Let me restate it. I hate pumpkin. In fact, I hate squash in general. The only squashes I can tolerate are the summer squashes like zucchini and yellow squash, and they have to be prepared properly. "Prepared properly" does not mean sticking them inside my cakes, cookies, muffins, and quick breads. In fact, I don't think vegetables of any kind belong in desserts (especially carrots - bleah). Also fruits disguised as vegetables don't belong in my dessert (no tomato soup cake for me.)
There isn't much I can do about the assault of squash this time of year. Pumpkin is in everything. Now I'm even seeing butternut squash in desserts. Every blog, every magazine, and every restaurant is serving up a heaping helping of squashes in just about every course.
At this point I'm about to curl up in the corner in a fetal ball crying, "Uncle" over and over again.
I know I'm not the only pumpkin hater out there. I suspect that many of us are simply underground. It's pointless to fight against the onslaught because it will go on no matter how much we complain. Then also, by declaring our hatred of pumpkin, we have to be told by these pumpkin lovers just how wrong we are. We open ourselves up to a lot of criticism and ridicule.
At least the pumpkin madness is temporary. It fades out after Thanksgiving. Better food obsessions are on the horizon. If there is anything redeeming about the month of February, it's the emphasis on chocolate in the food world. It almost makes up for October and November.
I started thinking about something. How many pumpkin lovers actually like pumpkin itself? I have had some pumpkin desserts I could choke down. It wasn't because of the pumpkin. It was about the cinnamon and the cream and the cake. Pumpkin desserts are usually filled with cream and cream cheese and sugar and butter and white flour and sweet spices. A rich dessert filled with butter and spice can hide almost anything. Does (barf) pumpkin coffee really taste like pumpkin, or does it just taste like coffee mixed with spices? Ditto for (gag) pumpkin beer. I remember carving jack-o-lanterns as a kid and hating the vomitous smell that emanated from inside the pumpkin. Does anyone think it smells appetizing? If I gave you a can of pumpkin (which isn't really pumpkin) and a spoon, would you want to chow down? (I keep thinking about how I used to cut my dog's kibble with canned pumpkin when she needed to lose weight.) Pumpkin is awful, but cake and pie and custard and cream are all good. I couldn't stop thinking about how so many of the seasonal pleasures of pumpkin desserts can be obtained without using any pumpkin whatsoever.
So it was back to the kitchen for me. I wanted to devise a rich, creamy, spicy pie with all of good stuff and none of the bad (i.e. pumpkin). I wanted an Un-Pumpkin Pie.
I started by baking a rich all-butter pie crust. For this recipe, I'm going to leave your choice of crust up to you. I will look the other way if you use one pre-made.
Next I adapted a pastry cream recipe from King Arthur flour. It was an interesting recipe as it contained both flour and corn starch. Usually these recipes contain one or the other. It produced a nice tight custard that didn't take long to thicken. I mixed mine with brown sugar along with the white. Then I used the typical spices found in pumpkin pie and then added a splash of rum.
By late Friday evening (so late I didn't bother taking out the light box and getting a better photo), I had my pie.
I would have liked to have taken a photo of a whipped-cream topped slice, but my friends hacked the pie up to bits in taking their slices. The pie went over really well. Everyone loved it. When I explained that it was meant to be like pumpkin pie without the pumpkin, many of them confessed they didn't like pumpkin pie either. It was something they just felt like they were supposed to like this time of year.
I use Penzey's Vietnamese cinnamon in this recipe, which is a very strong cinnamon. The cinnamon flavor in the pie is very strong. I worried it might be too much. No one complained though and I simply ditched my plan to add cinnamon to the whipped cream topping. You might want to play with your spice mix if you think one spice might be too overpowering.
I will definitely make this again as a new tradition in fall desserts.
Un-Pumpkin Pie is the unofficial name, but I'm giving it a nicer name offiically.
Brown Sugar & Spice Cream Pie
- 1pre-baked pie crust
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1tsp ground ginger
- Pinch allspice
- Pinch nutmeg
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1Tbl flour
- 4 large egg yolks
- 4 Tbl butter
- 1/4 cup rum
- 1cup heavy cream
- 2 Tbl sifted powdered sugar
- 1tsp vanilla
In a small bowl combine remaining 1/2 cup of milk, cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks.
Heat milk and saucepan stirring until sugar dissolves and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add a small amount of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture and quickly whisk together. Strain the egg mixture into the pot and bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk until the custard thickens. This should happen pretty quickly.
Strain the mixture into a bowl. Add the rum and the butter. Allow to cool and pour into the baked pie crust. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.
In a cold bowl with cold beaters (I put my whipping equipment in the freezer for a half hour before I make whipped cream) beat the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until semi-stiff peaks form. Spread over the surface of the pie and serve.