Classic pumpkin pie recipe with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and black pepper infused in the creamy custard. This festive holiday treat is baked in a delicious flaky crust!
For this Fall season, I made a classic pumpkin pie recipe so that I could always have an ace in my pocket for holiday gatherings. Pies are one of the seasonal staple desserts people have come to expect after a nice dinner. Without it, you feel like something’s just not right.
Making pumpkin pie is a tall order because there are expectations, so you have to nail the recipe. I’m happy to say that after trying out many varieties over the years, I finally found the best combination of sweetness, creamy texture, and tender, flaky crust.
Making pumpkin pie from scratch
- Custard Filling– This consists of eggs, milk, and cornstarch. The eggs allow the custard to set, so it holds its shape after baking and then when it’s cut. The egg yolks, heavy cream, and whole milk give the creamy texture. The cornstarch adds a smooth thickness to the custard.
- Spices– Pumpkin puree has natural sweetness but is pretty bland without some added sweeteners and spices. Dark brown sugar contains molasses, so it adds deeper caramelized flavor to the filling. The spice combo is critical! This recipe has warm spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and a surprise addition of freshly ground black pepper.
- Crust– The texture is dependent on the type of fat used like butter or shortening, and how you incorporate it into the flour to create your dough. This classic pumpkin pie recipe calls for a more flaky pie crust, and the combination of butter and shortening gives the edges the sturdiness and tender/flaky texture it needs.
The secret ingredient in this recipe for a flaky pie crust is vodka! The alcohol hydrates the flour and reduces the amount of gluten formation since it’s 60% water. Once baked the vodka evaporates and a tender pie crust remains. You don’t want the dough to be dry or too sticky, but it should shape nicely into a ball and be easily rolled out once chilled. You can add more flour as needed to reduce any stickiness.
I always find that I have some extra crust, so I like to make some leaves or shapes to decorate the top of the pie, and who doesn’t love a little more crust?
I blind-baked the pie crust, meaning I pre-baked the dough for 10 minutes so that the bottom crust is not raw or soggy when cooked with the custard. The pumpkin pie is sliced effortlessly, and the crust is light and delicate.
I had a little bit extra pumpkin pie filling, so I made crustless pumpkin pie cups, they are perfect for those who need a gluten-free alternative but still want some dessert! I baked each ramekin with about ½ cup filling for 18 to 20 minutes until it set, yielding about two to three servings.
Who will you share a slice of classic pumpkin pie with? Will you be making it for Thanksgiving or Christmas celebration? If you want to try some fun twists on using pumpkin, my lightened up pumpkin coffee cake is a healthier breakfast treat, or how about some easy no-bake pumpkin cheesecake cups for your hungry guests!
What is the difference between a mealy and flaky pie crust?
When making a mealy dough you break up small pieces of fat (butter or shortening) into the flour until a cornmeal-like texture forms. The mealy dough works well for tarts or cream-filled pies that require a sturdy crust to hold the filling. A flaky dough is made by breaking larger pea-sized pieces of fat into the flour. Typically the larger the fat pieces, the flakier the crust. As the crust bakes, moisture is released from the fat and dough creating steam that separates the layers. Flaky dough is typically desired for double-crust apple and pumpkin pies.
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Classic Pumpkin Pie
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into ¼-inch cubes
- ½ cup vegetable shortening, ice cold
- ¼ cup vodka, cold
- ¼ cup water, cold
- 15 ounces pumpkin puree, canned or homemade (see notes below)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ¼ cups dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, to take
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1 large egg, beaten plus 1 teaspoon milk for brushing
- In a large bowl add flour, salt, and sugar, mix to combine.
- Add the cold cut pieces of butter and shortening to the flour, toss to coat. Use your fingers or pastry cutter to cut in the shortening and butter into pea-sized pieces into the flour mixture.
- Sprinkle vodka over dough mixture. With a rubber spatula using folding motions to mix, pressing down on dough until slightly tacky and sticks together. If the mixture feels dry, sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of water in at a time, and fold until it forms a dough (up to ¼ cup water).
- Divide the dough into two balls, one double the size of the other (bottom crust) and the smaller for decorations.
- Place dough balls on two separate plastic pieces and flatten into 4-inch disks. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes until chilled, or up to 2 days.
- On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the larger dough ball to a 12-inch round, or about ¼-inch thick. Ease the dough into a deep 9-inch pie plate.
- Trim the overhanging dough to 1-inch and fold it under itself. Decorate the edges as desired and chill the crust until firm, about 30 minutes.
- You can use the other smaller dough ball to create decorations for the top of the pie. Brush those pieces with beaten egg and milk mixture, and bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Pre-heat oven to 375°F (191ºC).
- Remove crust from the refrigerator and brush edges with beaten egg and milk mixture. Using pie weights, pre-bake crust for 10 minutes. Once done remove and transfer to a cooling rack. In the meanwhile make the pumpkin filling.
- In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the pumpkin puree, three eggs, and brown sugar.
- Add the cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, heavy cream, and milk. Whisk vigorously until everything is combined; the filling will be slightly thick.
- Pour filling into pre-baked crust. Fill about halfway about 3 ½ to 4 cups of filling.
- Bake the pie for 20 minutes, then cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil or a pie shield to prevent the edges from getting too brown.
- Return the pie to the oven and bake an additional 35 to 40 minutes, until the center is almost set, and may still move slightly. When a knife inserted near the center comes out clean the pie is ready.
- Transfer pie to a wire rack and cool for 3 hours. Serve immediately with decorations and whipped cream if desired. Pie can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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