I tried four filling recipes: Bon Appetit, Bobby Flay’s, Fine Cooking, and Libby’s. When making Libby’s I unfortunately forgot to add the sugar so it didn’t ever really have a chance. I also tried two different crusts: a vodka crust which I’ve heard many chef’s swear by (including America’s Test Kitchen), and Shirley O’ Corriher’s which involved a couple odd ingredients but she’s a baking/cooking science genius. Anyway, let’s get the show on the road here’s my results, opinions, and the recipe that I personally will be using come that glorious day us blessed American’s choose to call Thanksgiving.

First, the reviews:

Bon Appetit:

By far the best pumpkin flavor out of all four. Some have spice, some have crust, some have booze and this one tasted completely and wonderfully pumpkin. I loved it. The texture was alright, and could have been corrected with different cooking temperature/times. I’ve read that cooking pumpkin pie too hot can curdle the custard, and too cold will cause it to take forever to cook and still be undercooked in the middle. I could mess with this a bit, but seriously? I was already making 4 pies. Anyway, props for the pumpkin flavor; my taste buds give their thanks.

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2010/11/pumpkin_pie_with_pepita_nut_and_ginger_topping

Bobby Flay:

For starters the big difference in his recipe was that he strained the custard before baking. Now I honestly thought to myself, as I reluctantly held the mixing bowl in one hand and a strainer in the other, “this isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference.” Well, after some time in the oven and three other pies to compare it to, it makes a huge difference. Bobby Flay’s pie had the most incredible texture I’ve ever experienced with pumpkin pie. I think it tasted good, but to tell you the truth my mouth was too busy being caressed by this lusciously smooth experience that I’m not even sure I remember flavor. It had to be there. Right? Whatever, cheer Bobby, it’s always a pleasure when you’re in my kitchen.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/throwdown-pumpkin-pie-recipe/index.html

Fine Cooking:

Now I actually wasn’t planning on making this recipe just because I was feeling pretty good about three different styles but then my mom came in and made only one statement: “you better not have any leftover pumpkin when all this is finished.” (the partialcan had been occupying valuable fridge space a little too long apparently.) So I thought, what the hell, might as well give a recipe with a little booze in it a shot.

My review is that as far as pies go, this one was pretty alright. It did not have the traditional pumpkin pie taste anyone would expect (with the addition of rum and black pepper) but it was definitely not bad. This was actually my mom’s favorite out of the four but I wasn’t too big a fan. It tasted good, the texture was a little… grainy? but did not reflect tradition and since Thanksgiving is a holiday based on a meal made up entirely of tradition it was cut from the list. Sorry fine cooking. Sorry mom.

http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/sugar-spice-pumpkin-pie.aspx

Libby’s:

I forgot the sugar. What more can I say?

http://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/18470/LIBBYS-Famous-Pumpkin-Pie/detail.aspx

Cook’s Illustrated Vodka Pie Crust:

This crust is fantastic. That’s just how it is. I like to think of vodka as the tofu of baking: it serves it’s purpose by creating pockets in your pie crust so it’s incredibly soft and flaky without altering the flavor or overwhelming you with butter/shortening. Crusts are very difficult because they are easily over/under worked and the temperature of the butter is crucial to a successful crust; vodka makes it possible to get it right every time.

All that being said, I will use this crust for everything except pumpkin pie.

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2007/11/cooks-illustrated-foolproof-pie-dough-recipe.html

The Throwdown:

Now you might think it was just me standing around in the kitchen stuffing myself incessantly with pie muttering between mouth fulls, “I really need to have one more slice, I’m really just not sure if I remember exactly how that one tasted and of course my opinion is supreme so why should I share?” but that is not what happened.

We had family friends over and I made mini pies (in my new mini muffin tin. every baker needs one. I’m sure of it.) The men were tasked with trying one of each kind (two crusts styles, 4 different custards) and reporting their results. I also made ramekins of each of the fillings to try on my own to make sure I had the capability to do adequate testing as well.

So the votes were tallied and the winner was… Bobby Flay! That throw down Pumpkin Pie recipe managed to win yet another victory. As far as crusts go, the vodka crust was incredible but when it comes to pumpkin pie Shirley O’ Corriher knows her stuff. There were a lot of weird ingredients (i.e. instant flour… nonfat dry milk…) but it pairs so well with the pumpkin custard that it won hands down. After all this I thought the winning pie was incredible BUT not perfect. I was still dreaming of something with the delicious pumpkin flavor Bon Appetite mustered up. Convinced that BA’s recipe combined with Bobby Flay’s technique I believe I have the best pie recipe; and now so do you:

The BEST Pumpkin Pie. (take that Bobby)

Filling:

15 oz pumpkin puree
½ c dark brown sugar
2 T granulated sugar
1 T corn syrup (or light molasses)
1 T flour
1 ½ t cinnamon
¾ t ginger
¼ t cloves
¾ t pumpkin pie spice
¼ t salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
½ vanilla bean split, seeds scraped (optional)
1 ¼ c heavy cream

Crust:

1 ⅔ cups (7.7 oz) instant flour (Wondra is what I used and it is not All Purpose)
7 T plus 1 ½ tsp butter-flavored shortening, chilled
1 tsp salt
2 scant tsp nonfat dry milk powder
1 ½ tsp light corn syrup
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
¼ c plus 2 tsp water

  1. Combine pumpkin, sugars, corn syrup (or molasses), flour, spices, and salt in medium bowl with a whisk until well blended. Whisk in eggs, yolks, and vanilla bean seeds followed by cream.
  2. Strain the mixture into a separate bowl (preferably one with a pour spout) and set aside.

Now time for the crust. Get out your food processor.

NOTE: pulsing when making pastry dough’s in a food processor is essential.

  1. Place flour and shortening in food processor with the steel blade and pulse until clumpy – almost pasty.
  2. In a small bowl or measuring cup stir together salt, nonfat dry milk, corn syrup, vinegar, and water. Drizzle this into the flour mixture a little at a time pulsing as you go until the dough comes together.
  3. Roll out the dough immediately and place in the pie plate. Don’t forget to make the edges pretty.
  4. Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and continue to cook about another 30 minutes. Baking times will vary so keep an eye on it.

Explanations:

I made a few changes and I thought it might be helpful to know what they are and understand why I made them.

Dark Brown Sugar: Although I loved the flavor of Bon Appetite’s pie I thought it could use the slightest touch of rich depth that dark brown sugar adds. Dark brown sugar is merely brown sugar with more molasses in it and rather than go to the store and purchase molasses I just stepped into the pantry and up-ed the brown sugar amount; I also reduced granulated sugar to keep things balanced.

Corn Syrup: If you look at BA’s recipe, they use 1 T of light molasses which I simply did not have and didn’t want to commit to a full bottle of. This is connected with my previous alteration.

Pumpkin Pie Spice: I know it’s just all the spices I already put in but I didn’t want to add too much extra of any one so I thought I’d go with a blend. I also was shooting for a pie with “more spice” and although this recipe is booming with pumpkin flavor, the spice flavor is more subtle.

Egg Yolk and Straining: These two factors were, I suspect, the cause for the incredible texture in Bobby Flay’s pie. I think it’s important to have an equal number of eggs to egg yolks (nothing like a little fat to smooth things out) and straining really did make an incredible difference. With these two fixes I’m pretty certain any custard pie recipe could dance on your tongue.

CRUST: Shirley O’ Corriher’s crust is wonderful for a couple reasons: it’s made in a food processor which makes it super speedy and nearly effortless (at least until you start cleaning). There are a lot of weird ingredients that most pantries don’t just have on hand but my mom’s kitchen is thankfully equipped with many of those random ingredients; and since I own Shirley’s cookbook, I have many other purposes for instant flour. Lastly, this crust does not need to be refrigerated before rolling out which is a time saver and incredibly convenient for someone like me.

So, there you have it. That is the absolute best pumpkin pie recipe out there in the entire world. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Happy baking, happy eating, and best wishes no matter what your holiday season might bring.

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