I'm going to just put this out there so we don't waste time. None of this "This pumpkin pie reminds me of my grandma" or "The pilgrims served this pumpkin pie on the first Thanksgiving" or "I remember living in a pumpkin patch back in '69." We don't have time for that kind of thing with Thanksgiving 12 days away. No time. The party's coming, the storm's a brewing, the train is leaving the station.
Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies: A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan (Chronicle, 2010) has a recipe for pumpkin pie to end all pumpkin pies, and I say this as someone who screwed the baking-part up pretty royally yet still managed to turn out the best [expletive] pumpkin pie I've ever made in my particular, personal lifetime. I also served it to an avowed pumpkin pie hater, and it changed her mind about pumpkin pie. That's a powerful endorsement, especially as this person is a teenage girl, and teenage girls don't often change their minds about things, unless you're talking about boys, clothes, shoes, music, hairstyles, make-up, future career paths, tolerance for siblings, or boys. Or also boys.
And so, I have singlehandedly (along with Nancie McDermott, fine) (and Emily Luchetti, explained below) saved your Thanksgiving dessert, because aside from a pecan pie, and maybe an apple pie, this is really the only pie recipe you'll need, unless you want a butterscotch pie. Nancie has one of those in her book, too (p. 27).
This pumpkin pie, which is the one I'm making every Thanksgiving from now on, reminds me of my grandma.*
It's the one the pilgrims served on the first Thanksgiving.*
It's the one I made while living in a pumpkin patch back in '69.*
Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie with lightly sweetened nutmeg cream
Let me state right off the bat that I have a deep and abiding passion for Emily Luchetti's pie and tart dough, from her book Classic Stars Desserts. I turn to this recipe again and again, and it's the only one that never, ever fails me. So it's the dough I used when baking Nancie's pumpkin pie. You can find the dough recipe online through Google Books via this link. (Click back to page 290.) I make the "dough with water," which makes enough for two pies. (Refrigerate or freeze the second half of dough for later use.) Luchetti's book is fantastic, so, frankly, you may just want to buy it and enjoy the rest of the recipes, too.
The recipe below is adapted from Nancie McDermott's wonderful and quite elegant cookbook, Southern Pies (Chronicle, 2010). Nancie herself adapted the recipe from a 1967 version in Kentucky's Winchester Sun newspaper.
Makes one 9-inch pie
Your favorite pie dough recipe for a 9-inch, single crust pie (see head note), unbaked
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups pumpkin puree (you'll need to buy one large or two 15-ounce cans and will have quite a lot leftover -- make this)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup really good honey
Freshly whipped, lightly sweetened heavy cream with a pinch of nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 450 with the rack in the lowest position. Line a 9-inch glass pie plate with your dough and crimp. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, spices, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, and honey. Whisk in the sugar mixture and combine very well until smooth. Pour filling into dough-lined pie plate and place in the oven on the bottom rack.
Here's what I did: I baked the pie for 25 minutes at 450 before realizing I was supposed to have reduced the temperature at the 10 minute mark. I then caught my mistake and baked it at 325 for 25 minutes longer, for a total of 50 minutes. Because of the high heat, the custard was a little pock-marked, but the results tasted fantastic anyway.
If you want to follow the instructions as they were intended, bake at 450 for 10 minutes only, then reduce the heat to 325 and bake for 30 to 40 minutes longer, or until set. This should give you a smoother top.
Cool completely on a rack. Serve with generous dollops of whipped cream.
*Statements marked with an asterisk may not be completely true.