Chai Masala Pumpkin Pie

By • November 10, 2014 35 Comments

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Author Notes: I prefer a pumpkin pie that is subtle in its spice and sugar; with a creamy and tender filling, against a crust that has both flake and crunch. I’m lucky to have a friend in Nikole Herriott (of Herriott Grace), who likes that kind of pie as much as I do, so we paired her photographs with my recipe for one of our favorite versions.

We used the pastry dough from my upcoming cookbook, and a filling inspired by the spices used in Indian spiced tea, masala chai. The combination is only a bit of a departure from traditional pumpkin pie, but enough of a change to count. Adding crème fraîche to the roasted pumpkin keeps things velvety, and straightens up the sweetness.

I usually serve pumpkin pie with some whipped cream that's folded through with just enough maple syrup to take off its edge, but If in the mood for true gilding, I’ll serve it with a Black Tea Caramel (recipe on my site as of 17 November) -- heady with Darjeeling and cardamom, it completes the whole masala chai thing the pie has started.

Homemade pumpkin purée, actually one made with hubbard squash, is our preference. (For the amount needed here, two should suffice.) But homemade purées can be wetter than store-bought. The 15 ounces should be just shy of 2 cups. If your weight measure is more than this volume, either place the purée in a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter and drain, or cook it longer when heating, until it's thick -- it might take 10 minutes or more.

If there is any concern about the amount of filling -- if it’s creeping up to the point where it might overflow -- bake any extra in a buttered ramekin alongside the pie. As soon as it swells in the center, it’s done, and then there’s the bonus of a cook’s (or in this case, baker’s) treat.
Tara O'Brady

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Makes a 9-inch pie

  • Butter, for greasing the pan
  • Pie dough, enough for a single-crust 9-inch pie, plus extra if making the braid
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 15 ounces pumpkin purée (see note)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, light or dark, packed
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (I prefer grade B)
  • 1/2 teaspoon medium-grain kosher salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  1. Butter a 9-inch pie tin and set aside.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie dough to a 12-inch round. Fit the dough into the prepared pie tin, tightly into the corners and with the edges evenly overhanging the sides. Fold the excess dough under the rim, to make a nicely raised edge (there is a a lot of filling later, so a bit of height on the crust is needed). Crimp or decorate as desired. To make the braid as pictured, roll extra dough (about 1/4 of a recipe for a single-crust pie dough) to 1/8-inch thick rectangle. Cut into long 1/8-inch strips and braid in groups of 3. Wet the bottom crust with with water or an wash made with an egg beaten with a tablespoon of water, then gently place braid on top, carefully pressing to secure. Use as many braids as needed to cover the edge, joining the ends. Pop the pastry into the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat an oven to 425° F / 220° C, with a rack in the lower third.
  4. Place the cold pastry shell on a rimmed baking sheet. Prick the pastry all over with the tines of a fork, then line the shell with aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights or dried beans and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove the pastry from the oven (still on its baking sheet) and let cool on a wire rack.
  5. Scoop the crème fraîche into the bowl of a food processor that has the metal blade in place. Add the cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove, and pepper. Run the machine for 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl once. Combine the pumpkin purée, heavy cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is sputtering and thickened, with a glossy sheen, 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Pour the pumpkin into the spiced crème fraîche and run the machine until blended, maybe 1 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl, process again for 2 minutes. Take off the lid and let the filling cool down a bit -- about 10 minutes -- the bowl should feel warm, not hot. Replace the lid and fire up the motor again. Add the eggs, one at a time, through the feed tube, stopping and clearing the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat until well blended. Remove the bowl from the machine and carefully knock it against a counter to release any trapped air. Let settle for a minute.
  7. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° F / 175° C. Pour the filling into the par-baked pastry (see note above about avoiding overfilling), then bake until the filling is puffed at the center and with only the slightest wobble, 45 to 50 minutes.
  8. Transfer from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack (without the sheet tray). Chill or serve at room temperature with softly whipped cream and Black Tea Caramel.

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