LAUREN GRIMM is an artist currently living along the Shenandoah in Virginia. She is a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago and Brown University. She is the family pastry expert among a family of cooks and the preferred pastry maker of this editor of OKRA. No one else will do.
My favorite pumpkin pie recipe is for a “cazuela pie.” It differs from the traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin pie in that it incorporates coconut milk and orange sweet potatoes.
(makes two pies)
2 chilled 9 1/2 inch pie crusts (recipe here)
2 1/2 pounds orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small egg-sized chunks
1 1/4 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
10 or 12 whole cloves
2 star anise, crumbled
1 (2 inch-long) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4th inch slices
4 cups pumpkin puree, or good-quality canned solid-pack pumpkin (not Pumpkin Pie Filling)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar PLUS 2 tablespoons tightly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup good-quality canned coconut milk (shake can well first)
1 1/2 cup heavy cream (36%), chilled, then whipped to soft peaks with
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, to serve
Using these instructions, make the pie crust and chill.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the sweet potato chunks in a single layer in one large or two medium shallow, ceramic baking dish(es). Add 1/2 inch of water to each dish. Scatter the pieces of cinnamon stick, cloves, pieces of star anise and ginger slices among the sweet potatoes. Cover the baking dishes securely with aluminum foil and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are very tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove the potatoes from the dishes and mash them. Let cool. Strain the baking liquid, discarding the solids (the whole spices), and measure. You want about 1/2 cup of liquid; if you have less, add enough fresh water to make 1/2 cup; if you have more, simmer the liquid in a small saucepan on the stove over high heat until it is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Let the liquid cool. If you make this part of the recipe ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature before continuing.
Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin and sweet potato purees and stir to blend well. Beat in the eggs, then stir in the melted butter and reserved spice liquid. In a separate bowl, stir together the granulated and brown sugars with a wire whisk. Add the flour and salt to the sugars and stir to blend. Add the sugar-flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir well until there are no pockets of sugar visible. Blend in the coconut milk.
(Note: canned coconut needs to be shaken before opening to combine the cream and the water).
Scrape the filling into the two chilled pie shells, dividing it evenly and smoothing the tops. Place the pies in the lower half of the preheated oven and bake for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, turning the pies several times so they bake evenly. The point of a thin-bladed knife should come out clean when inserted into the center of the filling, and the surface should be unevenly cracked. If the edges of the pastry seem to be darkening too much before the filling is cooked, cover them with strips of aluminum foil. Transfer the pies to wire racks and cool completely before serving with mounds of lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Each pie would serve 6 to 8 people if everyone wants only one piece. This is unlikely.