February 24, 2020

Pumpkin Pie That’s a Crowd Pleaser

Photo by Debby Segura

Pumpkin pie is so good that I can’t believe people have it only for Thanksgiving. For calorie counters, pumpkin pie is the most low-calorie pie on any pie list. For the carb watchers, pumpkin pie has fewer carbs than other pies because it’s made from a vegetable. And canned pumpkin, the major ingredient, has more nutrients than fresh pumpkin so there’s no need to sacrifice a jack-o’-lantern.

A few Thanksgivings ago, I was at a family gathering for about 40 people. At dessert, other pies remained but the pumpkin pie was gone. Finished. Pecan, apple and cherry pies remained but that wasn’t satisfactory. My cousin and my brother got up in the middle of dessert, hopped in the car and went to the store to buy more pumpkin pies. 

From this, I learned that I probably couldn’t make too much pumpkin pie for my crew.  And when I started to see recipes for slab pies — pies the size of cookie sheets — I adapted a pie recipe to the slab.

So how does something huge, with a name like “slab,” become gorgeous? Looking through Food & Wine magazine, I saw a pie decorated with sugared pecans. Great idea — and it might just get me out of making a pecan pie, too. Be sure to select intact pecan halves and precisely arrange them into a pattern. This is a pie after my own heart: efficient yet pretty.

A side note, regarding pie crusts:
While working with Kay Israel on my bourekas story (Sept. 13), I learned that the best pie crust might just be boureka dough. Israel’s dough uses oil instead of butter, Crisco or margarine. It’s a pretty crust, it has a nice crunch and it’s yummy.

Slab Pumpkin Pie with Sugared Pecans

Sugared pecans:
2 cups pecan halves
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg white, beaten

2/3 cup canola oil
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
1/2 cup ice water

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Scant teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs
1 28-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), or two 15-ounce cans
3 cups unsweetened Rice Dream, almond, soy or oat milk or whole milk

For the sugared pecans:
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment.

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients well. Spread the mixture evenly on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake until golden brown and crunchy, about 15 minutes. Separate clumped nuts with a fork and let cool completely.

Pecans can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place a rack just below center of oven.  

In the work bowl of a food processor, place oil, flour and salt (and cinnamon, if using). Slowly add the ice water and process just until dough forms a ball. (All ice water might not be used.)

Place ball of dough on sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Dough can be refrigerated for up to two days or used as is. 

For the filling:

In large mixing bowl or electric mixer bowl, add the first six ingredients and mix to combine well.

Add the pumpkin your choice of milk. Stir until well combined.

Set aside.

Create the slab:

Between two layers of plastic wrap, roll crust into a large rectangle, about an inch or two bigger than a sheet pan. Remove the top plastic layer and replace it with baking parchment.

Carefully flip dough, parchment side down, onto the pan. Remove remaining plastic wrap.

Gently fit the crust into the pan and fold the edges to be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch higher than the rim of the pan.

Pour filling into the pan and bake the pie at 425 F for 15 minutes.

Lower heat to 350 F and continue to bake until pie is set at the center, about 25-30 minutes more.

Cool pie at least an hour before serving.

Just before serving, decoratively arrange the pecans on the top. 

Serves 24-30.

Debby Segura lives in Los Angeles. She designs dinnerware and textiles, and teaches cooking classes.