For years, my family used canned pumpkin in our pumpkin pie. When you’re spooning in heaps of ginger powder, cinnamon, clove, and grated gingerroot, we all thought, it hardly matters whether you use canned mush or a fresh puree—it’s all just a vehicle for ferrying sugar and spices to your mouth. Besides, we’d tried fresh pumpkin, struggling to carve up a big, tough jack-o’-lantern-esque orb before steaming and pureeing it. Once all the spices were added and the pie was baked, the flavor didn’t seem that different from Libby’s, and definitely not worth the effort. Canned won out.
At some point while flipping through my dog-eared Fannie Farmer Cookbook, I noticed a recipe for winter squash pie. It looked a lot like pumpkin pie but called for winter squash puree in place of pumpkin puree, heavy cream in place of evaporated milk, and a fat dose of brandy along with the usual spices. I noticed that the proportions of cream to squash were higher than pumpkin to evaporated milk in the usual pumpkin pie recipe. I hoped this would make for a lighter pie, and I was right. It was silky and creamy without being pasty or heavy. Even with the hefty dose of ginger, the flavor was fresher and brighter than pumpkin pie, but close enough to fool people come Thanksgiving. And the brandy added a warm, sophisticated note.
Years later, when I discovered how easy butternut squash is to peel—the thin skin slips right off with a vegetable peeler—I could imagine tossing cubes of it with butter and sugar and cooking the squash until almost candied, then turning it all into my pie. I made one almost immediately. My friends declared it the best pumpkin pie they’d ever had—even when I told them it was squash.–Melissa Clark
LC Still Not Convinced? Note
Do you really want that humdrum pumpkin pie from the Libby’s label again? True, this approach requires just a little more time and effort than a pumpkin pie recipe that calls for a can opener, not to mention a little more open-mindedness. But considering that butternut squash is so easy to find and a cinch to peel (just grab a swivel vegetable peeler and have a go at it), we see it as a worthy investment, one that’s rewarded quite handsomely with a complex dessert that’s wholly unlike that mild and mushy jiggliness that Libby bequeathed to us.
Caramelized Butternut Squash Pie Recipe
- Quick Glance
- Serves 6 to 8
- 1 Perfect Piecrust
- 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoon brandy
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 to 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh gingerroot, or more to taste
- 1/4 to scant 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1. Place the piecrust dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and roll it into a 3/8-inch-thick round. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the dough. Use your thumb and forefinger to flute the edges and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day. (If chilling the dough for more than 2 hours, lightly cover the dough with plastic.)
- 2. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- 3. Line the crust with foil, fill with pie weights, and place on a baking sheet. Bake until the crust is set, about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake until the crust is pale golden, 5 to 10 minutes more. Let cool.
- 4. While the piecrust is baking, prepare the filling. Place the squash on a baking sheet, dot it with the butter, and sprinkle it with the granulated sugar. Roast the squash, stirring every 10 minutes, until the squash is fork-tender, 30 to 35 minutes. For a slightly more complex, caramelized flavor, roast the squash until it begins to darken at the edges and is almost candied, 5 to 10 minutes more.
- 5. Puree the squash in a food processor until smooth (you should have about 1 3/4 cups puree; if you have extra, reserve it for another use such as ravioli filling). Add the cream, egg, yolks, brown sugar, brandy or rum, vanilla, ground ginger, grated fresh ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt to the butternut squash and puree until combined. Scrape the filling into the cooled piecrust and smooth the top with a spatula.
- 6. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (163°C). Bake the squash pie until the filling is just set but still jiggles in the middle, 35 to 40 minutes. Let the pie cool completely before slicing.
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Caramelized Butternut Squash Pie Recipe © 2010 Melissa Clark. Photo © 2010 jamesjyu. All rights reserved.