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Secrets from the Pumpkin Pie Snob
The Secret Ingredient from a Pumpkin Pie Snob
For my entire life, I have been a connoisseur of pumpkin pie. While most children have birthday cake, my only memory of childhood birthdays has a pumpkin pie with birthday candles. Mom would always ask what I wanted for my birthday dinner and while the main course might change from year to year, the dessert remained pumpkin pie. And over the years, I thought that I was just a pumpkin pie lover.
However, time and time again I would order pumpkin pie at any restaurant that had it on the menu and found myself disappointed each and every time. When I was a guest in other's homes, I would delight to see pumpkin pie on the table only to cringe as the pie hit my tongue. I quickly discovered that I was a pumpkin pie SNOB and all pumpkin pies are not created equal.
When I mentioned this to various people throughout my life, I was frequently told that I was just spoiled by my mom's pie and that all pumpkin pies are created equal. Many a cook told me that for the basic pumpkin pie, the ingredients are mostly the same for all recipes.My palate told me otherwise but as I started cooking and reading recipes, I found that the ingredients do tend to be identical.
Not long ago, I once more sat down at the Thanksgiving table at mom's house with great anticipation of pulsing through the turkey in order to get to the pie. The pie was on my plate and the dollop of whipped cream a beautiful accompaniment to the rich golden color. My mouth was watering as I laid the fork on my tongue.
GASP! As I tasted the first bite there was something terribly wrong. The pie was not the pie that I loved and the words escaped my lips almost simultaneous to swallowing the bite. "MOM! What did you change in the pie?"
Now, I know I probably should have been more polite but......my pie. It wasn't the same. Something was off. I stared down my mom incredulous that she could possibly have changed her lifelong recipe. Her response surprised me. "You can tell a difference?"
"Erm....d'oh. I have been eating this pie for 40 years. Yes I can tell a difference. What did you do?"
Come to find out, the recipe mom uses has an "optional" ingredient. All of these years she always added the optional ingredient. That year mom was out of the ingredient and since it was optional and she didn't want to make yet one more trip to the grocery store in preparation for the big day, she left it out. After all, it was optional, right?
It was in that moment that I discovered the secret to my mom's pumpkin pie. Without this special ingredient, her pie turned into the plain, bland, ordinary pumpkin pie that I had discriminated against all of these years. With the secret ingredient her pie has a rich, and full-bodied flavor. With the secret ingredient, it made the pie the BEST pumpkin pie.
So, if this year you want to serve your guest a pumpkin pie that people will rave about you will need to make one more trip to the grocery store. This is not an ingredient that most people commonly have in their pantry. Believe me though, the trip will be worth it.
So.....what is it? Are you ready? You need a mere two tablespoonfuls of this ingredient.
MILD MOLASSES! And yes, there are different types of molasses. Do not get the "Full Flavor" variety as it will overpower the mild flavor of pumpkin. However, using 2 tablespoonfuls of mild molasses will bring a richness to your pie that will make you weep that you have lived through many Thanksgivings without it.
As a pumpkin pie snob, I could not possibly keep the secret ingredient secret. The world has eaten too many bland pumpkin pies. The best pumpkin pie needs to be unleashed at every Thanksgiving dinner table for centuries to come.
The recipe that follows was in a shortening cookbook seventy years ago and is the pie my mom baked for me for birthdays and Thanksgiving. As a pumpkin pie snob, I can assure you, it is the best I have ever had.
Mom's Best Ever Pumpkin Pie with the Secret Ingredient - NOT OPTIONAL
Unbaked piecrust shell
1 small can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons molasses
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup evaporated milk (shaked well)
Combine everything but eggs and milk. Mix eggs and milk together. Mix in with the pumpkin mixture. Pour into the pie shell.
Bake at 425 degrees for 40 - 45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Cover the edge of the pie crust if it starts to brown too quickly.
And now you know, the secret to the world's best pumpkin pie!