view counter

Feeling Confident? Pie 202

Decorate your pie for the season

Your family tells you your pumpkin pie is the best they’ve ever eaten.
    But you ask yourself, is there room for improvement.
    When daughter Lauren Dinsick comes back home to Millersville from her high-stress job as a pediatric intensive care nurse in Philadelphia, she’s ready to unwind.
    For her, relaxation often involves pie crust.
    Lauren enjoys playing with food, and pies are her medium of choice. Generally, she decorates them according to the season.
    Here’s how we’ll improve the pie for our Thanksgiving dinner. I bake, and she decorates, as we practiced for this story.

•   •   •   •   •

    I prebaked my pie shell for 10 minutes in a 375-degree oven, then added my pumpkin custard. All recipes are good; mine adds one-eighth of a teaspoon ground black pepper to the normal Thanksgiving spices. It baked for about 45 minutes, until the filling had solidified enough to support the weight of decorations.
    Meanwhile, Lauren had lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and carefully rolled out a ball of chilled dough to one-eighth-inch thickness.
    Using fall-themed cookie cutters (ours are from Williams Sonoma), she cut out leaves, acorns, pumpkins and a turkey.
    Next she whisked an egg white to brush over each cutout to give it a sheen; she could have used a wash of heavy cream, water or whole egg mixed with cream. Some cooks sprinkle sanding sugar over washed cutouts to add sparkle and crunch.
    A properly solid pie should not jiggle when shaken. When ours reached that stage, Lauren removed it from the oven and arranged cutouts over its surface. Back in the oven, it baked 10 to 15 minutes longer until the filling was set and the cutouts were delicately browned. Exact baking time depends on one’s oven and the cutouts’ size.
    Out of the oven, a cooling pumpkin pie suffuses the house with the autumnal smells of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

•   •   •   •   •

    To halt Thanksgiving’s flowing dinner conversation, deliver to the table a gorgeous pie like this — with a bowl of whipped cream.
    At your guests’ awe, you’ll know you’ve succeeded in improving a perfect pumpkin pie.