Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pumpkin Pie vs. Squash Pie

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin on Counter
The Contenders

Pumpkin or Squash Pie Filling Recipe by Mom & Robin

The votes are in on the Christmas pies, despite a bit of a recipe fail. On all counts, the best pumpkin pie seems to be made with butternut squash. In fact, many bakeries that make pumpkin pie actually use butternut. It resembles pumpkin in flavor, but is sweeter. It has a lower water content than pumpkin, which means that you can eliminate draining it in cheesecloth after cooking and mashing if you’re in a hurry. Pumpkin does have a distinct if subtle flavor that is somewhat earthier than butternut. Because of this subtle flavor difference Elizabeth, our Christmas hostess, stated that next we need to test fresh butternut vs. canned pumpkin puree. Since butternut is currently so inexpensive and can be used in so many ways, that test might not happen soon.

Two Unbaked Pies
Pumpkin (left) & Butternut
Butternut has fewer seeds and therefore less waste than pumpkin. Most of us will want to roast the seeds for a crunchy snack, but even so roasted butternut seeds tasted more delicate and flavorful than pumpkin seeds to both Bruce and me. Butternut’s thin skin is easily peeled off before steaming; its thin skin doesn’t scoop out very cleanly after steaming. Conversely, thick-skinned pumpkin is difficult to peel before steaming, so is easier to steam first then scoop out of its shell afterwards.

Leftover steamed butternut can be eaten as is for a side dish. Leftover steamed pumpkin would be better seasoned and made into soup or muffins, or otherwise fussed with. As mentioned above, DIY pureed pumpkin requires draining, but draining is optional for butternut. Be assured that I’m not dissing pumpkin pie made with real pumpkin. The classic pumpkin flavor cannot be duplicated by butternut. Most Christmas diners voted for the butternut flavor over pumpkin, but both were enjoyed.

All Ingredients including Pumpkin and Squash unwrapped from  Cheesecloth
Pumpkin (front) & Butternut & All the Rest
This recipe is adapted from my Mom’s. Her idea of using maple syrup was rather revolutionary in the 1950s, at least according to family legend. I’ve increased the quantity of the maple syrup, and replaced white sugar with a reduced amount of brown sugar. This worked fine for the butternut, but note that I added a bit more white sugar to the pumpkin for equivalent sweetness. I thought pumpkin’s subtle earthy flavor would be overwhelmed with more brown sugar or maple syrup, but go ahead and experiment with those if you like. This recipe isn’t too sweet, so feel free to adjust the quantity of sugar to your taste, whether you’re cooking with squash or pumpkin.

Steamed Butternut and Pumpkin in two Bowls with seeds in background
Comparing Steamed Butternut (left) & Pumpkin
There’s a lot of variation in milk products used in pumpkin or squash pie. According to Taste of Home, it’s a matter of individual preference. My mom used 1½ cups of whole milk. Others use half and half or cream. Noting that the crust was rich with butter and our Christmas hostess offered to provide plenty of whipped cream, I used a 12 oz. can of lowfat (organic) evaporated milk. The recipe also works with no-fat evaporated milk. The little bit of flour my mom adds enables thickening regardless of what milk is used. You could even experiment with soy or rice milk, keeping in mind that these will affect the flavor.

This recipe is written as a stand-alone “crustless pie” or pudding that is steamed in the oven. You may choose instead to bake it in a premade (by you or otherwise) piecrust. (I will report later on piecrusts, when I’ve had more successful results with them.) Just don’t bake both a pie and the pudding at once, because the water from the steam will make the piecrust soggy. Enjoy your 4th day of Christmas!

Butternut Squash Pudding
The Fave Prepared as Pudding
Butternut Squash or Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 lbs. butternut squash or ~3.5 lb. sugar pie pumpkin
2 eggs, at room temperature
12 oz. can low- or no-fat evaporated milk
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ cup white sugar: ONLY if using pumpkin
9” unbaked piecrust (optional)

Make Squash or Pumpkin Puree:

Squash: Remove stem from butternut squash, peel, and cut in half. Remove seeds and stringy orange fibers. Cut into large chunks, about 1½ inches square. Steam for 20 minutes. Test for doneness. If not soft, continue steaming and checking every 3 minutes or so until soft. Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the squash. If you have time, drain squash puree in cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl for 2 – 24 hours.

Pumpkin: Wash pumpkin, remove stem, and cut in half. Remove seeds and stringy fibers. Cut pumpkin into large wedges. Steam for 20 minutes. Test for doneness. If not soft, continue steaming and checking every 3 minutes or so until soft. Cool pumpkin until it can be handled and scoop out pulp from skin. Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the pumpkin. Drain pumpkin puree in a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl for at least 2 hours, and up to 24 hours, squeezing cheesecloth together to extract liquid occasionally. See more detailed instructions at DIY pumpkin puree post.

Squash or Pumpkin: Measure 2 cups of puree into large mixing bowl.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (425 degrees F for pie).

Assemble Wet and Dry Ingredients:

Beat eggs until light and fluffy. Beat in milk and maple syrup.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Stir in white sugar, only if using pumpkin.

Put it All Together:

Stir the sugar mixture into the squash or pumpkin puree until well-distributed. Whisk egg mixture into squash or pumpkin until well-blended.

Pour into individual custard cups, pie plate, or 1½ quart casserole. Set cups or casserole into baking dish or pie plate and fill with 1 inch of water. Bake for 45 minutes (cups) to 1 hour (pie plate) to 1½  hour (casserole) at 350 degrees F. It is done when knife inserted into center comes out clean.

For pie, pour into piecrust. Place pan on bottom shelf of oven and bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake another 45 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

No comments:

Post a Comment