Pi Day is admittedly a corny foodie excuse to make Pi… I mean pie, but I’m not above jumping on the bandwagon.  My anti-resolution gives me a legitimate excuse to do so.

Here’s my Pi Day pie:  a caramel pumpkin pie with a simple almond streusel topping.

I didn’t realize until yesterday that it was Pi Day, so I had to rush the crust a bit, and of course it affected the result.  It’s a delicious and buttery and flaky crust, but it is quite fragile.  Had I incorporated the resting phases that I learned from Berenbaum, I think it would have held together better, but all in all, this is a pretty good result for a rush job.

Again, because it was a rush job, I did literally nothing to make this recipe my own.

So, with full credit to Fine Cooking, I used their all-butter pie crust recipe, and used Kerry Gold butter. Wow, what a difference that made!  I added 1/4 tsp of baking powder, a trick I learned from Berenbaum.  She says it aerates the crust a bit, making the end result flakier.  Having tried pie crusts with and without the baking powder, I agree.  It’s a tiny extra step and completely worth it.

The filling was courtesy of Dorie Greenspan in her book, Baking.  I’ve never liked pumpkin pie, but I do like pumpkin. Go figure.  Anyway, I’m trying to find recipes that will help me develop a taste for pumpkin pie, and I think the caramel might do it.

By the way, Baking is one of my favorite baking books, and the one I turn to first when looking for a sweet treat. Now I prefer baking books that have weight measurements, but I’ve had such repeated luck with Greenspan’s recipes, that I can’t turn my back on this book.

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 T dark rum
2 T unsalted butter, cut into 4 cubes
1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1.25 tsp cinnamon
.75 tsp ginger (I didn’t have any on hand, so just used extra nutmeg)
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (yes, grating the whole nut is so much better)
pinch of ground allspice
pinch of salt
1.5 tsp vanilla extract (use the good stuff)
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place partially baked crust on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet.

Pour 1/2 cup of sugar in a stainless steel skillet over med-high heat.  The sugar will eventually melt and start to turn color. Do NOT stir the sugar!!!  You can gently swirl the sugar around the skillet by picking up the handle and slightly tilting it each way to make sure the sugar cooks evenly, but that’s IT!  Wait until it turns dark brown (which ensures a fuller flavor).  You really have to watch it at the end so you don’t go overboard.  Turn the burner to low, pour in the heavy cream, and now you can stir it with a whisk.  Make sure it’s nice and smooth.  Then add the cubed butter, and finally the rum.  Let it cool for about 15 minutes.

Combine the pumpkin, 1/2 cup sugar, spices, salt, vanilla and eggs, and beat with a whisk until it’s well combined.  Whisk in the caramel.  Rap the bowl against the counter a few times to release air bubbles, then pour into the partially baked crust.

Bake for 10 minutes, then top with the almond streusel.

Almond Streusel

2 T butter
2 T chopped almonds
2 T flour
2 T light brown sugar

Combine everything with your fingers until it clumps a bit.  You may want to refrigerate this for a bit before adding it to the pie.  Make it before you start the caramel, stick in the fridge, and you’ll be in good shape by the time you add this to the pie.

(Actually, I forgot to add this until about 45 minutes in, so I’m a little worried about the streusel tasting flour-y.  That’s why I instruct you to bake it for 10 minutes–use a timer, and then you won’t forget!)

Bake for another 45-55 minutes or until the filling is puffed and set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  I think I actually baked mine for over an hour, but it all depends on your oven.

Cool to room temp, and refrigerate.  Dorie recommends serving with lightly sweetened whipped cream.  Sounds like a lovely idea to me.

So where are your pies for the last couple of weeks?

Admittedly, I did not make pie the last couple of weeks.  I was in Hawaii, aka paradise, and while I considered making a pie, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  We stayed in condos, so it would have likely been not too difficult a feat, especially if I had made something like a key lime or ice cream pie (called a Hula Pie in Hawaii).  However, I knew we wouldn’t eat the entire thing (I always share my pies at work), and I really didn’t want to waste it.   But I decided that the research part of pie R&D was still possible, and research I did.

We found this sweet cafe in the tiny town of Hanapepe on the island of Kauai (the island I hope to make my home in the next 15 years or so. Seriously!).  They use local and organic ingredients and make some lovely pies and pastry.  My husband and I shared a mango passion fruit pie with locally made Lampert’s vanilla bean ice cream.  The filling was the perfect balance of sweet and tart; the crust was incredibly tender (though not very flaky); and the ice cream married all the flavors in the most delicious way.

I can’t figure out what fat they used in the crust.  I don’t believe it was shortening, because it didn’t have that mouthfeel, but it didn’t have much of a buttery flavor either.  This one may require more research.  It was a lovely crust, but I do prefer a crust which has more of a balance between tender and flaky.

Then, when I came home, I could have made a pie, but I didn’t.  I made myself a birthday cake. And I put candles on it.  So there.  Here’s my lemon layer cake, with a buttery lemon curd frosting. Pucker up, boys and girls!

Yes, I’m 38.  Maybe I’m old, but I still kick ass.  Eat it.  (I did, and it was yummy.)

I also celebrated with strong cocktails, hence the blurry photo.  Give a girl a break.

Happy pi/pie day!

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