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Two pumpkin pie questions

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I've been buying pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving for a long time now. For many years I would sit in front of the oven waiting for them to set and they never would. I'd be late for dinner every year. It took me a while to realize they set when you take them OUT of the oven, partly anyway. Plus, I'm not great at flaky American pie dough. That's why I went to French butter tarts instead. Which doesn't seem quite right with pumpkin pie.

This year I'm trying to be more frugal so I'm going to make the pies.

So, two questions:

1. What do you think of a graham cracker crumb crust. Would that burn in the time it takes to bake the pies?

2. Any tricks to getting the pies to set? Cream? More eggs? Patience? Or will taking them out of the oven do it?

(Any other tips and favorite recipes?)

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  1. re: crust, my opinion would be not to use the graham cracker crust. Although it works well with pumpkin cheesecake, I think it would be a little odd with pie and probably wouldn't work well (filling too liquidy).

    That said, although I'm a make it from scratch girl, I would say just go with a frozen pre-made crust or one of the refrigerated ones. Those come in a box in the dairy section - just unfold and press into the pan - work best if you let them come up to room temp first before unfolding. They are really not bad at all.

    re: baking. yes, be patient. Not sure what your recipe is, but pumpkin pies should be tested like a custard. I use a regular dinner knife and test the pie about halfway between the center and the edge. Once it comes out clean THERE, it is done. It will continue to set up in the center once it cools.

    also, if you post the recipe you're using, that might help figure out what's happening. Also, as i tell so many people, make sure your oven temp is accurate.

    1. I recommend doing a food-processor version of a pie crust (although I'm not averse to "boughten" pie crusts -- big time-saver). I agree that a graham cracker crust wouldn't work with the type of filling. It wouldn't hold, IMO, when you sliced the pie.

      Yes, test the pie! Many's the under- or over-cooked pie I've made in my day, and the knife test is the only thing that guarantees a good texture. That and, for heaven's sake, keep the temp at 350 or lower.

      Oh, and is there a reason you can't make the pies ahead? Pumpkin pie needs to cool to room temp to serve anyway. I've *never* made them on the day, always the day before. You can pop them in the oven for 5 minutes just before serving if you want them warmish; I prefer pumpkin pie cold.

      1. I don't know about graham cracker, but I recently made a gingersnap crust for a banana cream pie, and it was heavenly. I thought at the time that it would also be great for pumpkin pie. You're looking at basically the same ingredients in the filling (eggs, cream/milk, sugar, and vegetative pulp), so I would think that if it held up to banana cream it would also hold up to pumpkin filling. (I may even have read a recipe that recommended using it for pumpkin pie, but can't remember, since I read a lot of them. Try Google.)

        All the recipes I read for gingersnap crust said basically the same thing: 1.5 - 1.75 cups gingersnap crumbs, mixed with 4T melted butter. I used Trader Joe's triple-ginger gingersnaps. Yum!!

        Also, I agree with LauraGrace about making the pies ahead. I think that's good advice for all pies, actually. The flavors tend to be so much more delicious and melded the next day.

        1. I don't think a graham cracker crumb crust would hold up well to a traditional pumpkin pie, because the custard is so liquid-y, and because pumpkin pies take a while in the oven. If you're making a pumpkin cheesecake or pumpkin cream pie, however, graham crackers or gingersnaps would be a good choice.

          Getting the pie to set isn't hard, you just have to make sure your oven temperature is accurate, and don't go opening the oven door while they're cooking. When the timer goes off, use the knife test, but not in the center of the pie, as that will still be a little jiggly until the pie cools completely. Good luck!

          1. I don't like graham cracker crusts in general, but I think it would get soggy in a pumpkin pie. There are all kinds of recipes out there, but I think the one printed on the Libby's can is pretty foolproof.
            I use the Cooks Illustrated vodka pie crust recipe, but I believe America's Test Kitchen rated the Pillsbury pre-rolled crusts as acceptable in a pinch. Epicurious liked Whole Foods 365° Organic frozen crust. I haven't tried either, but maybe some others can offer some feedback on that subject.

            1. 1. You can of course you a graham cracker crust. I do it all the time, in fact, sometimes I'll mix in some pretzels just to add a bit of a savory taset to the crust.

              2. Just let the pie cool before you cut it into it and there should be no problem with it setting.

              Good luck and enjoy.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Agreed, graham cracker crust works well in terms of cooking, so you don't have to worry about it burning. Also if you want the filling to set better, whisk in a bit of flour or cornstarch.

                Please don't use supermarket crust for a (custard) pie, it's always too thin to stand up to the filling. Here's a recipe for a two crust pie (use to make two open faced pies). I do it all in the food processor:

                4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
                2 teaspoons salt
                3/4 (3 sticks) pound butter, frozen & diced
                1/2 cup solid shortening or lard, frozen & chopped
                2/3 cup ice water

                Put the flour and salt in a food processor; begin adding the diced butter & shortening or lard, a few pieces at a time, pulsing to lightly blend. Continue pulsing while adding the water, a tablespoon at a time, until dough just comes together. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for one hour. (Dough can be frozen & thawed). To make pies, cut disk in half & roll out to fit pie pans. Makes 2 crusts.