Throwback Thursday: Our Search for The Perfect Pumpkin Pie, Round 1

In the lead up to Thanksgiving I’ve come to realize I have a lot of different pumpkin pie recipes to choose from. So in order to work out what to make for the special event, we’re going to be pinning 18 of those recipes against each other in order to crown the winner of the perfect pumpkin pie! How it’s going to work is that we’ll start out with six rounds with three pies in each round and the winners will go into a semi-final round and the final two will be made and the winner crowned on Thanksgiving Day. Got it?! Good. Here’s Round 1…

Pie 1:

Our first pie is from Flour, which Food52 Baking Club covered in August 2017: Joanne Chang’s Super-Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie. What’s interesting about this pie recipe is that you cooked canned pumpkin with brown sugar in order to thicken it up before baking it in the oven, so the pumpkin custard filling gets a bit of a head start. And the pastry has milk and egg in it, which is why I think it comes out the darkest of our pies in this round. We made sure to put a thermometer in our oven and cook them exactly like the instructions so that we were giving each pie a fair chance.

How was it? Well at room temperature we weren’t all that impressed, it tasted pretty bland, and I was disappointed that for such a dark crust, the bottom of it was pretty soggy. But after a day in the fridge the flavors of the pie came out a lot more and totally changed our opinion. And somehow the crust isn’t as soggy.

Pie 2:

Our second pie was from Tartine, which Food52 Baking Club covered in September last year. This is Elisabeth Prueitt’s Pumpkin Pie. It is a beautiful concoction of spices with a hint of brandy and not sickly sweet. I loved this pie served at room temperature with a bit of whipped cream and the pastry held up the best and was crispy even at the bottom. The filling didn’t fill the shell as well as the other two pies, but what it lacked in depth it certainly made up for in flavor. After a day in the fridge it has lost its flare. The pastry has gone soggy and the flavors have mellowed. Which is disappointing…

Pie 3:

Our third pie is from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, which Food52 Baking Club covered last February. This book actually has several pumpkin pie style recipes so we went with the purest of them – her Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie. This one never wowed us, either room temperature or after a day in the fridge. The pie dough was the hardest to come together, it was soooo dry and included a bit of Crisco which is an expensive ingredient here in Australia. But then it was soggy and stayed soggy when cooled. And the filling didn’t pack the same punch of flavor that the other two pies did at their bests. It looked the prettiest though.

Which pie did we decide is the winner of Round 1? Well at first it was Tartine by a mile as we’d eaten our first slices at room temperature. Baking: From My Home to Yours was second and Flour was dead last. Then our eldest two tryed them and while they agreed with us that Tartine was the winner they said that Flour had the best filling. This seemed bizarre to say the least and then we wondered if chilling would play a factor with flavor. It did!

Traditionally I like pumpkin pie served at room temperature, but given its custardy nature, Aaron prefers it cold. So how do we make it a fair match when we tried the pies chilled and Flour suddenly was the best, Tartine second and Baking: From My Home to Yours third? I consulted the books to see what temperature they suggest for serving, each one says it can be served either way, so we’ve decided it’s really a matter of trying each pie in both states and determining the overall winner. And that is…

FLOUR! We cannot believe that what we thought was the worst of the three pies initially is going into the Semi-Finals. But there you have it. Round 2 coming at you next week.