Pumpkin pie hasn't always been my favorite dessert. Because my mother didn't like it, she never baked that kind of pie, so I grew up without knowing the delight of a good pumpkin pie. Moreover, I thought it had a horrible taste! Sometimes a friend would give me a piece of pumpkin pie, but none was tasty enough to impress me and make me like it. Roasted pumpkin is a common dessert for many in our country, thus for many of my friends, but it has always given me nausea when they were talking about it. Yes, I know, I used to be a bit of a spoiled brat! My husband says I still am. But this has changed throughout the years, after learning more about cooking, pumpkin and after baking many, many pies.
My favorite pie was apple and it became my family's too. Although my husband spent his vacations as a child at his grandparents' home in the countryside, where people eat lots of pumpkin, he also didn't like pumpkin pie or any pumpkin (or squash) meal whatsoever; all the more reason for me to keep pumpkin out of our meals. However, a pumpkin pie recipe which I found in a magazine, years ago, drew my attention and made me want to try making pumpkin pie. It was winter and since pumpkin was cheaper than apples, I decided to try the recipe. I liked it so much that I started to make it regularly and it became one of my favorite pies. My children liked it too, so it was a keeper. The ingredient which made me like this pie was cinnamon. Used in a larger quantity, in addion to vanilla, it changes the pumpkin's taste for the better. All the pumpkin pies I had tasted before were made with plain pumpkin, sometimes even not enough cooked. This recipe is simple, but tasty. I'm happy to share it with you, hoping that you will enjoy this pumpkin pie at your Thanksgiving dinner.
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup sunflower oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 pounds pumpkin puree
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
I make the puree first. I need a two-pound pumpkin slice which I peel, cut into small pieces and grate. Ever since I got a food processor I grate the pumpkin in it; it's easier and saves time and work. I put the grated pumpkin in a pot, add a tablespoon of butter and a cup of sugar, then cook it on low heat. Cook slowly and stir constantly until the pumpkin gets creamy and it has no more liquid. Towards the end I add cinnamon and vanilla and stir well. Let cool for a while until the crust dough is ready.
For the dough I make a well in the flour, add salt, baking soda, warm water and sunflower oil. I combine all ingredients and shape the dough in a ball, then let it rest for 10 minutes. I take 2/3 of the dough and roll it out in a circle or a rectangle - depending which pan I'm using - with a rolling pin. The bottom layer has to be bigger than the pan. I put it in the pan and be sure it covers the sides of the pan. Then I spread the pumpkin puree on the layer and fold the sides of the layer over the filling. I roll out the second layer and cover the pie, folding it under the bottom layer. I bake the pie in the oven at medium heat 180C (350F) for 30-40 minutes until the pie is golden brown.
I use the same dough to make strudel. I roll three rectangular layers and spread pumpkin puree on one edge, then roll the layer and press the ends so the filling won't get out.
I sometimes serve the pumpkin pie or strudel with confectioner's sugar sprinkled on top, but we prefer it without sugar because the filling is sweet enough already.
The name pumpkin, given to Cucurbita pepo or summer squash, is also the name of other plants from Cucurbita genus such as Cucurbita maxima, also called winter squash. It originated from North America in Mexico. Its stalk is a vine growing on the ground. Its leaves are huge and has yellow, huge flowers, both male and female. Honeybees have an important role in pollination, but years ago pollination was made by the squash bees. Lately this bee species has declined because of the use of pesticides which killed lots of bees. I've learned that most everything from pumpkins is used, even flowers. But the fruits have the most important properties. The orange pulp contain alfa and beta carotene, while the seeds are rich in magnesium, protein, copper and zinc. In Romania we cultivate mostly winter squash which is also very good for making pies. I've been trying to grow some squash species in my garden, but they didn't grow too large, except for the spaghetti squash species. However, I'm not giving up and I will try again every year, until I have huge pumpkins growing in my garden.
I hope all Americans have a a Happy Thanksgiving this year!