Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Pecan Streusel
Is there anything more quintessential to Thanksgiving than pumpkin pie? Aside from the turkey, of course! Although plenty of other desserts are often served, Thanksgiving is the one time of year where this seasonal treat reigns supreme.
Pumpkin is a versatile fruit with a slightly sweet flavor that makes it perfect for both sweet and savory preparations. It's used in everything from pasta fillings and soups to breads, cookies, cakes, and of course, pies. There are disputes as to whether pumpkin was enjoyed at the first Thanksgiving celebration between the settlers who arrived from the Old World and the resident natives, or whether it was at the next year's feast. But the pumpkin itself, which is actually a variety of squash, is indigenous to the western hemisphere; it had been part of Native American diets for thousands of years before the colonists began to make it part of their dietary regimens as well.
EDIT: If you’d like to learn more fun facts about the history of this popular gourd, I highly recommend “History of the Pumpkin” by our friend, Gerard Paul, over at ManyEats.com. He’s got all the info on pumpkin lore, from its origins to its uses now. Check it out!
The pumpkin pie as we know it - a pumpkin filling baked in a flaky pastry crust - is vastly different from the original version made by colonists. Those enterprising cooks emptied the gourds of their flesh and seeds, and filled the pumpkin shells with milk, honey, and spices. They baked this mixture in the ashes of their cooking fires to produce a custard-like dessert. No one really knows when we started including the pumpkin in the filling instead of using it as the shell, but the first recorded recipe of the contemporary version first showed up in 1796. It was first published in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, and the recipe was entitled, ‘Pompkin Pudding.’ This book was actually one of the first that explored food native to the Americas.
The scope of the pumpkin pie changed again in 1929, when a company called Libby's introduced canned pumpkin to the US. This canned puree wasn't actually pumpkin, but a squash varietal known as Dickinson, which had a similar orange colored flesh. Libby's continued to cultivate and develop the Dickinson squash, which is now called Libby Select No. 12 - the company owns the proprietary rights to this particular strain of squash. Regardless, the advent of canned puree, and then pre-made pie filling, changed the way that Americans made and consumed its pumpkin pies. Now, more than 50 million pies a year are made with Libby's canned pumpkin products alone, with countless more made with other brands.
This recipe is a little different than your average pumpkin pie, but it's a staple at my family's Thanksgiving table. Even my little brother, who's not a big fan of pumpkin anything, requests this every year!
It begins with a homemade pie crust, although you could use a store-bought crust to save yourself some time. The rich custard filling starts with what else, but canned, pureed pumpkin. Alternatively, you could use fresh pureed pumpkin, if you desire. Those warm, homey spices that evoke so much nostalgia, like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves? Yup, all there.
But the secret behind the intense, creamy flavor and texture of this pie lies in a key ingredient: hazelnut coffee creamer. The creamer gives the pie filling a rich, subtle nutty flavor that pairs well with the pumpkin and spices. Pecan streusel topping adds texture - a satisfying, sweet crunch - and is the crowning glory for this dessert. Serve it with a generous dollop of whipped cream, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or enjoy a piece all on its own! (Also great on Friday morning for breakfast - I won't tell if you don't!)
Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Pecan Streusel
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup butter or butter flavored shortening, chilled and cut into small pieces
3-5 TBSP of ice cold milk (more or less as needed)
1 15 oz can of pureed pumpkin (NOT pie filling, just pumpkin)
3 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cloves
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup hazelnut flavored coffee creamer
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1 TBSP of butter
Whipped cream for garnish/serving
1. To make pie crust, combine dry ingredients in the bowl and whisk gently to combine. Using a fork or a pastry blender, cut in butter or shortening until the mixture is crumbly and resembles large peas. Add milk a tablespoon at a time until dough begins to form. Dough should not be wet, just moist enough to hold its shape. Form dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. (You can pre-make this recipe refrigerate it for up to 4 days prior.)
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove pie crust from refrigerator and roll out to fit desired container. Make sure your surface and rolling pin are well floured before rolling out pastry. This recipe usually makes enough for one 9 inch pie.
3. By hand or on low speed with a mixer, combine pumpkin, eggs, sugars, salt, and spices. Blend thoroughly. Then incorporate the whipping cream and coffee creamer and blend until smooth.
4. Pour the filling into prepared pie crust.
5. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Leave the oven door slightly ajar while the temperature goes down, then close again. Bake for another 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees. If crust begins to over brown, cover crust with strips of aluminum foil.
6. While pie is baking, prepare the streusel. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until a chunky mixture forms.
7. Remove pie from oven, and while still hot, sprinkle the streusel evenly on top of the pie. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the center of the pie is set. It may jiggle slightly, but it should not appear wet.
8. Cool pie to room temperature and then refrigerate. It will firm more as it cools. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired, and serve. Serves 8.
Having made this recipe more than a few times, I find that there is often enough filling to fill a deep dish pie crust versus a standard crust. We also turned this recipe into fun mini pies one year using standard cupcake tins - you'll want to double your crust recipe for this. If you can't find or don't like hazelnut coffee creamer, we've also successfully substituted pumpkin spice flavored coffee creamer, which is usually available at most supermarkets seasonally. And if I really want to double down on texture and flavor, I'll often double the streusel recipe. Let's be real, that's the best part, anyways!
We of The Hardy Team have a great many things to be thankful for this year, including each and every one of you! We wish you and your loved ones a safe, peaceful, and joyous Thanksgiving holiday. Now, bring on the turkey and the pie!