Pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving go hand-in-hand. What’s a meal without a slice for dessert? There are so many great pumpkin pie recipes to try, one is bound to end up on the table in your Thanksgiving feast.
But making a pumpkin pie can be tricky, even with an easy recipe, especially if you’ve never tried it before. We are here to change that.
We spoke with pastry chefs and baking experts who have made pies countless times. They shared the most common mistakes that happen when baking a pumpkin pie and the best ways to avoid or fix these mistakes.
1. Overcooking the filling
Notice a crack in the middle when you pull out your pumpkin pie? That’s because the eggs in the custard pumpkin filling have been overcooked. You can cover it up with whipped cream, or take Sugargoat’s Faith Taheny’s advice.
“The best way to keep this from happening is to use an oven thermometer; most ovens are a slightly different temperature than what you set it to,” Taheny says. “Also, know when to take the pie out of the oven. The middle of the pie should still be slightly jiggly when you take it out—not liquidy but have a nice wiggle to it.”
Just like a steak, the middle of your pie will continue to cook even after it’s removed from the oven.
2. Not Blind Baking the Crust
The crust is tricky with any pie, especially one where the filling may cook faster than the crust. There’s a fix for that!
Jessica Scott, corporate pastry chef for 50 Eggs Hospitality Group, suggests baking the crust before your filling is added.
“The best way to bake a pie crust before-hand is to ‘blind bake’ by laying a sheet of parchment paper over the entire crust, and filling with raw rice, beans, or pie weights, and baking the crust at 350°F until the edges are lightly golden,” Scott says. “Then, remove the paper and weighted filling, and continue baking until the center bottom crust is lightly golden. Let cool, then fill with your pumpkin base and bake again.”
3. Going Overboard or Underboard With the Spices
Yes, we know that pumpkin spice is all the rage, so how could there be too much? Well, in a pie there can be.
Katie Chaney, owner & proprietor of Hester General Store, a bakery, catering company, and general store in Dacusville, SC, suggests making your own pumpkin pie spice, focusing on a few spices instead of the whole kit and kaboodle.
“Choose one or two—three at the most—flavors from the list of pumpkin pie spices, which include clove, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Commit to a few, and let them shine! If you choose to include ginger, opt for fresh. Fresh ginger trumps ground ginger in pie filling every time.”
Now if your pie tends to come out bland, you may not be letting your spices hit their full potential. Joy Wilson of Joy the Baker suggests, “To get the most festive flavor out of the spices in your pumpkin pie, bloom the spices with the pumpkin puree in a small saucepan before incorporating into the filling. Place puree and spices in a saucepan over low heat, and stir around the pan to heat until the mixture is fragrant. This process will also cook a bit of water out of the puree, creating a more intense pumpkin flavor.”
4. Using an Opaque Pie Pan
As we know, the crust of a pie can be super fickle, and if you choose an opaque pie dish, it’s hard to track the progress of how that crust is cooking.
Capri Cafaro, pie connoisseur, cookbook author, and host of SiriusXM’s Eat Your Heartland Out, suggests using a glass pie dish so you can see what’s going on.
“An opaque pie plate prevents you from seeing how well the crust is cooking evenly and sometimes metal plates can cause uneven cooking,” Cafaro says.
5. Using Fresh Pumpkin
Don’t get us wrong, we love fresh pumpkin. In fact, we love pumpkin in all forms. But using fresh pumpkin in a pie can get tricky. It tends to be waterier than its canned counterpart, which will get you a more consistent pie every time.
If you are going to use fresh pumpkin, make sure to adjust your recipe as needed each time. Don’t assume it will always bake the same.
Oh, and avoid that pumpkin pie in a can. You can use pure canned pumpkin, but the already-seasoned pumpkin will lead you down that path of over-seasoned pie!