When you're on a mission to improve something that's already pretty great, small modifications can make a big difference. In this case, I set out to tweak a recipe for pumpkin pie to make a filling that's creamier in texture, slightly more complex in flavor, and less "weepy" in general (since I'm not a fan of soggy bottom crust). It took me three tries to get it just right, but for you, it will only take one.
Traditional pumpkin pie filling ingredients are simple and few, so there's little room for substitution. Pumpkin, sugar, and eggs are all non-negotiable in my book, but the standard butter and heavy cream components had potential for substitution. In my tests, I substituted buttermilk, Greek yogurt, or cream cheese for the heavy cream. The pie containing buttermilk, with a similar consistency of cream, sogged out the crust. The yogurt pie was a bit dryer, but cracked across the center and had a slightly gritty texture. The cream cheese filling was the clear winner, yielding a pie with a tangy, airy filling and smooth, creamy texture that cracked only slightly in the center and was free of weepy, pie crust seepage.
This Thanksgiving, I'll be blind testing this pie on my harshest critics. While the most staunch traditionalists at the table may notice the slight difference, I predict that most people will just enjoy it as an exceptional take on the classic.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has 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 and holds a CS certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.