Every once in a while someone shares a recipe with me hoping that I will make it. I'm more than happy to do so because sometimes it's tough for me to decide what to bake. When there are too many recipes to choose from I can become paralyzed by indecision and end up baking nothing at all. So I'm more than happy when the decision is made for me. This is especially true when it's a recipe I would normally not pick by myself. Like with the Daring Bakers challenges, it's a nice break from my usual M.O. and a great opportunity to break out of my baking box. I always enjoy the experience and always learn something new.
My coworker WW mentioned that he saw a pumpkin chiffon pie in a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living and was taken by the jewel like strands of candied pumpkin atop the pie. He searched Martha's website for the pie recipe but came up empty handed. So he purchased the magazine and asked if I would try my hand at making the pies. I was definitely up for the challenge.
I've made many pumpkin pies before but never a pumpkin chiffon pie. Just like a chiffon cake is supposed to be light and airy, I guessed that a chiffon pie should have a light and airy filling. In this case, the filling is a pumpkin pastry cream which is lightened with a meringue (basically egg whites beaten with sugar) and set with the help of some gelatin. The filling was pretty delicious and very different from the usual pumpkin pie filling, but I found it a tad on the sweet side and not particularly pumpkiny. I would probably decrease the amount of sugar in the filling if I make it again.
The crust was simply commercial gingersnaps blitzed in a food processor with some sugar and butter to hold it all together. This was the first time I've ever bought Nabisco brand gingersnaps. I tried one straight from the box and didn't really like it. I expected the gingersnap to be crisp but it just seemed hard. I hoped that the crust would taste better than the gingersnap itself. The crust did taste pretty good when filled. The gingersnap crust provided textural contrast to the fluffy filling but maybe too much of a contrast. In the future I might try using those thin ginger cookies that you can buy at Ikea instead.
The garnish was fun to make. I didn't have a sugar pie pumpkin but I did have a sweet dumpling squash. It was pretty easy to shave thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler and it was just as easy to candy them in the syrup. I only had a black and white copy of the recipe and photos from the magazine and I thought I messed up since my candied squash ribbons didn't turn out bright orange like I imagined they would be. Mine were more like a greenish tinged yellow. But when I presented my finished pies to WW he said that they looked just like in the magazine. The garnish was a nice finishing touch. Before laying the candied squash ribbons on my chiffon pie, I dabbed the ribbons with a clean towel to take of any excess syrup.
Even though I love the Martha, my success rate with her recipes has been 50/50. But despite the tiny issues I mentioned, I still must count this pumpkin chiffon pie in the win column. So thank you Martha and thank you WW for your wonderful suggestion.
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
(adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine October 2007)
(makes six 5-inch pies)
34 gingersnaps*, coarsely broken
(*I used Nabisco brand gingersnaps)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 envelope (1 scant tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin or fresh pumpkin puree
3 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 small sugar pumpkin or another sweet hard squash*, peeled
(*I used a sweet dumpling squash)
1 cup water
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 piece (2 inches long by 1 inch wide) peeled fresh ginger, sliced 1/4 inch thick
To make the crust
Preheat oven to 350F. Grind gingersnaps, sugar and salt in the food processor until finely ground. Add melted butter and process until combined.
Divide crumbs among six 5-inch pie plates, pressing into the bottom and up the sides. Bake until slightly darkened and firm, about 11 to 13 minutes.
Let cool 5 minutes. Using an offset spatula, carefully remove crusts from pie plates and cool completely before filling. (Since I had to transport my pies to the office, I kept my pie shells in the pie plate.) Crusts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
To make the filling
Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.
Combine pumpkin, egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, milk, salt and spices in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Do not boil. Remove from heat. Stir in gelatin mixture until completely dissolved. (At this point I strained my pumpkin mixture to catch any lumps. Apparently my strainer's mesh was too fine and it took a while for the mixture to make its way through the mesh. But I wanted to make sure it was lump free.) Let mixture cool completely.
Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat 3 egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Whisk one-third of beaten egg whites into cooled pumpkin mixture. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Spoon into pie shells and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. (I refrigerated my pies overnight and they seemed okay.)
To make the garnish
Using a vegetable peeler, shave pumpkin into thin, wide ribbons. Bring water, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and ginger to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add pumpkin ribbons and reduce heat. Simmer gently until tender and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Pour into a bowl and cool completely. Garnish can stand at room temperature for up to 3 hours. (I put mine in the refrigerator overnight before garnishing the pies.)