Tartine's Pumpkin Pie

What a weekend, people! I am still reeling over my 27:11 finish in my first 5k race yesterday (Top 10 in my age group?! Who am I?). Our Thanksgiving Day was fantastic--Baby C discovered the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV and spent the better part of the morning stomping her feet, kicking and clapping her hands after seeing the Rockettes perform for the first time. I spent the morning going for a long run and then cooking and baking our contributions to the fabulous holiday meal we had with old friends later in the day. Both dishes we brought with us were borrowed/stolen from the cookbooks of two of my favorite places in San Francisco--the unbelievably dreamy buttermilk mashed potatoes from Zuni Cafe (oh mah gah, make these at your earliest convenience, please and thank you), and the brandy-spiked Pumpkin Pie from Tartine Bakery.

In the Piece of Cake Recipe Box, you'll also find a recipe for a Pumpkin Tart, which I made a few Thanksgivings ago and it's also a completely fabulous addition to any holiday menu. But really, this latest pumpkin pie recipe couldn't be more different from the tart. I remember falling in love with the first pumpkin tart because it changed my mind about the concept of pumpkin pie--it had the most mellow pumpkin flavor and was delightfully sweet and I still have a soft spot for that tart. But lately I've been drawn to less sweet desserts, and Tartine's recipe for pumpkin pie fits the bill--the earthy flavor of pumpkin is front and center here, with a lovely undercurrent of gentle spices, the barest sprinkle of brown sugar, a glug of brandy adding sparkle, and a healthy amount of heavy cream to round it all out. This is The Full Monty of pumpkin pies--more about true pumpkin flavor, lush and full, than it is about a candied or caramelized filling.

A word about pie crust here. I love making pie crust, really I do. I know it comes together in a snap with less than five ingredients and there's really nothing difficult about it, per se. But even the snappiest processes become laborious when you have a tiny person hanging onto your jeans. And since our Thanksgiving plans came together sort of last minute, I didn't have extra time to plan ahead. So a store-bought crust was my friend on this day. I find most store brands to be waxy and heavy in the mouth and basically vile, mostly due to a whole lot of creepy ingredients. But there is a brand called The French Picnic that's a perfectly lovely, all-butter crust that comes out nice and flaky and saves the day when you just don't have the time or desire to make a scratch crust and so I totally recommend it.

On this day, however, even a store-bought crust couldn't quell my manic state. I didn't pay attention to how much the dough had warmed up before it went into the oven to prebake, so my awesome crimping job pretty much disappeared in the oven, but the filling more than made up for the amateurish-looking crust, and let's face it--anything can be saved with a healthy blob of freshly whipped cream. With a hot cup of coffee, a slice of this pumpkin pie was a great little button on an All-American Thanksgiving feast, satisfying the sweet tooth just so without pushing anyone into rolling-on-the-floor with gluttony territory. Baby C gave it a solid endorsement by eating half a slice in short order, and I gave thanks that the child finally ate a serving of fruit that day.

Pumpkin Pie Adapted from Tartine

For the crust, use any pie crust you like, homemade or store bought, and consult the source for how to partially bake the crust (you want it to look dry and pale, but not browned, with no dense or opaque areas). For a good store-bought crust, I recommend The French Picnic, which can be found at places like Whole Foods and gourmet grocery stores. Make sure the pie shell is well-chilled before going into the oven for prebaking. The sugar in the recipe can be adjusted for your sweet tooth with no effect on the setting of the filling.

Serves 8-10

1 10-inch, single-crust pie shell, partially baked and cooled 2 cups pure pumpkin puree 3 large whole eggs 1 egg yolk 1 cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons brandy 1/2 cup dark brown sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or 1/4 teaspoon regular ground) 1/8 teaspoon ground white or black pepper 1 teaspoon salt

Position an oven rack the center position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, cream and brandy until well-blended. In a small bowl, combine the borwn sugar and spices. Whisk the spiced sugar into the pumpkin mixture.

Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake until the filling is set but wobbles ever so slightly in the very center when jiggled, about 60-75 minutes (the filling will set further as it cools). Let the pie cool on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with lots of freshly whipped cream. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

PieShauna Sever