Serious Eats: Sweets
Pie of the Week: Pumpkin Mousse Pie
As much as I adore classic pumpkin pie, it can be a bit much to handle after scarfing down turkey with all the Thanksgiving trimmings. Nearing The Meal's triumphant end, I often find myself literally forcing pie into my stomach, because it's pumpkin and I love it, even though there's no space left down there. That level of gluttony can be difficult for some, and if you are one of them, I submit this alternative for your consideration.
This pumpkin mousse pie may look like regular pumpkin pie; they're the same color and both submit to a knife in smooth, even slices. They share the same irresistible pumpkin custard flavor, highlighted by spices and sweetened with brown sugar. But that is where the similarities end.
Rather than a traditional, flaky pie crust, the crust of this pie is basically a giant, molded cookie that tastes like spiced, brown sugar shortbread. The filling resembles pumpkin pie in flavor, but it's much much lighter (when I say lighter, I mean in texture, not calories, sorry diet fans), injected with air from the copious amounts of whipped cream that get folded into the filling. It has all of the flavor of a pumpkin pie, without the heft of the traditional baked custard.
Making such a pie does involve a few steps. The dough for the pie shell must be chilled, then shaped and chilled once more before it is blind-baked (lined, filled with weights, and baked) and allowed to cool. The filling is twice cooked on the stovetop, the first time to dissolve the sugar, then again to bring the eggs to a safe temperature for consumption, and then it must be cooled over an ice water bath. If the custard is not chilled down to room temperature before folding, the cream will melt, resulting in a soupy mess. The filling relies upon gelatin to help it hold its shape, so chilling for four hours or more before serving is highly recommended.
As you plan your dessert spread for Thanksgiving, consider a light alternative to an old standard. Since I am a pumpkin pie fanatic, it's not unusual for me to have both on my table, you know, to cover both the traditionalists and those who can't possibly handle "just one more bite".
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthalhas logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.