Easy Pumpkin Pie

We make our pumpkin pies with kabocha - Japanese pumpkin - because it is naturally richer, sweeter and more flavorful than the canned pumpkin. Different than canned pumpkin, ours contains no added water. The sugars in canned pumpkin have been caramelized (high temperature cooking) to create the deeper color and caramel-y flavor. Kabocha doesn't need that treatment to be delicious. It is easy to roast a kabocha. You can cut it in half (either direction) and scoop out the seeds, or you can roast it whole and take out the seeds later. Whichever method, line a baking pan with aluminum foil to reduce cleanup. If you cut your pumpkin in half before baking, roast cut side down. Roast at 350° F for about an hour or until the pumpkin is soft like a baked potato. Scoop out the pumpkin pulp from the shell, discarding seeds or stringy portions. The pumpkin will have the texture of a baked sweet or white potato. Whirl the pumpkin pulp in a blender or food processor for the smoothest result.

We tend to make our pumpkin pies a bit thicker than commercial pies which can become watery. There is an acceptable range of thickness for the pumpkin custard before it is baked. The milk (or other liquid) in the recipe should be adjusted depending upon the consistency of the pumpkin. Add milk until the custard is the texture of mashed potatoes. Now add additional milk until the result is "not gloppy" but smooth. The custard should be too thick to pour and cling to the mixing spoon when the spoon is raised.

Additional flavor options include: honey or maple syrup instead of sugar, or brandy as part of the liquid, or sometimes as part of the liquid we use cold coffee. This is a very forgiving recipe. The batter can be thicker or thinner as you prefer, but the cooking times will vary accordingly. Sometimes, if there is a tail end of cream cheese, we throw that right into the batter too. Or you can make a cheesecake batter to put on the bottom of the pie plate and then a separate pumpkin layer on top of that. Layer both raw and cook only once. If the kabocha meat is fibrous, we use the blender. If the meat stirs smooth with a spoon, we just use the mixer. If we use the blender, we do it in 2 batches. Each batch contains some egg/sugar/pumpkin. Then we pour it into a large mixing bowl, make the second batch of batter, and add that to the bowl. Then we add the spices, stir in, and fill the 'shell'.

The trick to this pie is that the crust is made from gluten-free cookies - either ginger snaps or arrowroot - that are more or less whole. Generously grease a 9" pie tin and lay the cookies on the bottom in a single layer. Use broken cookie shards to fill in the major holes. You can also use some dry cereal dust if you would like to fill the minor holes. The pumpkin custard will bind the crust together. If you are using ginger snaps, break some in half to line the edge, setting the rounded side up and the cookie "tops" facing outward. You will have a scallopy result. Arrowroot cookies are less assertive and produce a side crust that is a little less decorative.

Pumpkin Custard
Amount and measure Ingredient
2 cups Freshly prepared pumpkin pulp
Up to 1 - 1/2 cups Evaporated skim milk, regular milk or your favorite cooking liquid, but not water - divided. Note: adjust the amount of liquid for proper consistency.
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup of the milk from above
6 Tablespoons Sugar - white, brown or a 50% - 50% combination. All brown sugar will yield a deeper flavor.
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1 teaspoon or more

Cinnamon - We go for "more" - perhaps an additional 1/2 teaspoon. For variety, you could use some Saigon cinnamon, but it is much stronger, so don't add as much.

1/4 teaspoon or more Nutmeg. Be a little careful because nutmeg is a strong spice.
1/2 teaspoon Powdered ginger. You can add a little extra bite by adding 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
2 whole Eggs. Alternatively for a lighter result use 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites.