Pumpkin Sugar Pie With Cookie Crust from Erin Jeanne McDowell

November  3, 2020
5 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Lauren LaPenna.
Author Notes

This year calls for a new pumpkin pie. One with a filling that sets glassy-smooth and will never crack, a dough that won't leave your counters (and sweater) with a film of flour. Our friend Erin Jeanne McDowell, who just wrote the literal The Book on Pie, created a creamy-comforting, zero-stress pumpkin pie for a cozy tradition that asks very little of you.

As Erin writes in The Book on Pie, “Sugar pie is one of my favorite types of custard pie, partly because of the simple fact that it’s virtually impossible to mess up! The custard filling is thickened with flour, rather than eggs, which means that the surface sets beautifully smooth without risk of cracking.”

Erin continues, “This press-in cookie crust is as easy as cookie dough to make: Just mix the ingredients together, then press into your pie plate—no rolling required. Press-in crust recipes cannot be used to make double-crust pies, but the same dough can [in other pies with fillings that are firmer before baking] often be crumbled over the top as a sort of crumble/streusel topping.”

A few more tips: If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, you can make your own. I used a ratio from Erin’s book: 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (and saved the leftovers to sprinkle on oatmeal and buttered toast)—but feel free to customize to your tastes. If you don’t have time to chill the crust for 30 minutes, I borrowed a tip from another Erin recipe and froze it for 8 minutes. And if you’re too impatient to wait for the pie to chill, it holds a slice surprisingly well and tastes very good a little warm, too.

Recipe adapted very slightly from The Book on Pie (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, November 2020).

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Watch This Recipe
Pumpkin Sugar Pie With Cookie Crust from Erin Jeanne McDowell
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Makes one 9-inch (23-cm) pie
  • Pumpkin Sugar Pie
  • 99 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 60 grams (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 106 grams (1/2 cup) packed dark brown sugar
  • 230 grams (1 cup) whole milk
  • 153 grams (3/4 cup) heavy cream
  • 7 grams (1 1/2 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) fine sea salt
  • 212 grams (1 cup) pumpkin puree
  • 6 grams (2 teaspoons) pumpkin pie spice (see note above)
  • one 9-inch / 23-cm pie crust (see below, or substitute your favorite crust, parbaked, brushed with egg wash, and cooled completely)
  • Press-In Cookie Crust
  • 113 grams (4 ounces / 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 21 grams (1) large egg yolk (save the white for the egg wash in step 3)
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract (optional)
  • 210 grams (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) fine sea salt
  • 15 grams (1 tablespoon) water
In This Recipe
  1. Pumpkin Sugar Pie
  2. Heat the oven to 375°F (190°C) with a rack in the lower third (preferably with a baking steel or stone on it).
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and flour to combine. Add the brown sugar and mix to combine. Whisk in the milk, cream, vanilla extract, and salt, and mix just to combine—too much whisking will lead to lots of air bubbles that can linger on the surface of the custard after you transfer it to the crust. Gently whisk in the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice until incorporated.
  4. Place the parbaked crust on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pour in the custard (pour any that doesn’t fit into a separate ramekin and bake). Bake until the filling appears set at the edges but is still jiggly in the center, 28 to 32 minutes. (In a deeper pan this can take much longer, even 45 minutes to an hour.) Cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 2 hours, or until ready to slice and serve.
  1. Press-In Cookie Crust
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or if you don’t have an electric mixer, feel free to mix in a bowl with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula), cream the butter and sugar on medium-low speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, if using, and mix on medium speed to combine. Scrape the bowl well. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until fully incorporated, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Add the water and mix just until the dough is smooth, about 1 minute more. If the filling still looks dry or crumbly, you can add a few more drops of water until it holds together when pressed.
  3. Turn out the dough and use your fingers to press it evenly into the pan or pans—this crust will hold a shape if you crimp it, but it also looks nice just flattened evenly to the edges. Chill for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight.
  4. This crust is best baked at 350°F (175°C). To parbake the crust: Bake, without pie weights, for 15 to 18 minutes, until the crust is beginning to turn lightly golden. If the bottom crust starts to puff up, you can poke the bottom with a fork in a few places to deflate it, and continue baking (the egg wash will seal the holes). To use with the pumpkin sugar pie filling: Remove the pan from the oven, brush the bottom and sides with egg wash (any egg wash is fine, but here, your leftover egg white works perfectly!), and let cool completely in the pan.

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