Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie
The addition of browned butter gives the pumpkin a subtle butterscotch note that makes for the perfect autumnal pie.
for the all-butter crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup ice
for the brown butter pumpkin pie:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 2/3 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch ground cloves
1 teaspoon molasses
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup carrot juice
Chef's Tip: If you want to use your own fresh pumpkin or squash, ask at your farmers' market for a suggestion of which variety to use. Roast it in the oven until fork tender, scrape the flesh from the skin, and purée in food processor or blender. Use the same amount of fresh puree as the recipe calls for canned. In the pie shop we are often asked if we roast our own pumpkins for our pies. Many bakers do, but we've found that the consistency and texture of good canned pumpkin is far superior, not to mention the shortcut on labor. This is one instance where we will gladly open a can to make a pie filling. Since it's technically a custard, a smooth and creamy consistency is the goal, and processing the pumpkin helps break up any fibers for a smoother filling.
1. For the all-butter crust, stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces. With a bench scraper or spatula, coat butter pieces with the flour mixture. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).
2. Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. (Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month. Pre-bake before preparing pie.)
3. For the pie, in a heavy-bottomed skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Continue to cook; the butter will foam and then begin to turn golden, then nut brown; whisk occasionally. When the butter is nut brown, immediately add the brown sugar, whisk, and then carefully add the water to loosen.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue simmering until a candy thermometer reads 225°F. (If you don't have a candy thermometer, cook until the mixture smells caramelized and starts to darken.) Slowly add the heavy cream (the mixture will bubble rapidly) and whisk until smooth. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract.
5. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the pre-baked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and yolks together with the salt. Set aside.
6. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, blend the pumpkin puree with the allspice, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, molasses, and lemon juice until smooth. With the machine running on low, stream the brown-butter butterscotch through the food processor's feed tube and process until combined. Stream in the egg mixture, followed by the milk and carrot juice; blend until smooth, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides with a rubber scraper.
7. Strain the filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a separate bowl, pressing through with a rubber scraper. Pour into the pre-baked shell. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set 30 to 35 minutes through baking. The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is no longer liquid but still quite wobbly. Be careful not to overbake or the custard can separate; the filling will continue to cook and set after the pie is removed from the oven.
8. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or cool. The pie will keep refrigerated for 2 days or at room temperature.