My favorite part about Thanksgiving is always the desserts. Pumpkin pie and pecan pie are my favorites, but squash pie is my personal specialty. However, all these Thanksgiving pies are very much American specialties. You can’t really find pie as popular anywhere else in the world.
The first Americans, the pilgrims, who celebrated the holiday did not automatically think to make pies out of the land’s native squashes and pumpkins. They were more apt to eat meat pies for a main dish and custards for dessert, as was the tradition in Europe. But because of scarcity, they had to use the plentiful crops for something. Some bright individual combined pumpkins, pie and custard and came up with the basics for the recipes we follow today. I sincerely thank that individual.
There’s just something special about fall and winter squashes, their unique shapes and earthy flavors, that makes me want to cook and bake with them. Since I prefer the more mellow flavor of squash to pumpkin, I use acorn or butternut squash. Sometimes I steam or roast them for this recipe, but canned squash or pumpkin works perfectly well. And since it’s synonymous with the holiday, it’s the only time I use a can all year.
This recipe is very quick and easy. The squash custard is whipped in one bowl. A machine isn’t even required. So, do not buy a pumpkin pie from the bakery or frozen section of the grocery store. And whatever you do, don’t buy frozen pie crust either. This pie with its cornmeal crust is much more unique than anything available in stores. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and your guests will be delightedly pleased with Thanksgiving dessert.
Joseph Erdos is a New York-based writer and editor who shares his passion for food on his blog, Gastronomer’s Guide. One for the Table is Amy Ephron’s online magazine that specializes in food, politics and love. oneforthetable.com.
Squash and Honey Pie
5 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 4 1/2-ounce can squash puree
2/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 425 F.
In a large bowl, using a whisk, beat together eggs and cream. Add squash puree, honey, salt and spices; beat to combine.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out pie dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Carefully lay dough into a 10-inch pie pan. Press dough into the sides. Remove excess dough with a knife. Crimp the edge using your thumb and forefingers.
Pour squash custard into pie shell. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 F to crisp the crust. Lower heat to 350 F and bake until custard is set and puffed, but not cracked, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. A skewer inserted into the center should come out clean. Let cool completely. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
11/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
3 to 5 tablespoons ice water
Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Mix together with a whisk to aerate. Add butter and work with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.
In a small bowl, beat together egg yolk and 3 tablespoons ice water. Drizzle liquid mixture into dry ingredients. Mix until dough comes together. If too dry, 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water can be added.
Form the dough into a flat disc and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour before rolling. Serves 8.
Per serving: 316 calories; 14 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 39 percent calories from fat); 41 g carbohydrates; 9 g sugar; 65 mg cholesterol; 349 mg sodium; 7 g protein; 1 g fiber.