Wow! We’ve been discussing this pie since Thanksgiving, and for one reason or another, we haven’t made it until now. Well, we actually made it for dessert for New Year’s Eve, but you get the idea. We wanted to change the standard pumpkin pie just a bit, making it light and fluffy — who doesn’t like fluffy? — and by adding some maple flavor. Of course, we know that maple syrup is made in the spring, and pumpkin is harvested in the fall, so it’s not a taste combination that would be traditional. But, that’s okay; sometimes it’s worth making new traditions, too.
This is a modification of the recipe found on the back of a can of pumpkin, Libby’s brand, in fact, and, even though we’ve made (and still make) pumpkin pie from our own roasted pumpkins, we went with the canned variety, since it isn’t as stringy and is a bit denser. The changes are fairly straightforward: use some maple syrup in place of some of the sugar, and make a meringue from the egg whites to fold in, making the pie fluffy. Both of the ideas came directly from the Scratchin’ It kitchen.
Yes, you can use your own roasted pumpkin for this, although it’ll probably form a thinner custard and it might not rise as high. For the maple syrup, use 100% real, and probably one that’s grade B. The grades refer to the color, nothing more, and darker syrups generally have more flavor. The cream of tartar is optional, but it does help stabilize the egg whites. Appropriate substitutions are a pinch of salt, or two drops of lemon juice.
Procedure in detail:
Separate eggs. If you haven’t already done so, separate the eggs while cold and place the yolks in a large bowl, and the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let them come to room temperature. You’re less likely to break a yolk when the eggs are cold, but it still happens. Just don’t get any yolk mixed in with the whites.
Roll out dough. While you’re waiting for the eggs to warm, take the crust out of the refrigerator and roll it into a 10-inch circle. Carefully press it into an 8-inch cake pan that’s at least 1 1/2 inches deep. The amount of filling will be too much for a standard pie pan, so we made do with a cake pan. If you have a 9- or 10-inch pie pan, that might work, too. Trim off the excess dough and reserve for decorating the top of the pie. Place everything in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.
Whisk yolks and syrup. Add the maple syrup to the egg yolks and whisk until uniform and a bit thickened, about 1 minute.
Add spices. Whisk in the cinnamon, cloves, salt, and nutmeg. Or, if you have it, you can use 1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice in place of the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. The spices will float on top, so it might take a bit of effort to get the mixture whisked and uniform.
Add pumpkin. Scrape the pumpkin out of the can and into the maple syrup mixture. Whisk until uniform, about a minute, or possibly less.
Add evaporated milk. Slowly add the evaporated milk while whisking. Keep whisking until it has all been added and the custard is uniform in color. Set aside.
Make meringue. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment, add the cream of tartar to the egg whites, and beat them on medium until foamy, about 30 seconds. Slowly add the sugar while beating, increasing the speed of the mixer as the egg whites become aerated. Keep beating until the whites form stiff, but glossy, peaks, about 2 minutes.
Fold in meringue. It might be a bit tricky to fold the meringue into the pumpkin mixture because it’s a bit thin, but do the best you can to fold in that meringue, trying not to deflate the egg whites. Use two additions of meringue, folded gently but thoroughly, until the filling is uniform.
Fill pan. Pour the custard into the pastry crust; it should come right to the top.
Decorate. Quickly roll out any excess crust, cut into a nicely-shaped design (we used stars for New Year’s Eve) and float them on top of the custard.
Bake. Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, and continue baking for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Note: the pie may be still be a bit jiggly when it’s done.
Cool. Remove to a baking rack and let cool completely before serving, at least 2 hours, or, preferably, refrigerate the pie overnight.
This pie definitely succeeded in terms of being fluffy. Even though it collapses a bit while cooling, it’s still quite fluffy and tasty once cooled. It terms of the maple taste, that was somewhat subtle. It gets washed out by the pumpkin and the spices, but, that’s okay, as it still adds a depth of flavor to the finished pie. We had some the first day, and, while it was difficult to remove slices from the cake pan, we both proclaimed it delicious and thought it worthy of five stars. After all, it’s only slightly more difficult than a standard pumpkin pie (one of the easiest) and it’s worth the effort to make the meringue to have a lighter fluffy pie.