I would like to say that I have been spending the past few weeks preparing for Thanksgiving dinner: planning the menu, getting out the China, polishing the silver, etc. etc. But the truth of the matter is: I haven’t really given it a single thought.
I’ve been up to my ears in numerous other things so apart from double checking the date and making a mental note that it is in fact coming up, I’ve done little else.
In spite of my lack of attention to detail however, Thanksgiving is a big deal in our family. It is usually hosted by my mother who typically plans the menu which is always very traditional and always ends with the pumpkin pie. Not apple, not French silk, but pumpkin. Don’t mess with the pumpkin pie ~ and I’m always asked to bring it.
That being said, there are times when I’ve wanted to give a nod to the pumpkin but shake things up a bit just for kicks. Here are a few things I have found to be different, while keeping well within the pumpkin pie theme.
Eliminate the crust
Prepare the pumpkin pie filling as directed but instead of pouring it into a pie crust, pour it into well-greased custard dishes. Set the dishes in a pan of simmering water and bake until set in the middle. Serve with whipped cream and maybe some gingersnaps (add link) : whole on the side, or crushed on top.
Go for a different kind of crust such as gingersnap or cornmeal
Two favorite recipes of mine feature a “gilded” crust made with the addition of cornmeal, or this “gingersnap” crust…
Gilded Cornmeal Pie Crust: 1/14 c of flour; ½ c yellow cornmeal; ¼ t salt; 6 T lard; 2 T butter; 3-4 T of cold water. Mix as you would any crust and refrigerate 1 hour before using. Makes enough for one 9-11” single pie crust. Taken from this much loved cookbook.
Gingersnap crust: In food processor combine: 2 c flour of your choice, 3 T sucanat, 2 t ground ginger, ½ t salt, ½ ground cinnamon, ¼ t cloves, ¼ t nutmeg, large pinch of ground black pepper. Add 2 t of molasses and process to blend. Add 7 T of lard and 6 T of butter, cutting in to flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Add enough water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into a ball and divide into two uneven amounts: one twice as big as the other. Flatten into two discs, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until chilled through. Use the larger amount for your pie crust, and the smaller amount to cut out leaves as described below. Recipe adapted from this favorite cookbook.
Keep in mind: using natural ingredients such as whole wheat flours, natural sweeteners, and lard can make for an uncooperative crust that tends to fall apart. Be flexible and keep an open mind as to the finished result. Also make your pie as far in advance as possible so as not to add to your frustration the day of your big dinner.
Add an intricate border
When I have the time, which isn’t very often these days, I like to cut out individual fall leaves from the dough for the crust. I used to cut them free hand with a sharp knife (yes, I really did take the time to do that once….). Currently I prefer to use cutters like these which make the process go much more quickly, although I still do use the knife to form the veins in the leaves. To affix to the crust: apply water with a pastry brush. Brush with an egg wash to get a nice golden finish.
Be sure to keep a few leaves loose so that you can lay them on top of the pie itself just before serving ~ makes for a very pretty presentation. One other thing: keep an eye on your crust so that it doesn’t burn too quickly. If it starts to do so, you may need to cover with foil or a pie shield; otherwise you end up with a burnt black crust and all that hard work is wasted. Trust me. I’ve had this happen one too many times…
Spike the whipped cream
We always use the heavy raw whipping cream with a small amount of sweetener. (Whichever you prefer….) I add the vanilla with a heavy hand and the past few years, a bit of bourbon in addition. It adds a nice and unexpected surprise.
If, however, you are expecting guests who may not care for the taste of the alcohol, offer two different varieties at the table. It won’t be too much trouble at all and you can set them out in pretty glass bowls allowing everyone to help themselves. One can never have too much whipped cream.
Ditch the pie altogether
This won’t always fly at our family dinner, as we must always have the pumpkin pie but if you want to try something different here are some alternatives:
- Pumpkin Cheesecake (recipes are all over the interweb….)
- Pumpkin Dump Cake (this is a recipe for one made completely from scratch including the cake mix…)
- Pumpkin Panna Cotta
- Molasses Crumb Cupcakes
- Ice Cream Sandwiches (use this healthy chocolate gingersnap recipe and fill with homemade vanilla or pumpkin ice cream)
What, in your opinion, is the perfect ending to your Thanksgiving Dinner?