How They Made It: Praline Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving in Boston
Welcome to “How They Made It,” our series exploring the food and drink of Outlander. With Thanksgiving right around the corner in the U.S., we take a look at one possible dessert for your table…Praline Pumpkin Pie. Slainté!
Do you remember the scene between Frank and Claire in the kitchen of their Boston home, when Frank complained that Briana is becoming too American? He tried to counter that impulse by making her a “proper English” breakfast. I like to think that Frank’s efforts were in vain, and that Briana turned out thoroughly American, right down to coercing her parents to hold (or at least attend) a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. You know…roast turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce (especially since cranberries were cultivated in New England), and of course, pumpkin pie for dessert. With a nod to the South (where Claire ends up with Jamie), let’s up the ante and make that dessert be Praline Pumpkin Pie instead.
Actually, we know that a form of pumpkin pie was around in Colonial Boston. After all, pumpkin was introduced to the British settlers of Plimoth Plantation by Native Americans back in 1621 (the original Thanksgiving, as it were). Originally a dish of pumpkins stewed with honey, milk, and a bit of sugar, recipes for a pumpkin custard baked in a pastry crust didn’t emerge until the late 18th century. Now pumpkin pie is as ubiquitous at Thanksgiving as is turkey (historical accuracy notwithstanding). The Internet bursts with everyone’s own traditional pumpkin pie recipe. In order to be a bit different (and again, to pay homage to North Carolina and its tradition of pecans), I decided that Praline Pumpkin Pie, that marriage of pumpkin custard and candied pecans in a flaky pie crust, was in order (and it has nothing to do with the fact that I love both pumpkin pie and pecan pie and have a hard time choosing between the two. Nothing at all!). To the kitchens, then!
Wait, hold on a minute…let’s talk about some of the do’s and don’ts I encountered while making this pie. First, I read an article from Epicurious.com about choosing the best canned pumpkin for your pie. And while I didn’t agree with their conclusion (I still like Trader Joe’s organic canned pumpkin, so there!), there was a brief mention of straining the pumpkin before using it, presumably to make it smoother. That sounded reasonable, so I tried it. Frankly, I’m not sure it was really necessary given that I ended up cooking the pumpkin mixture first (see, isn’t it good I test these things out so you don’t have to? You’re welcome). Speaking of cooking the purée, the recipe I used from Spend with Pennies pointed out that the pumpkin custard needed to be strong enough to support the praline topping, and cooking out some of the liquid helped to thicken it up (that point I agree with). Also, both King Arthur Flour and Sally’s Baking Addiction mentioned adding a pinch of black pepper to the custard to add a little “zing” of heat, something that I wanted to try (don’t worry, it’s subtle but effective). Lastly, a mistake I made was not whisking the beaten eggs in to the cooked pumpkin mixture well enough, causing bits of cooked egg to be noticeable in the pie before the topping went on. Oh well, live and learn (and don’t judge!).
Now to the kitchens!
Praline Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from Spend with Pennies
- 1 9-inch Pie Crust (here’s my homemade pastry version; a graham cracker crust would be great here as well)
- 1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling), strained through a fine mesh sieve, if desired
- 163g (3/4 cup, 5-3/4 oz) packed dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp black pepper, finely ground
- 3/4 cup heavy cream + 1/4 cup 1% milk
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
- 71g (1/3 cup, 2.5 oz) packed dark brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- For Pumpkin Filling: Add pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, cloves, and pepper to a medium saucepan and whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and whisk in cream followed by beaten eggs (see notes below) and vanilla. Pour filling into pie crust.
- Bake at 350°F for 40-50 minutes, until the pie is cracked around the edges and the center barely jiggles.
- For Praline Topping: While pie is baking, add pecans, brown sugar and salt to a bowl and stir until evenly combined. Add corn syrup and vanilla and mix until evenly moistened.
- Sprinkle pecan mixture evenly over filling; then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.
- Return pie to oven (you may need to cover edges of crust with foil) and bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let pie cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours.
- If the pumpkin mixture is too warm after stirring in the cream, temper eggs by adding a small amount of pumpkin to the eggs to warm them before adding the eggs back in to the pumpkin. This will ensure there are no bits of scrambled eggs in the pumpkin custard.
- Make sure eggs are thoroughly whisked into pumpkin mixture…again you don’t want areas of unincorporated eggs in the custard
- Even though Epicurious.com recommended straining the pumpkin purée, I’m not sure it’s really necessary.
- Pie can be made and cooled 2 days ahead of time, then wrapped in plastic and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.
This praline pumpkin pie was wonderful! Full of spicy pumpkin flavor with crusty bits of sweet praline pecans…yummmmmm…(pausing to wipe drool off the keyboard). We didn’t notice my egg mistake in the pieces we had. Who knows…that could be because I didn’t cut in that section. I’ll be on the lookout as I
devour the pie share it with friends. One experiment I might try next time would be to use maple syrup instead of corn syrup in the topping to see if that makes a difference.
If you’re interested in other variations of traditional Thanksgiving desserts in addition to praline pumpkin pie, might I suggest Black Bottom Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie or Southern Brown Sugar Pie from my Scotch & Scones blog? Last month’s Sourdough Spice Cake would also go over well. Alternatively, you can dress up a fruit pie with a lattice crust. Whatever your traditions, I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all my Outlander friends. After all, aren’t we all thankful now that Droughtlander is over?
Do you have a traditional “must have” dish at your Thanksgiving feast (or another celebratory dinner)? My father-in-law won’t let me in the door unless I promise to bring him my Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread, and that’s upwards of 30 years now! What do your relatives clamor for you to bring?
Discovering Outlander after Season 1 first aired, Tammy quickly went down the rabbit-hole on social media and podcasts and found a world of like-minded fans who not only tolerated her obsession, but encouraged the madness! She combined her Outlander-inspired interest for scotch whisky with her continuing passion for baking and storytelling in her blog, Scotch & Scones…Explorations in a glass and in the oven. Joining the staff of Outlander Cast as the resident baker has brought Tammy full circle, from a podcast fan to a contributing writer. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest at @scotch_scones, and find her on Facebook at @scotchandsconesblog.