In case anyone’s keeping track, I have not given up on pie. No, sir. In fact, since the Great Pumpkin Pie Disaster, I’ve tried again not once, but twice. (And I’ll be darned if I’m not going to find a way to screw up a few more well-meaning crusts, too. My dear friend Kelley sent me her go-to, and my old roommate Sonja teases me with promises that her grandma’s is the best. We shall see.)
Observing these things, my mom, kind woman that she is, went so far as to assure me she’s got Thanksgiving’s pumpkin pie covered this year. This was after my brother begged her to promise not to let me mess it up. This family of mine, they’re cheerleaders, you can tell.
All these things withstanding, no matter how many signs the universe sends that pie crust is just not my thing, along with skiing, swimming or, let’s face it, any sport requiring a level of coordination, I have not given up. Won’t give up. Am determined to get the hang of this stuff if it’s the last thing I do.
(Pie, are you listening? It’s you and me, and it’s war. And I’m winning this one, OK?)
I might need a minute.
Well, in honor of fellow underdogs across the world, I am happy to tell you, I had a small victory this weekend: a battle won, you could say. After reading Pioneer Woman’s promise about a pie crust being fantastic and wonderful and you-can’t-mess-it-up good, after looking through her step-by-step photos and assuring myself I could do what she did, I tried her recipe. And, are you ready? She was right.
The recipe makes three crusts, which you can freeze or use right away. That’s right. Could it be better?
The first, I made a variation on Emeril’s pumpkin custard pie—key word being variation. Not. Good. The lesson from that disaster was that molasses is rip-your-tongue-out disgusting in pumpkin pies. But also, that the crust wasn’t half-bad. With a decent filling, we might be on to something.
Sunday, I used the other two, one becoming a spinach quiche and the other housing yet another pumpkin pie (if you’re counting, that’s pumpkin-pie try #3). These turned out perfect: flaky, not-too-thick, ideal with both the savory tart/quiche and the sweet pie.
You can’t see me right now, but I’m practically punching the air with my fists in sheer joy. It’s Rocky Balboa meets Michael Phelps at the Olympics. Success at last! The recipe for the pumpkin filling comes right off the pumpkin can, so I’ll leave you to find that for yourselves. My only exception was using milk and corn starch instead of evaporated milk, which just made the custard need more time in the oven. Otherwise, it’s a classic. It’s tasty. It’s the one to try.
Now, the quiche? That was my real masterpiece. I didn’t even know I liked quiche. It’s not at all eggy—much more savory and filled with bursts of chopped spinach, cheddar and parmesan cheeses and chopped green onions. It’d make a happy breakfast, a satisfying lunch, maybe even a dinner—or, as I like it, slices for snacks all day long.
In my opinion, the mark of a good pie crust, beyond my being able to create it, is versatility. I’d like it to be simple, yes. Tasty, of course. But what’s really fantastic is a pie crust you can use when you want to—freeze it today and make it Thanksgiving or next week or whatever—and fill with what you want—be it pumpkin pie or spinach quiche.
I made these Sunday afternoon, around 4:30 PM. By 9:00, they were already more than half gone. In my book, that’s a victory. Hear that, pie? One point for me.
Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 1991
Crust recipe from Pioneer Woman Cooks
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream
10 ounces fresh baby spinach, washed, drained and chopped
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F. After defrosting the pie crust (15 minutes if it’s been frozen), roll it out on a flour surface to about 11 inches in diameter. Transfer to 9-inch tart pan. Push and trim edges to fit pan neatly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a medium bowl), beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in cream and eggs. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is set, about 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
*Becky & Pumpkin Pie: For those of you who are curious, very ironically, no-pumpkins Becky tried her first Sunday, the same day I made this pie. And this is worth saying: she liked it.