I don’t particularly care for traditional pumpkin pie. In fact, I really dislike it. I’ve been traumatized by too many bad pumpkin pies that have had heavy, wet, slippery fillings, gummy crusts, and way too much pumpkin pie spice in the filling. There is only one pumpkin pie recipe I will eat and it’s a recipe I dearly love. It’s creamy, rich, and full of classic pumpkin pie flavor. I’ve been making this recipe for many years and it always gets rave reviews.
This is the pumpkin pie my Hungarian born grandmother always made. She called it Pumpkin Chiffon Pie but it’s more of a mousse than a chiffon because of the whipped cream in the filling. Being Hungarian, every dessert involved heavy cream in one form or other. She was a world class baker and was the cook for the mayor of Pittsburgh way back in the 1930’s. I still roll my pie crusts out with the same rolling pin she used-a straight, two foot long piece of wood fashioned out of a policeman’s night stick my grandfather took from a police officer during a scuffle involving a labor union, steelworkers and a strike in Pittsburgh in the early 1900’s. It makes everything it touches taste better.
This is her recipe.
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
1 8 or 9 inch single pie crust baked and cooled. Can be either a standard pastry pie crust or graham cracker style.
For the filling:
2 packages plain unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup brandy, dark rum or bourbon (she used brandy)
1 ½ cups plain canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 egg yolks – refrigerate whites for later step
½ cup evaporated milk or heavy cream
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
very small pinch of cloves
6 tablespoons white granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons brandy, dark rum or bourbon
In a small bowl, mix the gelatin and brandy until blended, set aside for 5 minutes to soften.
In a sauce pan add the pumpkin, brown sugar, and the egg yolks. Whisk in the softened gelatin until well mixed. Add the evaporated milk, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Cook for 8 minutes over medium heat stirring constantly to melt the gelatin.
Place mixture in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool completely, stirring once or twice (this takes about 45-60 minutes). Mixture will thicken.
When the pumpkin mixture has cooled, and in another bowl, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt, adding 6 tablespoons of sugar slowly while beating on medium. When the sugar has all been added, turn the speed up on your mixer and beat the egg whites on high until stiff. Stir the pumpkin mixture well with a spatula to loosen it up and then fold the egg whites into cooled pumpkin mixture until evenly blended.
Clean and dry your mixing bowl and add the whipping cream, vanilla and two additional teaspoons of brandy. Whip until medium stiff peaks form and with a spatula, gently fold the whipped cream mixture into the pumpkin egg white mixture until evenly blended.
Pile the pumpkin mixture into a cooked and cooled pie crust. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving. The filling will set up nicely because of the gelatin. Serve topped with additional sweetened whipped cream spiked with a teaspoon (or two) of brandy. And don’t even think about using Cool-Whip.