Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Pumpkin Pie, Woolworth's style


The Bat's best friend Jackie is married to the son of a long-retired Woolworth's manager. Somehow, in the course of the years, their family acquired what they proudly refer to as "the REAL Woolworth pumpkin pie recipe". It seems that this particular recipe is for the favorite pie served at every top five-and-dime where there was a lunch counter.

For the past few years, when we have had family holiday gatherings (and our families, while not linked by any law known to man, have been joined into one big mob for almost forty years, now), Jackie has made these pies, while others struggled with the double-crust fruit varieties.

Well, this year, Jackie had good reason for being unable to roll out pie crust and lift heavy bowls of liquids, so for Thanksgiving dinner, my seester managed to acquire the recipe and put a couple of them together, just so we'd not be deprived of the greatest pumpkin pie of all time. It worked. The pie was exactly as it needed to be -- light, tasty, and grown-up. Unlike so many others' pumpkin concoctions, this one doesn't overpower one with pounds of ginger and/or cinnamon/nutmeg/mace/what-have-you. I ate more than my fair share of it, and wanted more. I got more, the next morning at breakfast. It was great.

And even better still, I have permission to share this family secret with anybody else who likes a pumpkin pie with a lovely, delicate blend of aromatic seasonings in a not-too-fussy pumpkin-y custard base.
The custard is a dense, not fluffy one, in which the egg white remains somewhat intact. If you find this disturbing, this is not the recipe for you.

Woolworth's official pumpkin pie
(makes two deep 9 1/2" pies)

Ingredients:
1 #2 1/2 can (3 1/2 cups) pumpkin
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp salt
4 eggs, separated
3 cups milk
2 8-inch pie shells, unbaked

Directions:
In large mixing bowl, place pumpkin. Sift together sugar and spices. Add to pumpkin. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl, mix an additional 1/2 minute.

Separate eggs, stirring yolks together lightly. Do not stir or mix egg whites, but set aside. On low speed, add egg yolks to pumpkin in slow stream over 1/2 minute period. Add milk in slow stream over 1/2 minute period. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl, then mix for three minutes.

Stir in (do NOT beat) unbeaten egg whites.

Allow to stand (refrigerated) at least 3 hours (overnight is preferred).

Preheat oven to 450º F. When ready, place 2 UNBAKED pie shells (in their respective pie dishes) on rack in oven.* Pour filling into shells, bake 10-15 minutes, then reduce oven temp to 350ºF, continue to bake for 45 more minutes, or until the outer edge of the pie filling (about an inch and a half or so) has become firm, and the center is still a little jiggly, but a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Refrigerate (or at least allow to cool thoroughly) before serving. Is great with real whipped cream. 

* It is also possible to put those crusts on the counter, fill them there, then carry the very-full-of-liquid dishes over to the oven and place them on the rack, et cetera, et cetera, but I've found that having the liquid in a container with a pour spout and the crusts on the rack already, to be filled in situ, reduces the likelihood that I, Captain Coordination, might see great pools of uncooked pumpkin custard suddenly appear on Mom's lovely hardwood kitchen floor. And her walls. And shoes. Not that the cats would object.

Update: Photos were taken at Thanksgiving dinner, 2014.

Update 2: This recipe can also be used to make custard without pie crust. for this, you will want to thoroughly butter your custard cups, place them in a walled baking dish, pour water to surround the cups to slightly past the halfway point, and then fill the cups. Bake at 450º F for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350º F for approximately another 25 minutes, or, until a sharp, thin knife inserted into the center of a custard comes out clean. Allow to cool completely – you can garnish with toasted pecans or whipped cream (or both) at the time of serving. 

Asteroidae says that pie cries out for whipped cream and a side of cranberry relish, but even without all that, it's her favorite.

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