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Fresh Pumpkin Pie with Spiced Whipped Cream

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Pumpkin pie was one of the first things that I learned how to make.  Using canned pureed pumpkin, my grandmother made it frequently throughout the fall and winter, along with fresh whipped cream to accompany it.  I love pumpkin pie, and always have, so it was a recipe that I dedicated myself to mastering.

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When my grandmother died a few years ago, it became my responsibility to keep making the recipes that my father didn’t know how to make.  The first time he had my pumpkin pie, he looked at me and exclaimed “Bobbie taught you how to make it!”  Now I was in a predicament.  You see, my grandmother’s recipe was loosely based on the recipe given on the side of the Libby’s can.  My father wouldn’t believe me, so finally I conceded that my grandmother had made the recipe her own, which was not entirely a lie.

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Now I’ve been making that Libby’s variation for years, and there’s a special place in my heart.  But this fall, with a year-round farmer’s market mere blocks from my house, it seemed wasteful not to use a real pumpkin.  So, this morning, I set out to make a completely from scratch pumpkin pie, based on Rebecca Wood‘s recipe.

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After an embarrassing moment at the farmers market when, in front of the merchant, I wrongly identified a squash as a pumpkin, I set off.  The recipe, which tastes better than I imagined, had a few issues.  For one, the dough.  Now, I always tell myself to keep an open mind about dough, because there is that chance that I could happen upon a great recipe.  This was not a great recipe.  It was too hard and fell apart all over the place when I tried to roll it out.  I ended up piecing it together in the pie dish, which is not ideal.  To it’s credit, it did taste fine.  But what crust doesn’t taste fine with all the spiced goodness that is pumpkin pie on top of it?

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Also, the recipe calls for one sugar pumpkin to yield two cups of puree.  Now, I bought two pumpkins that were labeled “p” for pie-worthy.  They were normal sized smallish pumpkins, but the puree of the two barely made a cup and a quarter.  So, when you’re making this, try and find bigger smallish pumpkins, or buy three.

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Other than that, and the fact that it was not quite as orange as I expected it to be (blame my shortage of puree), it was a yummy recipe, one that I will make again (with better dough).

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Fresh Pumpkin Pie

Source: Rebecca Wood 

For the pie:

2 sugar pumpkins*

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

Dash of nutmeg

Dash of cinnamon

Dash of ginger

Dash of pumpkin pie spice

For the dough:

1 cup all purpose flour

4 tbsp cold water

1 1/2 sticks of butter, cold

Pumpkin pie spice

Dash of sea salt

Start with the dough, since it will need to refrigerate.  Mix together your flour, spices and salt.  Knead in sliced butter until the texture is like corn meal.  Slowly drizzle in water, and with your hands or a wooden spoon, mix together until a dough forms.  Flatten into a disc, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat your oven to 350*.  Slice the pumpkins in half, gut, and bake, shell side up for one hour.  Let cool a little, and then scrape the pulp out of the shell.  Puree in a blender or food processor, until smooth.  Put aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs.  Add in puree and heavy cream, using a whisk to incorporate.  Add spices, and stir until totally mixed.

Raise temperature to 425*.  Press dough into pie shell, and pour pumpkin mix into shell.  Bake for fifteen minutes at 425*, and then for forty minutes at 350*.

Spiced Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

4 tbsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Dash of nutmeg

Dash of cinnamon

Dash of pumpkin pie spice

Pour cream into medium sized bowl.  Using the whisk attachment on your hand mixer, start mixing at a medium speed.  When the cream starts to thicken, add the sugar, vanilla, and spices.  Continue to whip until soft peaks form.  Plop a dollop on top of your pie and serve.

 

*When pumpkins are out of season (December-August), there is really no shame in substituting the homemade puree with a can of store bought pumpkin puree, which is (so it claims) 100% pure pumpkin

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Shortbread (or Short’nin’ Bread)

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Having five siblings, it’s easy to say that the temperature at home was always… well, competitive.  And since I’m mostly competitive about things that my siblings don’t care about, I was not usually the one competing.  To make myself feel better, I created little battles in my head that allowed me to come out champion.  For one, on road trips in the suburban my sisters and I would sit in the first back seat, while the boys would sit in the second back seat.  Now, I always let my sister, Lauren, take the seat behind my stepmom, and I would take the seat behind my dad.  The trick here is that my dad is six feet and nine inches, so his seat pushes back all the way.  Lauren would think she won, when in reality I loved curling up in the no-leg-room backseat.  That way, later I could get her to let me win at something else because she felt like she had already won the leg room battle.  Backwards?  Probably.  Victory for me?  Definitely.

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Another example includes girl scout cookies.  You see, I like all girl scout cookies.  But I love the shortbread ones.  Which nobody else is particularly fond of.  They’ll eat them as a last resort, but they prefer thin mints or the ones with peanut butter.  So while everyone else was fighting for the frozen carmel ones, I got the shortbread box to myself.  A small victory, I know, but an important one.

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Factory made cookies aside, I love actual shortbread.  One of my mother’s greatest tricks, I believe, is that she makes these amazing recipes that don’t actually take that much work.  It only took me twenty some years, but I’m on to her.  I used to crave her shortbread, asking her to make it all the time, until I realized how easy it was and just started making it myself.  Shortbread is so easy you probably won’t believe me.  You’ll google it, check my recipe against others, and maybe conclude that I wouldn’t lie about something so serious.  And the best part?  There is a good chance you have all the ingredients already in your house.

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Traditionally a Scottish dish, shortbread is a staple in the south.  Probably because the Southeastern U.S. was heavily settled by Scottish immigrants, and mostly because it’s good.  Very, very good.  The dish is comprised mostly of butter and flour, with golden and white sugar in smaller proportions.  The name, shortbread, refers to the fact that it doesn’t rise.  The dough is easy enough to shape if you want to make it into cookies, but I prefer to lightly press it into a baking pan.

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In Roy Blount, Jr.’s book Long Time Leaving: Dispatches from Up South, he has a short story called Mammy’s Little Baby Loves What, Exactly? in which he investigates what the famous lyrics “Mammy’s little baby loves short’nin’, short’nin’, mammy’s little baby loves short’nin’ bread.”  According to Blount and John Egerton, short’nin’ bread is the same as Scottish shortbread.  Which differs from what Wikipedia has to say, but I’ll take my advice from the author of Southern Food over an anonymous Wikiposter.

Shortbread (or Short’nin’ Bread)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

4 tbsp white sugar

2 tbsp golden sugar

1/2 cup butter (2 sticks)

Pinch of salt

Sugar to sprinkle on top

Cinnamon to sprinkle on top

Using a whisk, mix together dry ingredients.  I like using a whisk to incorporate dry ingredients for doughs and breads because it also incorporates air into your mix, making it lighter and fluffier in the long run.  Cube your butter and, using your hands, add to dry ingredients.  A lot of times when making a dough you’ll knead the butter with your fingers until the texture resembles cornmeal.  That thickens it, and then you add a second thickening agent later, such as ice water or heavy cream.  With shortbread, the butter is the be all end all, so you want to knead until the butter is incorporated and flattened, but it doesn’t need to be totally chunk-less.  Dump your dough into a baking pan (ungreased) and use your hands to flatten it.  Use a fork to press it down, and then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Bake for 40-50 minutes at 300*

After it’s baked, sprinkle again with sugar, let cool, and serve.

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Mashed Potatoes

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After the divorce, my parents worked really hard to keep our lives as normal as possible.  My mom, for instance, still makes a completely homemade dinner every night that one of us is home.  However, one day in the late 90’s, she took some bad advice from a friend and tried to pass boxed mashed potatoes off as real mashed potatoes.

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Now, before you write me off as a potato elitist, hear me out.  My parents, each of them, make fantastic mashed potatoes.  They’re creamy, fluffy, and melt in your mouth delicious.  The reason that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday is completely wrapped up in that one dish… mmmmm mmmm potatoey goodness.

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Boxed mashed potatoes are okay.  In a bind, I can see where they are useful.  But after years and years of for no reason weeknight scratch mashed potatoes, those boxed potatoes didn’t get one bite past my brothers and I.  And, in good fun, we haven’t let my mother live it down yet.  That and the time she tried to pass ostrich burgers off as turkey burgers… we know better.

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Mashed potatoes can be made with cream, sour cream, milk, butter, eggs, cheese, etc.  Really, the creamy mixer of your choice.  Personally, I was brought up mixing mayonnaise and butter into my potatoes.  Now, if you recoiled at the word mayonnaise, well, you’re definitely not southern.  My father, before his doctor started in on him about his cholesterol and high blood pressure, would eat mayonnaise with a spoon.  It’s an integral ingredient in so many dishes, from tomato sandwiches to cole slaw.

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Personally, I don’t like my potatoes chunky, which is why I use a mixer.  You have to be careful with the mixer though, because potatoes can become gummy if they’re over-mixed.  An alternative is a potato masher, which blends, but doesn’t eliminate the bigger pieces.  If that’s what you’re into.  No matter what the texture, these potatoes are the essence of what my college cafeteria called “comfort food.”

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Mashed Potatoes

2 white potatoes

3/4 cup mayonnaise (plus more to taste)

3/4 stick butter

Salt & pepper to taste

Peel, rinse, and slice your potatoes into large chunks.  Submerge potato slices into water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for fifteen minutes, or until chunks are soft.  Strain, and dump into a large mixing bowl.  Slice a half stick of butter into 1/4 inch chunks and mix into the potatoes, stirring with a wooden spoon.  Once the butter is melted, it’s time to bring in the mixer.  Mix until the potatoes are semi-smooth, with medium size chunks.  Now it’s time to mix in the mayo.  Now, I can’t tell you how to flavor your potatoes, so I recommend mixing the mayonnaise in a quarter cup at a time.  This is also the time to mix in the rest of the butter and salt and pepper.  Turn the mixer back on and blend until totally smooth.  After this, all of your mixing/incorporating should be done with the wooden smooth, so your potatoes don’t get too gummy.  Add mayonnaise and seasoning to taste, and serve.

Makes 3 to 6 servings.

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