Traditions have a way of sneaking into our lives and customs without our really ever being aware, and then as soon as you’re somewhere other than home, you realize the irreplaceable feeling of being with family for the holidays. And although I couldn’t recreate the charming sibling banter nor the desperate vying for story-telling over the dinner table, I could maker sure my Nihon-Thanksgiving did not lack its most critical element: pumpkin pie!
With the help of an expat-run meat-bartering website, a turkey was ordered, a location was set, and thus was born a multi-cultural JET feast of thanks on the conveniently timed holiday on the 23rd. There were meat pies from Australia, salad from New Zealand, pasta from Scotland, chocolates form Ireland, and bread and cheese from England. I eagerly volunteered to represent America by bringing stuffing and pumpkin pie.
I admit though, I was a little troubled at first with the prospect of trying to live up to Thanksgiving tradition in a foreign country. It was a scary enough prospect to find the perfect recipe, let alone track down all of the ingredients and fixings. The pie tin merited trips to four different stores, and the pumpkin puree was a lucky find at an international store at the Osaka train station weeks ago. As for the recipe, I was lost in a maze of online articles, blogs and cooking magazines each proclaiming to possess the best, the classic, the just-like-grandma-makes-it prizewinning pie recipe. My Mom swears by Libby’s classic pumpkin pie recipe, the one straight from the back of the can of puree, but I couldn’t bring myself to go on another manhunt for evaporated milk. Instead, with a few tweaks and additions, I decided on a more old-fashioned recipe, one replete with cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves (sound familiar?) and finished with a delightful kick of freshly grated ginger.
Perhaps it was the off-brand puree, the heady mix of spices, or the poor lighting in my kitchen, but I was worried for a moment when I pulled the pie from my micro-oven and beheld the deep yellow-ochre of the custard, rather than the traditional bright orange. But please don’t let the unconventional color deter you! I was more than won over by its blissful aroma wafting through my kitchen and the thin layer of caramelized sugar and spice atop the rich custard. It was almost like being at home: surrounded by a surrogate family of friends, enjoying the momentary lull in conversation when everyone bites into their slice and even words are a distraction from savoring the perfect union of warm pie topped with freshly whipped cream.
And just between us bakers, no one else has to know that the extra pie filling this recipe makes is actually just as delicious uncooked as it is in a pie shell. I just happened to discover that the filling is the most divine addition to a bowl of plain yogurt :D
Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie
1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs plus the yolk of a third egg
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 pie crust (okay, I admit defeat, I used frozen pie shell)
Preheat oven to 220˚ C (425˚ F). If using frozen pie shell, remove from freezer and set out to thaw.
Mix sugars, salt, spices, and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Beat the eggs and add to the bowl. Stir in the pumpkin puree, cream, and whisk together until well incorporated.
In a prepared pie dish, pour the filling mixture into the pie shell and bake at 220˚ C for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes reduce the temperature to 170˚ C (350˚ F) and bake for another 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the edge comes out clean. Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack for at least two hours. To make the pie-shell accents, cut out leaf-shapes from the scrap pie dough, and bake at 170˚ C (375˚ F) for 7-10 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown. Arrange pieces on the baked pie before slicing.
If you are storing the pie overnight, cover with a paper towel, then wrap loosely with plastic wrap. Serve cold, room temperature, or warm, with a generous spoonful of freshly whipped cream. (recipe follows)
Fresh Whipped Cream