The Great Pumpkin Pie Contest
About a week ago, one of the Farmers' Market volunteer staff came up to our table, from which we sell Roastery coffee. She explained that she was an events organizer. Then she asked (very nicely) whether I would be inclined to make a pie for charity, for a pie contest.
I had never been asked to enter a pie contest before. I asked which charity the silent auction of the pies would serve, but this was not disclosed at the time.
About a day before the Great Pumpkin Pie contest, we went to the local supermarket, to purchase a sugar pie pumpkin.
I do not always make a pumpkin pie from scratch, but I thought that the general climate of our Farmers Market deserved the offering of fresh fruits and endeavours.
I looked for my favourite flour, which is organically grown and unbleached. I had wanted to use a stick of butter for my pastry, but I had decided on one thing over all else - we were on a budget, and winning the contest was secondary to making a charitable donation, as well as having some fun!!!
At the Market, my husband had asked, " Should we bring cream?", and the answer had been: "If you want to influence the judges"!
Link, if you like, to a photo log from my adventure with the Sugar Pie Pumpkin, although I didn't bother to show mashing, mixing and pastry rolling.
I realize most people know how to address a small, orange squash that is meant to be a pie. Here is a common North American tradition. If you have little else to eat, there are always squash, eggs and flour (or so you would hope). Pumpkin pie is a traditional sweet made for Thanksgiving, Harvest and Christmas festivals. It is highly spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and a little nutmeg. Deep brown sugar or molasses add to the rich flavour of this non-sugary fruit as it is baked in rich cream custard.
My first attempt at making pumpkin pie had been disastrous! Of course, I was a young parent, and I thought I would use the large, nerd faced Hallowe'en pumpkin after it was par-baked by a candle for an evening! I wasted nothing, or it would have meant death by starvation.
I had no idea that one could not just roast pumpkin and add the ingredients for a pie, without draining the squash for water. I also felt that cream, even whole milk, was sooooooo fattening, and avoided this in my pie construct. So, I made the light custard with skim milk and eggs.
I awaited the pie with mouth watering, of course. I was so disappointed when my pie turned out to be not just sloppy, but actually so leaky with liquids that pieces separated and slipped off the pastry.
Some womens' networking ensued, and I learned that I could use a less caloric amount of condensed evaporated milk for my pies' custard content, since non-fat milk will not bake into a firm solid.
For many years, pies were made with both this milk and canned pumpkin, because I hadn't time for all of that as a working Mom.
One medium Sugar Pie Pumpkin
Demerara finely ground brown sugar (3-5 tblsp)
One half litre of 10% cream
4 Omega eggs
3 or 4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 to 1 flat tsp Allspice
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
Kosher salt, to taste
small amount of nutmeg
1/4 lb stick of butter, or 11/4 inch cut of golden (flavoured) Crisco
1 2/3 cups unbleached organically grown flour
One egg yolk
Kosher salt, to taste
water mixed with 1 tsp real Vanilla extract
Perhaps you might think of this simple recipe as patronizingly explaining what you have learned from your Mothers' knee, but I know I had to start somewhere, and so I am writing to you with this simple and wholesome recipe, in case you need it.
When you carve up your squash, first wash its skin and then cut it into manageable pieces for the saucepan. I leave my pumpkin skin on and boil until tender (15 minutes or less). That way I don't have to struggle with extremely hard peel before the flesh is boiled.
When the pumpkin segments are ready, strain all through a culendar and set aside to cool, lots.
When the squash is lukewarm, scrape the flesh from the skin into a bowl, then turn the mash into a blender. Whiz this on puree setting until it is quite smooth. You can sieve some of the squash if you enjoy a texture within your pies' construct, then add this to the puree. At this point, take a clean tea towel or several layers of folded cheesecloth, and pour the pureed pumpkin into the centre of this. Twist the cloth and keep kneading and tightening it for several minutes until the water has expressed from the pumpkin mash. A dry looking fold of orangey pumpkin meat will emerge.
You should be heating your cream on a low setting while you are whisking the squash. The cream should heat until fine bubbles appear around the outside of the pan, and you need to stir this, watching it fairly constantly. Attention to the cooking cream will prevent a burned milk taste. Take the steaming (yet not boiling) cream off the element when it is ready, and immediately add to this 4 well-whisked eggs. The egg might make a few shapes that resemble scrambled eggs, but fold these into the hot cream and add to the pumpkin puree, which you have set back into the mixing bowl.
Add all of the sugar, spices and salt to this, and pour all into a pie shell.
Just chop the refrigerated butter or shortening into the flour until the pieces look the size of oatmeal. Add a lightly beaten egg yolk to the vanilla water and gently fold into to the flour, patting this together with a fork, repeating the water until the flour mixture rolls into a semi-firm ball. Turn this ball out onto a floured pastry sheet, and roll the size your pie will need- about 15 to 17 inches wide. Trim this around the pie plate edge.
Place the pie carefully into a pre-heated oven set at 375 degrees, and bake until the pastry starts to become lightly golden. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and continue to bake until a knife point placed into the custards' center comes out cleanly. Then place your pie on a rack to cool. It's finished!!! Do not forget to chill this pie; the cream and other ingredients are perishable and it is nicer cooled, then served with huge dollops of whipping cream.
Personally, I was delighted to find a convenience for sale in the pie tin section of baking goods at the supermarket. For only $1.99, one may purchase a fairly new product, a set of three deep aluminum pie tins with silver lids, meant for the freezer (like for cheesecake) but also really marvellous for pumpkin pie contests! I had imagined hundreds of snoops lifting saran off my pie, to taint it with their bubble yum drool, hairs and so one. YUK. The lidded tins saved me from this sickening idea (And also the discerning judges' palates)! Although it is aluminum, the tin is only used once, hence it never produces dangerous rust. I love these when I am asked to bring pie or cake to a party. I will now always use the freezer type of pie tin at home. So practical, nice and deep, too!
Our great contest day arrived, and we had driven through quite thick fog to be at Carp Market. The judging was not to be held until 11 am, and there were three tasters. I wondered how a silent auction could attract buyers- each pie had to have a wedge removed for judging. After half an hour I could see bidders notes on the table and I was well pleased to see that my contribution had attracted such generosity for our charity!!
In fact, I was amazed that anyone would buy my pie for so much. After all, I had not tried to bribe the judges with finicky rosettes of pure whipping cream. Mine was a plain, khaki coloured effort compared to the deep orange-brown colour of the others. I had asked about this, and I discovered that my sugar pie pumpkin was lighter than usual, that's all. Or, some of the entries were from tinned squash?
Whatever, this was in good fun, as one could see from the tiny pastry cut outs of pumpkin shapes baked onto the surface of some of the pies- very attractive and cute.
I had only made my pie to honour the markets' commitments toward the health of this community, but yet, in the recesses of my mind, I could almost hear "Your pie is the winner", and I imagined how surprised I would be when I took time from our busy stand to see the large blue satin bow. The imagined gold letters "First Prize" almost stunned me with desire, as I dreamed of baking supremacy.
When the judges had left, I sneaked over to see whose pie had won. Not mine. For the first time, at that moment, I realized that I actually felt competitive, and needed, wanted (almost begged) to be admired. The noble jauntiness with which I had struggled for three hours to make a pie for our charitable donors seemed to have fallen away into a childish, self- effacing silent whine of sadness.
I shall not let this get me down, though, and in another instant, I was deeply gratified to hear how much our pie contributions had turned in to the local food bank. After all, I could hear my husband muttering, "It might be us soon after the bill for that pie!"
Anyway, have a beautiful time at your market,if you can, and don't forget to try to use the freshest ingredients possible when you bake your contest pie!
n.b. When you make your famous dinner for that elegant and festive occasion, if you frequent Carp Farmers' Market, you might try visiting with Donna Davison, at Glengyle Garlic. Donna makes some of the most heavenly feta cheese dips I've ever tasted. She makes a couple of blends with tiny cubes of fresh cheese, all well tumbled with semi hot pepper, sweet red pepper and fresh garlic. The taste is, literally, mouth watering! I tossed half a tub of this mixture into fresh Romaine lettuce, chopped, and added a couple of sliced radishes. The resulting taste is all you'll ever need for a fabulously pulled together salad- so perfect with any dinner.
Bye for now!
text-only index ]
articles directory ]
herb properties ]
copyright Sue Risk Northdays Image 2004 - 2015