Friday, December 17, 2010

Pumpkin Pie with Caramel Brandy Hard Sauce



The perfect antidote for working so hard that you honestly don't know what day it is anymore and the sun rises and sets without you even noticing?  Old friends and good food.

Two of my wonderful linguist friends from college came to dig me out of my hole visit me yesterday, and we spent the day laughing and catching up and cooking amazing food and walking around the deserted campus in the brisk cold--and, for me, basically learning how to have fun again.  It was nothing but absolutely divine.


For lunch, we whipped up a vegan feast, gossiping, giggling, and reminiscing with each other while cooking away in the kitchen:

fresh dragonfruit
arugula, pomegranate, toasted walnut, and candied ginger salad with lemon-tangerine vinaigrette 
roasted acorn squash with sage, meyer lemon zest, cherry wood-aged balsamic vinegar
sauteed kale with onions and fresh cranberries
mint and licorice tea
Danish chocolate wafers and coconut-cinnamon sorbet

After living on almost nothing but frozen pasta'n'cheese, peas'n'carrots, and strawberry lemonade from Chez Trader Joe's for the past few weeks of paper-writing and finals, this meal was exactly what I needed: fresh, in-season, minimally and beautifully prepared greens and reds and oranges and whites, with a side of lovely conversation, familiar company, smiles, and laughter.  Food for the soul, indeed.


In the evening, after one of my friends had to leave, my other friend and I were commiserating about both having sadly missed out on pumpkin pie this year for Thanksgiving when it hit us: we clearly needed to right this wrong and make pumpkin pie.  And so we did, and I have to say, this pumpkin pie with caramel brandy hard sauce is probably my favorite pumpkin pie I've made to date.  The crust is super flakey, brushed at the last moment in the oven with heavy cream and sprinkled with turbinado sugar to give it extra gloss and crunch.  The filling is the perfect custardy consistency, packed with spices and not overly sweet at all.  But what really, really makes the entire pie is the caramel brandy hard sauce very generously drizzled on top.  Caramel on its own is good, but caramel with brandy?  We were eating the stuff straight out of the pot before it even hit the pie.


So if you feel overworked this holiday season, here's my prescription for you: old friends, raucous laughter, a fresh, hearty meal, and caramel brandy hard sauce (really, the pie is optional).  That combination will cure a lot.


Read on for recipe...




Pumpkin pie with caramel brandy hard sauce
makes two 4.5" pies

for pumpkin puree:
1 small pumpkin

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Split the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Discard the seeds.
3. Place the pumpkin halves face down on a baking sheet with sides.
4. Bake for 1 hour until fork-tender. Remove from oven and let cool.
5. Puree the pumpkin pulp in a food processor until smooth.

for pastry:
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/4 tspn salt
1/2 cup butter, cold, in small cubes
4 Tbspn water, cold

for pumpkin filling:
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tbspn dark brown sugar
white sugar, to taste
2 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
pumpkin pie spices, to taste (try: ginger, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, white pepper)

heavy cream, opt., for crust
turbinado sugar, opt., for crust

1. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl.
2. Using a pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the flour until the size of small peas.
3. Gradually add the water, 1 Tbspn at a time until, when you press the dough between your fingers, it holds together. Do not overmix!
4. Wrap the dough in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
5. Meanwhile, make the pumpkin filling. Combine the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, white sugar (if using), eggs, 1/4 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 cup whole milk into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
7. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out, about 1/8" thick. Place the dough into the pie plates and crimp the edges. Using a fork, pierce the bottom of the crust several times.
8. If the dough has become soft from rolling, place in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes.
9. Line the inside of the pie crusts with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans.
10. Bake for 15-17 minutes, then remove from oven. Remove the beans and parchment paper and, if desired, line the edge of the pie crust with foil. Return to the oven for 5-7 more minutes until the crust is golden. Remove and fill with pumpkin filling.
11. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake the pumpkin pies for 30 minutes, then brush the exposed crusts with heavy cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar, if using. Return the pies to the oven and continue to bake for ~10-15 additional minutes until pie is mostly set but jiggles just slightly in the middle when gently bumped.
12. Remove from oven and let cool briefly. Serve warm with caramel brandy hard sauce (recipe below).

[pumpkin pie filling recipe adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts]


Caramel brandy hard sauce

1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbspn butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-2 Tbspn brandy, to taste

1. Have all ingredients pre-measured and ready next to the stove.
2. In a small light-colored saucepan (with tall sides, preferably), wet the sugar with just enough water to make it the consistency of wet sand (~1 - 1 1/12 Tbspn water).
3. Cook the sugar on medium heat.  Do not stir once the sugar starts boiling--swirl the pan around gently instead to insure even cooking. Cook until the sugar is a deep amber color. Immediately add the butter and whisk thoroughly. Be careful--this will splutter!
4. As soon as the butter has completely melted, remove from heat and carefully add the heavy cream, whisking continuously.
5. Once the cream has incorporated, pour the caramel into another heat-resistant container to cool, straining through a fine mesh sieve to remove unevenly cooked sugar, if necessary. Let cool briefly and whisk in brandy to taste. Caramel will continue to thicken as it cools.


Enjoy!

12 comments:

  1. Caramel brandy hard sauce? Hello, I'm sold! That sounds awesome.

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  2. You have been working too hard lately... I am so glad you had good friends to come and rescue you! Your adopted mama was worried about you :)

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  3. I am DYING over this caramel sauce. Sounds sooo good, Steph! I know what you mean about the terrible finals diet. I lived off oatmeal and ramen (homemade at least) for the last week and a half.

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  4. @Sylvie: it truly is awesome. :-)

    @Kristen: aw.... thanks! hope you've been doing well!

    @Xiaolu: It sounds like you ate at least better than I did during finals! ;-P

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  5. That sauce! it looks so delicious! I have to keep myself from staring at your pictures for too long! so beautiful and delicate!

    -Amalia
    http://buttersweetmelody.wordpress.com

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  6. I must say I've never eaten pumpkin pie before but yours sounds divine ;_;

    Did you manage to handle that pomegranate without coming away with stains all over your shirt?
    For some reason every time I'm dealing with it I will always be:
    A: wearing white
    B: squirt a red stain in an embarrassing spot

    p.s Xmas is nearly here! Hang in there.

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  7. @buttersweetmelody: thank you!

    @Iris: Never eaten pumpkin pie?! You are so missing out! Here's the trick with peeling pomegranate: do it under water! No stains and super easy.

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  8. Very delightful and mouthwatering. Caramel is love!

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  9. Very delightful and mouthwatering. Caramel is love!

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  10. @buttersweetmelody: thank you!

    @Iris: Never eaten pumpkin pie?! You are so missing out! Here's the trick with peeling pomegranate: do it under water! No stains and super easy.

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Sylvie: it truly is awesome. :-)

    @Kristen: aw.... thanks! hope you've been doing well!

    @Xiaolu: It sounds like you ate at least better than I did during finals! ;-P

    ReplyDelete
  12. You have been working too hard lately... I am so glad you had good friends to come and rescue you! Your adopted mama was worried about you :)

    ReplyDelete

I love hearing from you and reading your comments! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. Happy feasting!

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