Wheeling Chef Shares Her Secret For Making The Best Pumpkin Pie Melissa Rebholz November 18, 2022 What’s the secret to making the best pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving? The answer might surprise you…it’s butternut squash! Why? Not all pumpkins are created equal. The larger pumpkins we buy just before Halloween are full of watery flesh with not very much flavor. True pie pumpkins are smaller and have a higher sugar content. There are well over 50 varieties of pumpkins and the best way to find a “pie” pumpkin is to find a local farm that grows them. I have yet to find pie pumpkins this year in the Ohio Valley, but that’s okay with me because, in my opinion, the best pumpkin pie is actually a butternut squash pie! Butternut is one of the sweetest winter squashes. It’s also very easy to find in most grocers this time of year. One large butternut is all you need to make a delicious pie. Butternut flesh is also great for pie because it has a lower water content and makes for a creamy pie that sets up very well when baked. If you want to make your own pie from scratch this year, butternut squash is much easier to find in stores than pie pumpkins. You can’t beat the creamy texture either! Another key to the perfect Thanksgiving pie is a flaky, buttery pie crust. Making a crust from scratch can seem intimidating but it’s really quite simple! The two greatest tips I could give you for making an excellent pie crust are 1. Try to use European butter (I like Plugra brand). This butter has a higher fat content which will help you achieve that extra flakey crust. 2. Keep all of the ingredients very cold. The best way to make sure your pie crust is nice and cold is to make the crust the day before you’d like to bake the pie and leave it in your refrigerator overnight. You can even freeze pie dough up to one month in advance. If using frozen dough, take it out the day before you want to make a pie and let it defrost overnight in your refrigerator. All-purpose flour is easy to find and works great for any pie crust. I would, however, suggest experimenting with some local freshly milled flour. Weatherbury Farm in Avella, PA has an excellent Sifted Pastry Flour that makes a wonderful pie crust. I’ve also used their Light Rye flour for pie crusts as well as a mix of a few different flours. Once you get the basic recipe down, don’t be afraid to experiment. You might need to use a little bit more water in the dough if you are using fresh, whole-grain flour. If you’re rolling out your dough and it’s fairly warm in your home, you may want to put the pie dish lined with the rolled dough back in the fridge to completely cool down again for a few hours before filling it and baking your pie. Now, let’s get baking! Flakey All-Butter Pie Crust Recipe Yield: 2 pie crusts Ingredients: 2½ cups (320 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon fine sea salt ½ cup ice water 1 cup (225 grams) cold unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into 1-inch cubes Directions: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; set aside. Gently toss the butter in the flour mixture until coated, then use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour. (You should have pieces of butter that range from sandy patches to pea-size chunks, with some larger bits as well.) Drizzle in about half of the ice water and stir lightly with a fork until the flour is evenly moistened and the dough starts to come together. If the dough seems dry, add a little more ice water, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time. The dough will still look a bit shaggy at this point. If you grab a small piece of dough and press it slightly with your hand, it should mostly hold together. Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface and gather it together into a tight mound. Using the heel of your hand, smear the dough a little at a time, pushing it away from you and working your way down the mass of dough to create flat layers of flour and butter. Gather the dough back together with a bench scraper, layering the clumps of dough on top of one another. Repeat the process once or twice more; the dough should still have some big pieces of butter visible. Cut the dough in half. Shape each piece into a disk and flatten it. Wrap the disks in plastic and put in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight, to rest. The dough can be stored for 3 days in the refrigerator or up to 1 month in the freezer. Butternut Miso Pie Filling Trust me, you will be surpirsed that this creamy, delicious pie filling was made with butternut squash instead of pumpkin. I like to use a little white miso paste in this pie filling in place of the salt I would normally add. Miso provides a more complex flavor and when combined with the flavor of maple sugar it gives the filling a salted caramel flavor. I use maple sugar from Family Roots Farm which can be found at Public Market downtown. I love maple sugar for fall desserts. I think it gives them such a seasonal flavor and pairs well with the spices commonly found in fall pies. Maple sugar is a nice swap for your holiday baking, as it pairs well with many fall flavors. Before you preapre your filling, you’ll want to roast a large butternut squash. Cut the squash in half and rub a little olive oil on the inside. Lightly salt the squash. Place in a 400 degree oven, face down, on a sheet tray for about 30 minutes. When the flesh is easily pierced with a knife it’s good to go. Take the squash out of the oven, scoop the seeds out. Scoop out 2 cups of the flesh and set aside. Now, it’s time to prepare your filling! Ingredients: ½ cup maple sugar 2 cups roasted butternut squash flesh 1 tablespoon all purpose flour 2 tsp white miso 1 teaspoon cardamom powder 1 teaspoon cinnamon* 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder 3 large eggs, beaten 1 1/4 cups sweetened condensed milk Directions: Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If you can let this mixture sit in the fridge overnight, it will really help to blend the flavors. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Pour the filling into the pie crust and place on a tray in the center of the oven for about 45-50 minutes. When you remove the pie it may still be a little wobbly in the center – this is a good sign! Your pie will continue to cook once its removed from the oven. Let the pie cool and serve! This pie is best served with fresh whipped cream. Your guests will be impressed with this unique, but familiar Thanksgiving classic. Would you make a pumpkin pie with butternut squash? What are your unique takes on the classic pumpkin pie? Share your tips in the comments below. • Melissa Rebholz was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, to a Sicilian/German family. She grew up in a household revolving around food. In 2007, a summer of volunteering for GrowNYC (New York City’s Farmer’s Markets) led her down the path to culinary school at The Natural Gourmet Institute and 10 subsequent years of farming from Long Island to Sonoma to Tennessee. Working simultaneously in kitchens to support her farming habit, Melissa migrated back to the rustbelt in October of 2019 to help Grow Ohio Valley open the Public Market as the head chef. Her hobbies include foraging, baking, dinner parties and exploring her new home of Wheeling, West Virginia. 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