World's Best Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

  Worlds best pumpkin pie 1

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, so it’s time to start mastering one of this holiday’s classic desserts. There are tons of pumpkin pie recipes, and in November all of the food shows and magazines are filled with both classic and innovative recipes. I’ve tried many of them – most started with canned pumpkin, and from there the ingredients vary  - some use heavy cream, others swear by evaporated milk, and some are heavily spiced with cinnamon and cloves.  I love pumpkin pie, but have never found what I would call the BEST pumpkin pie until recently. I was watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen (the leader in test perfected recipes) called “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving”. The ingredients and the method were quite original and I couldn’t wait to try it. There are a few extra steps, but well worth it. If you don’t want to make your own crust, you can use your favorite Ready Made crust, like Wholly Wholesome. Feel free to alter the amount of cinnamon and other spices to suit your tastes. (I used Penzey's Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon Click here for Penzey's), but the fresh ginger is key to the pie’s flavor. This year I added the decorative maple leaves which makes this pie even more impressive. They are super easy to make using the Leaf Pie Crust Cutters from Sur La Table (click here) You can use leftover pastry dough, or cut them from a store bought rolled crust. Just brush the  cutouts with egg wash and bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Place the cutouts on the pie and soon as it comes out of the oven.

Download World's Best Pumpkin Pie recipe

 

Fool Proof Pie Crust  

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into two pieces

2 tablespoons vodka, cold 

2 tablespoons cold water

Pumpkin Pie Filling

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger powder)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon is best)

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon table salt

 For the Crust:

1. Process 3/4 cup flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty the mixture into a medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

4. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake 5 to 10 additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove pie plate and baking sheet from oven.

6. For the Filling: While pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.

7. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. Re-whisk mixture and transfer to warm prebaked pie shell. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Pie dough 

Pie dough crimped 

Pumpkin pie filling 

Pumpkin pie baked


Worlds best pumpkin pie slice 1


Pastry cutouts


Pastry pie crust cutouts


French Honey Spice Cake (Pain d’épices pur miel)

French Honey Spice Cake (Pain d’épices pur miel) slice

Pain d’épices is a French spice cake (or quick bread) that is well-known as a Christmas time pastry in the northeast of France, especially in the regions of Dijon, Alsace, and Reims. It’s a classic French recipe that’s easy to make and doesn’t require a mixer. The loaf keeps for a while, improving as the flavors meld and the cake gets denser thanks to the honey. Many traditional recipes use rye flour, but this one from Milk Street Kitchen uses a combination of all-purpose and almond flour which gives it great texture.  Raisins are optional but certainly are a welcomed addition if you use them.

Download French Honey Spice Cake (Pain d’épices pur miel)

228 grams (1¾ cups) all-purpose flour

100 grams (1 cup) almond flour

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground mace (or ¼ teaspoon allspice & ¼ teaspoon nutmeg)

¼ teaspoon table salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted, plus more for pan

334 grams (1 cup) c honey

½ cup whole milk

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh gingerroot

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1 cup raisins (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 325ºF with a rack in the upper-middle position. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, the cinnamon, baking soda, ground ginger, mace, salt and pepper; set aside.

3.In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and honey until smooth and creamy. Add the milk, eggs, crystallized ginger, fresh gingerroot, and orange zest (and raisins if using); whisk until thoroughly combined.

4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and fold only until no dry our remains. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, then bake until rm to the touch and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 65 to 70 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely, about 2 hours.

French Honey Spice Cake (Pain d’épices pur miel)


Small Batch Banana Walnut Muffins

Small Batch Banana Walnut Muffins

Sometimes a half dozen is just enough, and this recipe works well in my Breville Toaster oven. They come together quickly and ideal for using up overripe bananas. Perfectly domed because of the extra baking powder and higher than normal oven temperature, these muffins are moist and feature a crisp sugary crunch on top. (You can substitute thawed frozen bananas; be sure to add any juice that is released as the bananas thaw.

Download Small Batch Banana Walnut Muffins recipe 

 

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon table salt

2-3 very ripe large bananas, peeled and mashed (1 cup)

6 tablespoons plus 1 additional tablespoon sugar, divided

1 large eggs

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts

Be sure to use bananas that are very heavily speckled or even black; less-ripe bananas will produce dry muffins with less flavor. We like the classic pairing of banana and walnuts here, but you can substitute chopped toasted pecans or omit the nuts altogether if you prefer. (Nut-free muffins will be slightly smaller.)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Grease 6-cup muffin tin. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl.

2. Whisk bananas, 6 tablespoons sugar, egg, oil, and vanilla in large bowl until fully combined. Add flour mixture and whisk until fully combined. Stir in walnuts. Using portion scoop or large spoon, divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (about ½ cup batter per cup; cups will be very full). Sprinkle tops with remaining 1 tablespoons sugar.

3. Bake until tops are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 14 to 18 minutes. Let muffins cool in muffin tin on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove muffins from muffin tin and let cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Easy Marinated Feta Cheese with Lemon Zest and Shallots

FETA 2 20220825_135706

This is an easy and delicious appetizer, especially when you can find the best authentic Greek feta. It's great with wedges of warm pita bread or slices of baguette. Even after the feta has been eaten, the remaining oil is great for dipping with bread.

Download Easy Marinated Feta Cheese with Lemon Zest and Shallots recipe

1 ¼ cups extra virgin olive oil

1 medium shallot, sliced thin

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves (plus a sprig for garnish)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

8 ounces Greek feta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Cook 1 cup of the oil, the shallot, oregano, lemon zest, and pepper flakes in a small saucepan over low heat until the shallot is softened, about 15-18 minutes.

2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and gently stir in the feta. Cover and let sit until the mixture reaches room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup oil and serve. (The mixture can be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 1 week. Before serving, let sit at room temperature until the oil liquefies about 1 hour.)


Quick Easy Green Chicken Enchiladas (Verdes)

Quick Easy Green Chicken Enchiladas Verdes

QUICK EASY GREEN CHICKEN ENCHILADAS (VERDES)

This is a super-fast spicy, creamy, and cheesy short cut recipe that epitomizes comfort food. It can easily be doubled or even tripled depending on the number of people you are serving. This version generally serves 4 generous portions. Serve with rice and margaritas!

Download QUICK EASY GREEN CHICKEN ENCHILADAS (VERDES)

2 (10-ounce) cans green enchilada sauce (I used Hatch)

1 ¼ cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves, divided

1 rotisserie chicken, skin discarded, meat shredded into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)

2 ½ cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (see note)

¼ cup sour cream (optional - makes the sauce creamier)

Salt and pepper

12 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Cooking spray

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 13- by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Puree enchilada sauce and 1 cup of the cilantro in blender. Combine 1 cup enchilada sauce mixture, chicken, and 1½ cups Mexican cheese blend (and optional sour cream) in large bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Wrap tortillas in damp clean kitchen towel and microwave until pliable, 30 to 90 seconds. Top each tortilla with ¼ cup chicken mixture and roll tightly. Arrange, seam-side down, in prepared baking dish. Spray lightly with cooking spray, then top with additional 1 cup enchilada sauce mixture and remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Serve, passing remaining sauce at table.

Reduced Sugar Chocolate Layer Cake and Creamy Chocolate Frosting

Reduced Sugar Dark Chocolate Layer Bittersweet Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This cake is so delicious, always a hit with friends and no one can tell that it’s a reduced sugar recipe. It’s one of the many fantastic recipes found in from America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks called Naturally Sweet. Sucanat is not found in many grocery stores and can be ordered online.

Download Reduced Sugar Chocolate Layer Cake and Creamy Chocolate Frosting recipe

INGREDIENTS

¾ cup plus ⅓ cup Sucanat (6 ounces)

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

⅔ cup (2 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1½ cups hot brewed coffee

1½ cups (8¼ ounces) bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 recipe Reduced-Sugar Creamy Chocolate Frosting (see below)

*BEFORE YOU BEGIN

If you use natural cocoa powder for this recipe, the cake will be lighter in appearance and have a milder chocolate flavor. This cake was made with Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Premium Baking Bar; other brands may contain different amounts of sugar. Do not skip grinding the Sucanat in step 1 or large air pockets will appear inside the cake and on the surface of the cake. If using dark colored cake pans, start checking the cakes for doneness 5 to 10 minutes earlier. You can learn more about Sucanat in this article. The flavor of Creamy Chocolate Frosting is terrific on this cake; however, a Vanilla Frosting will also work well.

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour pans. Working in 4 batches, grind Sucanat in spice grinder until fine and powdery, about 1 minute.

2. Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl, add hot coffee, and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate mixture until completely cool, about 20 minutes. In separate bowl, whisk ground Sucanat, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together.

3. Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

4. Divide batter evenly among prepared cake pans. Bake until cakes are set and center is just firm to touch, 20 to 22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discard parchment, and let cool completely on wire rack, about 1 hour. (Cake layers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

5. Line edges of cake platter with 4 strips of parchment to keep platter clean and place dab of frosting in center to anchor cake. Place 1 cake layer on platter and spread 1 cup frosting evenly over top. Top with second cake layer, press lightly to adhere, then spread 1 cup frosting evenly over top. Spread remaining frosting evenly over sides of cake. To smooth frosting, run edge of offset spatula around cake sides and over top. Carefully remove parchment strips and serve.

Reduced-Sugar Creamy Chocolate Frosting

Makes 4 cups (TIME 50 minutes)

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons Sucanat (4⅔ ounces)

4 large egg whites

⅛ teaspoon salt

24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 24 pieces and softened

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Microwave chocolate in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, about 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla and let cool, about 10 minutes.

2. Combine Sucanat, egg whites, and salt in bowl of stand mixer and set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy, and registers 150 degrees, about 8 minutes.

3. Fit stand mixer with whisk attachment and whip warmed Sucanat mixture on medium speed until slightly cooled and has consistency of shaving cream, about 2 minutes. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. (Frosting may look curdled after half of butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.)

4. Once all butter is added, add cooled melted chocolate mixture, and mix until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and whip until light, fluffy, and well combined, about 2 minutes, scraping down whisk and bowl as needed. (Frosting can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. To refresh, microwave until just slightly softened, about 15 seconds, then whip on medium-high speed in stand mixer until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.)

Reduced Sugar Dark Chocolate Layer Bittersweet Swiss Meringue Buttercream