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Pumpkin-Maple Pie With A Buckwheat Crust

I feel like pumpkin pie so often gets the "ho-hum" treatment. The frozen-pie-crust-can-of-evaporated-milk treatment. This is also known as the I Don't Care treatment. Not cool, I say.

Pumpkin pie is not a showstopper. It's a humble little pie made from a whimsical squash, and we generally think to pull one together right about now. It is often an afterthought--the sort of thing you feel you "have to" put on the Thanksgiving table. And so, in spite of the best efforts of bloggers everywhere, the pumpkin pies that are actually being served on Thanksgiving will largely be forgettable.

But my baking philosophy goes the other way round. I say, the simpler a dessert is, the more effort you should put into it. The care and effort you put into the details is much more noticeable on a dessert with few frills and simple flavors. And why not put some real effort into a quintessential American dessert that is served on one of our most significant national holidays?

But even with the added effort, this is truly a simple dessert. I made a few changes to the classic recipe, but they are changes for the good--for flavor and added finesse rather than gimmicky afterthoughts.

I'm starting to love buckwheat pie crusts. The buckwheat adds a nutty flavor and dramatic, dark color to the crust, and because buckwheat flour is gluten-free, this pie crust is even more tender and flaky. You will have to use more care when rolling this crust because it is prone to cracking, but just take your time. Let me say that again, and in caps--TAKE YOUR TIME. You're making pie dough from scratch, so you may as well slow down and use care. The important thing to remember is to patch any cracks in the dough as you roll it because they'll only get worse. See my pie dough tutorial if you need a little courage.

The filling is made extra smooth--almost custardy--by using heavy cream, 3 eggs, and straining the filling through a chinois (you can also use a fine-mesh sieve). This straining technique is something that I picked up working at the restaurant. It seems fussy, but it totally makes a difference in the texture of the filling, and remember what I said about taking care when making simple desserts--it all matters.

Using maple syrup instead of sugar is another small change I made to traditional pumpkin pie. The maple flavor is outstanding, and this pie is not overly sweet. It is understated and delicious and will be the perfect end to a lovely meal.

Other articles you might enjoy: "Pumpkin" Pie, Pumpkin and Black-Eyed Pea Cakes, Winter Squash Mac and Cheese

Pumpkin-Maple Pie With A Buckwheat Crust
Serves about 8 to 10 (One 9-inch pie)

If you feel uncomfortable making pie crusts, please read my Let Them Eat Pie series, articles 1 and 2. You can make the crust up to three days ahead of time. Pulse in a food processor or combine in a large bowl:
           1 cup all-purpose flour
            1/2 cup buckwheat flour
            2 tablespoons powdered sugar
            1/2 teaspoon salt
Add and pulse or cut in until the flour mixture resembles coarse meal:
           1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) butter, cut into small cubes
Add and pulse briefly or mix in:
           1 egg yolk
Add a tablespoon at a time, mixing or pulsing in between in 5-second intervals, until the dough just comes together:
           Ice water
The dough may seem a bit crumbly, but when you squeeze it in your hand, it should stick together and form a ball. Flatten the dough into a disc and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 3 days.
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Roll out the chilled dough into a 1/8-inch thick circle. Roll it around your rolling pin to transfer it to a 9-inch pie dish. Carefully unroll the dough over the pie dish and press it gingerly into the corners. Patch any cracks that form in the dough. Cut the overhanging dough so that there is 1 to 1 1/2 inches of overhang, and fold this extra dough back, tucking it between the pie dough and the pie dish. Basically, you're making a double-folded crust. This makes the rim of the pie crust extra thick, flaky, and hearty. Crimp or flute the rim as desired. Prick the crust all over with a fork.
Line the dough with parchment and fill up to the brim with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is dry to the touch, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove the pie weights.
Beat in a small bowl:
           1 egg yolk
Brush the yolk over the bottom of the pie crust and return it to the oven until the crust is well-baked and dry to the touch, about 10 minutes more.
To make the filling, combine in the bowl of a food processor or a large bowl:
           2 cups pumpkin or squash purée, canned or homemade
            1 cup heavy cream
            3/4 cup maple syrup
            3 eggs
            1 teaspoon vanilla
            Zest of 1 orange
            1/2 teaspoon salt
            1/2 teaspoon ginger
            1/2 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
            1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
            1/4 teaspoon cardamom
Pulse or mix until very smooth. Run the mixture through a chinois or fine-mesh sieve if you have one. This will make your pie velvety smooth.
Pour the filling into the crust, reduce the oven temperature to 375˚F, and bake until the filling is just set, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. Serve with:
           Sweetened whipped cream

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Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70 degrees F. Preheat the oven to 350°F (325°F if you use a glass baking pan). Grease a 9-inch square or round pan or an 11 x 7-inch baking pan....