavoring, or vanilla extract into the custard.  Or maybe sweetening it with maple syrup.  I would also try to get a sweet sugar pumpkin rather than the run-of-the-mill Halloween pumpkin. 

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