- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Although I love hosting Thanksgiving dinner, this year we plan to spend it with our son and his family in Boston.

“No problem,” we said. “We’ll organize Thanksgiving dinner at your house.” Sighs of relief could be heard on the other end of the line. My son’s mother-in-law, a talented cook, will be coming from New York to help out with the baby and the meal.

Cooking with the other grandmother is something I am looking forward to, since several years earlier we designed and made the cake for our children’s wedding.

My family would not consider it Thanksgiving if I didn’t make corn bread dressing or serve my usual tart cranberry relish, but they are open to variations on pumpkin pie. For my 2004 version, I will construct a golden flaky crust filled with a pumpkin custard flavored with maple syrup and a hint of bourbon.

The baked pie is cooled, dusted with brown sugar, then run under the broiler to melt the sugar. Served with dollops of softly whipped cream, this dessert will make a memorable finale.

Should you be traveling like we are, you’ll find this pie is easy to pack and carry to another celebration site.

Pumpkin creme brulee pie

CRUST:

1½ cups flour

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Pinch of salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small chunks

2½ tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into small chunks

2½ to 3½ tablespoons ice water

FILLING:

½ cup heavy or whipping cream

½ cup whole milk

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1/3 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons bourbon

1/4 cup light brown sugar, plus 2½ tablespoons for sprinkling over pie

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (about half of a 15-ounce can) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 cup whipping cream, softly whipped for garnish, optional

For crust, blend flour, sugar and salt in a food processor, then add butter and shortening. Pulse machine until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 2½ tablespoons water, and pulse machine until moist clumps form.

Add more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry.

Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes. (Dough can be made a day ahead; soften slightly at room temperature before using.) Roll out dough on floured surface to a 12-inch round, and transfer it to a 9-inch pie plate.

Fold the overhanging dough under to form a high-standing rim. Crimp the edges. Prick the bottom with a fork, and place pie shell in the freezer 20 minutes. Then bake pie shell in preheated 375-degree oven until crust is set and pale, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly.

For filling, in a large bowl, whisk together cream, milk and eggs. Add syrup, bourbon, 1/4 cup light brown sugar, granulated sugar, pumpkin pie spice, salt and pumpkin. Whisk until well blended.

Pour mixture into prepared crust and bake on rack in bottom third of preheated 375-degree oven for 40 minutes or until set.

A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Remove and cool pie to room temperature. (Can be made 6 hours ahead.) To serve, arrange broiler rack so that it is 2 to 3 inches from heat source and preheat broiler.

Place pie on a baking sheet. Force the remaining brown sugar through a sieve with your fingertips evenly onto the top of the pie.

Cover edges of pie with aluminum foil to prevent burning. Place pie under broiler and broil until sugar melts and bubbles, turning sheet several times for even browning, about 2 minutes.

This crust will be delicate, not hard and glossy. Serve warm or within an hour. Serve pie with whipped cream, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: To transport pie, wrap the cooled pie in plastic wrap, then in foil. Place in a plastic pie box or in a basket.

Pack brown sugar for sprinkling and broiling on top of pie separately.

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