Like many, I grew up with the ubiquitous pumpkin pie made from the recipe back of the pumpkin puree can. It’s not that that pie is bad, I just think I knew on some subconscious level that it could be better. Or at least I wanted it to be better. I would choke down a piece once a year and I was good for another 365 days. The thing that changed my opinion about pumpkin pie was realizing the original recipe could be altered. That mind-blowing realization took a little longer to sink in than others. It happened to me in my early twenties which coincided with simple advances in my life like getting the Internet at home, reading food magazines, and blogging. And that was around the same time I learned that there was much more to salad than Ranch dressing and iceberg lettuce. It’s the small things that are so huge, like making Buttermik Pumpkin Pie – a small tweak with a big impact.
Pumpkin pie can be anything you want it to be – be it creamy, custardy, frozen, or flavored in a thousand different ways. This recipe is similar to pumpkin pies that use sour cream. The buttermilk gives the pie filling a nice tang that goes splendidly with the brown sugar and maple syrup I used to sweeten it. The pumpkin flavor is still there shining through. The texture is creamy. It’s everything I want pumpkin pie to be. And then some. (p.s. I made Molasses Whipped Cream for the topping. There’s no going back after that, I swear.)
I’ve had the pleasure of working with one of my favorite brands for the past two year, Pamela’s Products. I feel like their flour blends and mixes were a huge game changer for me. The biggest was their Bread Mix which is THE BEST flour blend for gluten-free pie crust. I don’t say that lightly! I’ve made my fair share of tarts because I hadn’t had much luck creating a really good from-scratch pie crust on my own. So, I now buy big bags of the Bread Mix so there’s no shortage of pie. That would be a bad thing. (Did I also tell you I’m a reformed pie hater? I used to be crazy.)
If you want to see my step-by-step photos for making a gluten-free pie crust, see this post (scroll to below the recipe), or watch Pamela (THE Pamela) demonstrate how to make the crust in this video. You can roll the crust, or press it into the pan. I go back and forth depending on my mood. It’s just important to keep things cold – cold butter and chilled dough.
I feel like when it comes to pumpkin pie, it’s a good idea to partially bake the crust before you fill and bake the pie. Otherwise it seems like the crust doesn’t quite cook enough. But that’s personal preference. You can do whatever you want! Poking the bottom with a fork helps keep the crust from shrinking or puffing up. It’s optional, but I do it most of the time. I chill the dough in the pie plate before baking it. You can blind bake it with pie weights or dry beans. Both things also keep the crust from shrinking as it bakes.
You don’t need to go overboard – bake it about halfway, let it cool slightly, then fill with the pumpkin pie mix, and bake again.
I did a little test between the commercially available pumpkin purees. Any winter squash puree – fresh or canned – will work here. The organic and homemade versions tend to have a little more water in them, and the colors varied quite a bit too. Nothing earth-shattering. And I didn’t end up making any changes to the amount of eggs or cornstarch. I don’t use egg whites in this recipe. That’s on purpose. I think it makes the filling thicker and it makes up for the missing fat in the buttermilk. Traditionally heavy cream or evaporated milk are the dairy base. You can also use unsweetened coconut cream, which is equally delicious. (And consequently, if you’re dairy-free, you can make the crust with a vegan butter alternative or pure vegetable shortening.)
Now back to that Molasses Whipped Cream. Molasses.whipped.cream. You read that right. It’s a revelation, I’m telling you! I don’t add any sugar, just a hint of molasses plus a little vanilla. It plays well with the tangy pumpkin filling, plus it’s not overly sweet.
Anyway, this pie is another keeper recipe. You can never have too many pies for Thanksgiving, and probably not too many pumpkin pies. If you’re anything like our family, we start making pies early so there’s some for breakfast too. :)
- For crust: (this makes enough for two crusts - save one for later)
- 3½ cups Pamela's Bread Mix
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into cubes
- 7-8 tablespoons ice water
- For filling:
- 4 large egg yolks
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (gluten-free)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1½ cups pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- For whipped cream:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- For crust -Preheat oven to 350°F. Have a deep-dish pie plate ready to go.
- Place the bread mix into the bowl of a food processor or electric mixer. Scatter the cubed butter over the bread mix. Pulse, if using food processor, about 10 times to work the butter into the flour. If using a mixer, turn on to low speed to work the butter into the flour. It will resemble cornmeal with larger, pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. This can also be done by hand using a pastry cutter and gentle hand.
- With the processor or mixer running on low speed, add the ice water to the bowl a little at a time. You may not need all of it. When the dough comes together into a ball, stop the motor. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides. Check to see if it's too dry. If so, add a little more water. It should be soft and pliable, like cookie dough, without being too sticky. Form dough into two small disks. Wrap both and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to make it easier to work with. (Note: you only need one crust. The other can be frozen or used for another pie.)
- Place the chilled dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a large round about ¼" thick.
- Carefully transfer the dough to the pie plate. If it cracks or breaks, no worries. Just press it back together and continue. Trim off the excess dough from around the edge. Decorate the edge all the way around by pinching it between two fingers, or using another method. Chill until ready to fill and bake. (The pie dough scraps can be saved and rolled out to form pie crust cookies.)
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork a few times. Place crust in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or just until golden on the edges. Let cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Lower heat to 350°F. Prepare filling.
- Whisk together egg yolks, brown sugar, maple syrup, and cornstarch until the sugar has mostly dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk well. Pour filling into the partially baked crust. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the filling is set, but still jiggles a little in the center. (It may take as long as an hour) Let cool completely. Refrigerate, if desired, or serve at room temperature. Store any leftover pie in an airtight container in the fridge.
- To make whipped cream - beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer, or by hand with a whisk, until soft peaks form. Add the molasses and vanilla extract. Continue beating or whisking until medium peaks form. Dollop on top of pie.