- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2008

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Be sure to let the pumpkin pie cool completely before slicing. For the cleanest cuts, use a knife heated briefly under hot water and wiped clean between cuts. The filling and crust can be prepared a day ahead, then assembled just before cooking.

If using a preformed crust (the kind sold in the foil pie plates) you will have about a quarter-cup of excess filling. (These crusts tend not to be as deep as homemade,) The excess can be baked in a buttered ramekin for a snack-size pumpkin custard.

If you would rather make your own crust, try the foolproof recipe from Cook’s Illustrated magazine. It uses vodka to create a dough that is easy to work with but still light and flaky. Don’t worry, the vodka cooks off.

Best pumpkin pie

From start to finish: 1 hour and 15 minutes, plus cooling.

9-inch deep pie crust (recipe follows)

15-ounce can pumpkin puree

3/4cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 egg yolk

1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. If using a homemade or unformed pie crust, arrange it in a pie pan and crimp the edges.

Place a sheet of parchment paper inside the pie crust, then fill it with enough dry beans, uncooked rice or pie weights to come nearly to the top of the pie. Bake for 15 minutes, then set aside to cool slightly. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.

While the crust is baking, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Heat for 7 minutes, stirring often.

Transfer the pumpkin mixture to a blender or food processor. Puree for about 10 seconds. One at a time, add the eggs and egg yolk, pulsing the blender or processor briefly between each.

With the blender or processor running, slowly pour in the cream and puree until well-mixed, about another 10 seconds.

Discard the beans and parchment paper from the pie crust. Slowly pour the filling into the pie crust, then bake for 1 hour, or until the edges are puffed and the center is set and jiggles only slightly.

Cool completely on a rack before cutting. Makes 8 servings.

PIE CRUST

This recipe, from Cooks Illustrated, makes 2 pie crusts.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces

1/4 cup cold vodka

1/4 cup cold water

To make the crust, in a food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups of flour, the salt and sugar. Pulse several times to mix.

Add the butter and shortening and process until the dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds. The dough will resemble cottage cheese curds, and there should be no uncoated flour.

Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and redistribute it evenly around the processor blade. Add the remaining flour and pulse four to six times, or until the flour is evenly distributed through the dough.

Transfer the dough to a medium bowl, then sprinkle the vodka and water over it. Using the rubber spatula, mix the dough and liquid with a folding motion, pressing down on the dough until it is slightly tacky and sticks together.

Divide the dough into two even balls, then flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to two days.

When the dough has chilled, on a well-floured counter, roll out each round to a roughly 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a pie pan, crimping any excess over the edge.

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