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!
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English and American traditions
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. 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.
Origins of Pumpkin Pie
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 to pay homage to North Carolina and its tradition of pecans), I decided that Praline Pumpkin Pie was in order. It’s a marriage of pumpkin custard and a praline pecan topping in a flaky pie crust.
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.
To the kitchens, then!
Tips and tricks for pie with pumpkin
Wait, hold on a minute…let’s talk about some of the do’s and don’ts I encountered while making this recipe. Specifically, adapting a pumpkin pie recipe for this purpose.
The recipe I used from Spend with Pennies pointed out that the pumpkin custard needs to be strong enough to support the praline topping. Cooking out some of the liquid helps to thicken it up. This idea works well.
Also, in an article from Epicurious.com, there was a brief mention of straining the pumpkin purée 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. The second time I didn’t bother straining the pumpkin, and it was fine.
See, isn’t it good I test these things out so you don’t have to?
Also, Sally’s Baking Addiction mentioned adding a pinch of black pepper to the custard to add a little “zing” of heat. Don’t worry, it’s subtle but effective.
Now to the kitchens!
Pie Making Steps
This Praline Pumpkin Pie recipe is made in three basic steps, making the crust, filling, and topping.
Step 1: Make the crust
My all butter No Recipe Pie Crust is based on a 3-2-1 recipe ratio of flour/fat/water (by weight), so for a single pie crust that would be 9 oz of flour, 6 oz of butter, and 3 oz of ice water. I also throw in 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to help tenderize the crust. Chill the crust while you make the filling.
Step 2: Make the pumpkin custard
Cooking the pumpkin filling ensures that it’s sturdy enough to support the topping, and also so it’s not as wet going into into the chilled pie crust (or graham cracker crust).
It’s important to allow the custard to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before you add in the cream and eggs. You don’t want little bits of cooked egg in your custard.
I made a mistake the first time by not whisking the beaten eggs in to the cooked pumpkin mixture well enough. This caused bits of cooked egg to be noticeable in the pie before the topping went on. Don’t be like me…mix in those eggs!
Step 3: Make the pecan praline topping
Toss the pecan praline topping together while the pie is baking. You can use corn syrup, maple syrup, or golden syrup to moisten the topping. Each will bring subtle flavor to the overall pie.
Tossing together the pecan praline topping. Here I used maple syrup.
Let the pumpkin custard bake until the center barely jiggles when you gently shake it. Once it’s ready, add the praline topping and finish baking the pie.
The first time, I added a sprinkle of granulated sugar to the topping before baking, and omitted it the second time. I decided it didn’t really add anything to the overall flavor, and I wanted to showcase the topping besides.
Before and after two trips to the oven
Praline Pumpkin Pie is a hybrid pie that works!
This praline pumpkin pie was wonderful! Full of spicy pumpkin flavor with crusty bits of sweet praline pecans.
(Pausing to wipe drool off the keyboard)
The flaky pie crust gave a good base to the pie, while the graham cracker crust added its own molasses undertone. You’ll have to decide which way to go!
If you’re interested in other variations of traditional Thanksgiving desserts in addition to Praline Pumpkin Pie, try Black Bottom Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie, Southern Brown Sugar Pie, or Sourdough Pumpkin Cake.
My father-in-law won’t let me in the door at Thanksgiving unless I promise to bring him my Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread, and that’s upwards of 30 years now!
Whatever your traditions, I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all my Outlander friends!
Do you have a traditional “must have” dish at your Thanksgiving feast (or another celebratory dinner)?
Praline Pumpkin Pie
- 9-inch pie pan
- 1 single pie crust, homemade or store bought, see Recipe Notes
For the Pumpkin Filling
- 1 can pumpkin, pure, NOT pumpkin pie filling (15 oz, 425g)
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed (5¾ oz, 163g)
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp black pepper, finely ground
- ¾ cup heavy cream, at room temperature (6 oz, 170g)
- ¼ cup milk, at room temperature (2 oz, 56g)
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
For the Praline Topping
- 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed (2½ oz, 75g)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp corn syrup, maple syrup, or golden syrup (¾ oz, 21g)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar, optional
- whipped cream, lightly sweetened, optional
- Make the pumpkin layer: In a medium saucepan, combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, cloves, and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool to for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Whisk in the cream and stir well, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla (see Recipe Notes). Make sure eggs are thoroughly whisked into pumpkin mixture. You don’t want areas of unincorporated eggs in the custard. Pour the filling into the chilling pie crust.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or when pie is cracked around the edges and the center barely jiggles.
- Make the praline topping: While pie is baking, stir together the pecans, brown sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the corn syrup, maple syrup, or golden syrup with the vanilla and stir until the mixture is evenly moistened.
- Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling. Sprinkle on the sugar, if desired.
- Return the pie to oven (at this point you may need to cover edges of crust with foil). Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the pie cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours or until it's room temperature.
- Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream (if desired), and enjoy!
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.