Pumpkin Sugar Pie With Cookie Crust from Erin Jeanne McDowell

November  3, 2020
17 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Lauren LaPenna.
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Makes one 9-inch (23-cm) pie
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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What You'll Need
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Pumpkin Sugar Pie With Cookie Crust from Erin Jeanne McDowell
  • 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
  1. Pumpkin Sugar Pie
  2. (Note: If you don't have a parbaked crust yet, see the Press-In Cookie Crust directions below.) 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Recipe by: Genius Recipes

35 Reviews

Pk November 26, 2022
The pie turned out beautifully, just as promised, no cracks. It held its shape and has excellent flavor. I did do a Biscoff cookie crust so I didn’t make the pie crust in the recipe, but the pumpkin filling - it was excellent.
Tina D. November 25, 2022
Awful. The crust was too thick. If I had known I wouldn’t have used all the dough.
The pumpkin was gummy. I know the flour keeps it from cracking but I prefer a custard-like filling made with eggs.
AuContraire October 21, 2022
Just. Excellent.

Kristen - the secret to moving something that's very liquid without spilling it, is to move it without looking at it as you do it. Just move it. Look at the space you're moving it to, without looking at the contents. You won't spill it. Prove it to yourself. 😊
Katrina L. September 25, 2022
This is going on my Thanksgiving menu this year. Preferred this crust over a traditional pie crust and so much easier. I would reduce the sugar a bit next time. And in my pie pan, it took closer to 35-40 mins in the oven to set
Karen@elegantdraperies January 1, 2021
Wish I could upload a photo of this pie. Fourth time making it. I actually served it warm this time with whipped cream. My guests gave this pie a perfect 10. The filling is delicious and does not crack or run. I want to try this method and crust with a chocolate pie. I live in Costa Rica so pumpkin is expensive and hard to come by, so next time I will try it with a fresh callabasa that I will cook down and purée.
Karen@elegantdraperies December 24, 2020
Love this pie! Making it today for the third time. The crust is great the filling never cracks and this is so much better than a regular pumpkin pie. I’m having people request this pie that have never liked pumpkin pie before. This is a huge win in my book and this is the go to pumpkin pie recipe for me. Thank you thank you thank you!
Cathy December 24, 2020
This was the very first pie I have ever baked, and it turned out so perfectly! I am NOT a pumpkin pie person, but my husband is. I made it, and we both finished it in 2 days (we shared a third with his mom and sister)! We love it! I made it with a gingersnap cookie crust. Am making it again today, for our first Christmas as a married couple. Thank you, Erin! And Kristen! And all at Food52!! Merry Christmas, everyone!
Cathy December 24, 2020
I made it with a gingersnap cookie crust. This was the first pie I have ever baked, and it turned out lovely! I am not a pumpkin pie person, but my husband is. He loved it, I loved it, so am making it again today for our first Christmas Eve as a married couple. Thank you, Erin! And Kristen! And to all at Food52! Merry Christmas!!
Makenzie F. December 17, 2020
I made this last night and wow!! I’m from Australia and I’ve tried pumpkin pie before and loved it but you can’t buy pre made ones anywhere! Made for my American friend! So yum! Wondering how long it could last in the fridge for?
rlandau November 29, 2020
I am renaming this my, "Ride-Or-Die Pumpkin Pie." I've never been a pumpkin pie fan, but this recipe may have converted me. I baked two of these on the day before Thanksgiving. Pumpkin-pie lovers gleefully devoured them at the end of our holiday meal. The pie filling has a lovely silken texture. It is ridiculously easy to assemble the crust and filling, and the crust it isn't overly sweet. BONUS: once the pre-baked pie shells were filled, there was enough leftover filling to eek out 5 small ramekins after mixing in the leftover egg-wash. The ceramic dishes fit onto the corners of the sheet pans; they were baked at the same time as the whole pies. My family loves this recipe, so high-five and thank you, Erin!
Sara D. November 27, 2020
This pie was so easy & delicious! Definitely a keeper if you are making your own pie and need to keep it simple. Loved Chef Erin's tip about starting with the sides and loved the cookie crust with the filling. I worried about flour as a thickener but didn't get the raw flour taste or gritty feel one might expect. I didn't have pumpkin pie spice so winged it on the spices and it was fine. I also forgot the egg wash...and it was fine. I ended up under baking mine a bit. It did set, but I preffered the more set edges to the softer center.
Cookie16 November 27, 2020
I made this yesterday and it was a hit and the most eaten pie at dinner. No one else commented on this but I did feel like I noticed a floury taste - Im wondering if any light browning of the flour would help rid this of that raw taste, much light you might see in a roux? I served this about an hour after it was done chilling in the fridge. I had a lot of excess custard and baked a ramekin alongside the pie. This has been in the fridge overnight so I'm wondering if there's any chance that flavor might dissipate over time?
Food53 November 27, 2020
This pie was just amazing. I watched the video and followed the recipe exactly but used a deeper pie plate to hold all the filling, took almost 50 min in my oven. It was so creamy, great flavor with a perfect crust- I will never fuss over a traditional pumpkin pie again. I’m ordering Erin’s cookbook for everyone, this is a truly genius recipe. Thank you!
jacrae November 26, 2020
I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin pie but for Thanksgiving this year I decided to try this recipe. It's the best pumpkin pie I've ever had! Creamy and delicious! I will definitely be saving this recipe!
Little P. November 26, 2020
I made this last night, and am pleasantly confused by it. The filling is creamy and I didn't miss the "egg custard" situation at all. don't see a need to eat pumpkin filling any other way. The crust was also very good. However, I wasn't sure, was it supposed to remain soft and tender, or have a bite/crunch to it? I did par bake according to the instructions but at the end of it all the texture reminded me of undercooked pie dough. It was still super delicious. I am wondering if next time, I should just par bake it even longer before adding the filling. I will definitely make this again!
Animerion November 25, 2020
Just wanted to thank you and Erin for this recipe. Just pulled mine out of the oven and tasted the extra custard I baked off in a small dish. So good! I love that it's spice-forward. I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie, but this one is awesome.
telleen November 23, 2020
How early can you make this and still be good? Day before? Two days?
Kristen M. November 23, 2020
If it's tightly sealed in the fridge, I don't think there would be a big difference between one and two days in the fridge. Either way, you might want to take it out of the fridge to come up to room temp before serving unless you like your pie cold. Happy Thanksgiving!
Deborah F. November 17, 2020
I am planning on making this for Thanksgiving but am wondering if you can make this as small individual pies like pecan tassies. I am thinking this would be much more Covid friendly at an out gathering
Kristen M. November 18, 2020
I think that would be great! Erin loves using this dough recipe for mini pies because it's so easy to press in.
Deborah F. November 24, 2020
I made the mini pies yesterday and they turned out great. Thanking you and Erin for such an easy and no fail recipe
Kristen M. November 24, 2020
Wonderful! Happy Thanksgiving, Deborah.
Patti November 16, 2020
What can I substitute for the whole milk and heavy cream? I have a spouse who is lactose intolerant. I have made traditional pumpkin pies with soy milk or evaporated goats milk in the past. I'd love to try tis one.
Kristen M. November 18, 2020
Hi Patti, I think those could be great substitutes, or perhaps full-fat coconut milk and coconut cream.
Kate November 13, 2020
My new favorite pumpkin pie. Not too sweet. Perfect with coffee.