Pumpkin Pie – Budget Bytes

Georgann Dolfay

If you’re thinking about making pumpkin pie this year, I have a recipe for you that’s simple but decadent. With a few of my favorite tricks, you can produce the silkiest pie ever with ridiculously profound flavors. It’s so much better than store-bought! PS I even convinced Beth that the extra steps I take are worth it, and you know how no-nonsense she is!

The Trick To Silky Pumpkin Pie 

Yes, you can buy the cheapest pumpkin puree you can find, mix it with a few ingredients, throw it in a pie shell, and call it a day. But with a little extra work and about a dollar more, you can take your pumpkin pie to the next level. I even convinced Beth, who was totally against taking additional steps and spending extra money UNTIL she tasted my pie. If changing the mind of the Queen of Budgets and Practicality isn’t a mic-drop moment, I don’t know what is. What are the tricks for silky pumpkin pie?

  1. Use high-quality pumpkin puree instead of generic (we used Libby’s).
  2. Cook the filling to bloom the spices and intensify the flavor.
  3. Blend the filling to make it extra silky smooth.

The Best Puree For Pumpkin Pie

The type of puree you use matters. Many pumpkin purees are watery because filling a can with watered-down pumpkin is cheaper than filling it with 100% pumpkin. Many purees blend field pumpkins and squashes that are bitter and bland because they also cost less to produce. The best puree for your money’s worth will always be Libby’s. This is not an ad; it’s just the truth. Libby’s has low water content and is made with a pumpkin variety bred for deep flavor. It’s the only thing they put in the can. If you can’t spring for Libby’s, that’s OK. The following two steps will help make even the cheapest pumpkin puree taste amazing.

Cook Your Pumpkin Pie Filling

Pumpkins are watery beasts. Cooking down their puree eliminates excess liquid and deepens the pumpkin flavor. When you add spices to the pot, the spices bloom. To understand the importance of blooming, think of the moment you add garlic to a hot pan, and the smell goes from sharp to amazing. It’s the same thing with spices. If you add the spices to the puree, you might as well add the sugar. Heat develops deep caramel notes and dissolves the granules, so you don’t end up with a grainy, one-note filling. As you heat it, the puree will start to bubble and burp, and then it will transform into a glossy, fragrant mixture.

Blend Your Pumpkin Pie Filling

To get incredibly velvety pumpkin pie filling, you need to blend it. I know. I know. Nowhere on the back of the can does it mention cooking puree, much less blending it. Just trust me. Pumpkin puree isn’t silky; all you have to do is look at it. Even after cooking it down, it looks coarse. Let it cool for a few minutes, then blend until it lightens. Add the rest of your ingredients, and blend again. One taste, and I promise you’ll never go back to the traditional mix-and-dump method.

Keep The Pie Crust From Getting Soggy

Loads of folks will tell you that you must blind-bake or pre-bake your pie crust so it stays crispy when filling it with pumpkin puree. Feel free to do that if you wish, but I never do, and as you can see from the picture of the crispy, golden, flaky bottom crust above, I get great results.

My trick is to place a rack on the lowest part of the oven. Then I put a sheet pan on the rack and place a cast iron pan in it, bottom side up. (If your cast iron pan does not lay flat, just bake the pie in the pan.) I preheat for an hour. The bottom heating element supercharges the cast iron pan, which holds on to heat like you did your first hundred-dollar bill. Then I bake the pie on top of the over-turned cast iron. That heat focuses on the bottom of the pie, creating the crispiest of crusts. In addition, the sheet pan will collect any run-off juices so the oven doesn’t start to smoke.

Keep A Pumpkin Pie From Burning

The most important step you can take is to use an oven thermometer. Most ovens (I don’t care how fancy they are) aren’t calibrated. A cheap $5 oven thermometer will tell you exactly what temperature it is. If you notice that the crust or the top of the pie is browning early on, tent it with aluminum to prevent it from burning. Tenting is when you loosely place a sheet of aluminum that’s folded in half over the pie like a tent.

Overhead shot of a pumpkin pie.

Keep Pumpkin Pie From Cracking

You need to eliminate sudden temperature changes to prevent your pie from cracking. Leave the oven door closed as much as possible. Opening an oven door even for 15 seconds can change the temperature in your oven by up to 50°.

You also want to pull your pie out of the oven before it looks done. The magic of carry-over cooking will take it to the finish line. Just because the pie isn’t in direct heat doesn’t mean it stops cooking. That heat takes time to dissipate; while it dissipates, it keeps cooking your pie.

Pull the pie when the crust looks golden, and the outer ring of the pie has dulled and looks solid. The middle should still be jiggly. Not wet, but it should move like jello. Allow the pie to cool in a warm place so there’s no sudden temperature change. If your kitchen runs cold, turn the oven off and crack your oven door about 6 inches. Let the pie cool in the oven.

What To Do If Your Pumpkin Pie Cracks

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the pie gods deliver a cracked pumpkin pie. You have three choices at this point. First, you can use leftover pie dough and bake a few ornamental leaves to top the pie with. You can also top it with a few dollops of whipped cream. Or you can leave it as is. like we did. If someone dares to complain about a crack in homemade pumpkin pie, they don’t get a slice. 😉

Here’s an easy recipe for pie crust cookies: 

  • Preheat your oven to 350° and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  • Dust your work surface lightly with flour and roll out the leftover pie dough (or the store-bought pie dough) to about 1/4-inch thickness. 
  • Use a cookie cutter or a knife to cut out pieces shaped like leaves. Place the cookie on the sheet pan. 
  • Whisk an egg with a tablespoon of milk and brush the cookies lightly with the egg wash. Sprinkle the cookies lightly with sugar.
  • Bake until they are light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Allow them to cool before topping your pie with them.

Pumpkin Pie

This pumpkin pie recipe is simple but decadent. With a few of my favorite tricks, you can produce the silkiest pie with the most profound flavors.

Author: Monti – Budget Bytes

Side shot of a slice of pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream on top of it.

  • 1/2 recipe 3-Ingredient Pie Crust* ($1.17)
  • 1 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (15 oz can) ($2.79)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar ($0.22)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon ($0.12)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg ($0.04)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger ($0.03)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.04)
  • 1 cup sour cream ($1.25)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ($0.25)
  • 1 tsp vanilla ($0.58)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature ($0.87)
  • 1/4 tsp butter, for greasing ($0.04)
  • 1/4 tsp flour for dusting ($0.06)
  • 1 tsp heavy cream ($0.03)
  • Place a rack on the lowest part of your oven. Top it with a sheet pan. Place a cast iron pan, bottom side up, in the sheet pan. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Grease a pie dish with butter, dust it with flour, and place it in your freezer. Dust your work surface and roll your pie dough into a 9 x 3-inch rectangle about 1 1/2 inches thick. 

  • Place the long side of the rectangle vertically on your work surface. Fold the top short side towards the center of the rectangle so that the short edge touches the center point. Fold the bottom short side over the center so that it touches the outer edge of the top short side. Roll the dough into a 9×3 rectangle and repeat the folding process a second and a third time. Then chill your pie dough.

  • Set a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, and salt to the pot. 

  • Stir the puree constantly until it begins to thicken and sputter and becomes glossy. Remove from the heat and cool for about 10 minutes.

  • Once the filling has cooled, add it to a blender with the sour cream and milk. Process until it has lightened.

  • Add the vanilla and the eggs to the blender. Mix until the puree is velvety.

  • Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the pie dough into a circle that is 16 inches in diameter. Press the crust into the pie plate. Fold the overhanging edges of the dough under to create a thick lip. Dock the pie crust with a fork by puncturing it about 9 to 10 times. Chill the dough for 10 minutes in the freezer.

  • Crimp the edges of the pie. Add the pumpkin pie filling. Lightly brush the edges of the crust with cream.

  • Place the pie in the preheated 400° oven on top of the overturned cast iron pan—lower the temperature to 350°F. Bake until the outer edges have solidified, but the middle of the pie still has some jiggle, about 50 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool in a warm spot for at least two hours before serving, so it has time to set.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

*Make your pie crust the day before you plan on making your pie. You can also use a store-bought pie crust.

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 152kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 3gFat: 8gSodium: 164mgFiber: 1g

How to Make Pumpkin Pie – Step by Step Photos

Place a rack on the lowest part of your oven. Top it with a sheet pan. Place a cast iron pan, bottom side up, in the sheet pan. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Grease a pie dish with 1/4 tsp butter, dust it with 1/4 tsp flour, and place it in your freezer. Dust your work surface and roll your 1/2 portion of 3-Ingredient Pie Crust into a 9 x 3-inch rectangle about 1 1/2 inches thick. If you are using a store-bought crust, use a single crust, and mash it into a 9×3-inch rectangle.

Place the long side of the rectangle vertically on your work surface. Fold the top short side towards the center of the rectangle so that the short edge touches the center point. Fold the bottom short side over the center so that it touches the outer edge of the top short side. Roll the dough into a 9×3 rectangle and repeat the folding process a second and a third time. Then chill your pie dough.

Set a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add 1 3/4 cups of pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger, and 1/2 tsp salt to the pot. 

Stir the puree constantly until it begins to thicken and sputter and becomes glossy. Remove from the heat and cool for about 10 minutes.

Once the filling has cooled, add it to a blender with the 1 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup milk. Process until it has lightened.

Add the 1 tsp vanilla and the 3 large eggs to the blender. Mix until the puree is velvety.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the pie dough into a circle that is 16 inches in diameter. Roll the dough circle onto your rolling pin and unfurl it into the greased and floured pie plate. Press the dough into the pie plate. Fold the overhanging edges of the dough under to create a thick lip. Dock the pie crust with a fork by puncturing it about 9 to 10 times. Chill the dough for 10 minutes in the freezer.

Pour the filling into the pie crust. To ensure there are no bubbles in the puree, allow it to settle for a minute, and then gently pick the pie plate about an inch off the counter and drop it. Continue picking it up and dropping it gently until no more air bubbles come to the surface of the puree.
Crimp the edges of the pie. Add the pumpkin pie filling. Lightly brush the edges of the crust with 1 tsp cream.

Place the pie in the preheated 400° oven on top of the overturned cast iron pan—lower the temperature to 350°F. Bake until the outer edges have solidified, but the middle of the pie still has some jiggle, about 50 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool in a warm spot for at least two hours before serving, so it has time to set. Slice it up, and enjoy!

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