In the search for Thanksgiving desserts, you're looking for something seasonal, traditional enough to put people in their comfort zone, but different enough to avoid being boring. In this quest, I also wanted to get rid of the glut of butternut squash that was building up from the CSA. Enter a pie, reminiscent of the classic pumpkin, but spicier, silkier, and I think tastier.
I prefer not to roast the halved squash, but cut it into chunks, which caramelize better, lending more depth of flavor to the dish. For a truly amazing, flaky and flavorful crust that doesn't get soggy, use this all butter version, made with no more equipment then a bowl, your fingers and a rolling pin. Although I've always made food processor or pastry cutter crusts, I've recently been converted back to the handmade version, which is infinitely more consistently great.
Gingered Butternut Squash Pie
1 9-inch blind baked pie shell, see preparation below
1 large or 2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into large to medium sized chunks (enough for 1 1/2 cups puree)
1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup low-fat evaporated milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven to 400 F, with the oven rack in the middle. Oil a jelly roll pan and scatter squash pieces across it. Roast until soft and just slightly caramelized. Reduce oven temp to 350 and move rack to the bottom third of oven. Transfer squash to a food processor and puree until smooth. Add all other ingredients and puree for at least 3 minutes, until silky smooth. Pour into prepared pie shell. Bake for 50-60 minutes (check after 30 min to see if you'll need to shield the pie crust with some aluminum foil). The pie is done when you can insert a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving (this step is really important because it doesn't fully set until cool). Serve with whipped cream.
Tender, Flaky All Butter Pie Crust
6 oz all-purpose flour (about 1 1/3 cups but you really ought to weigh it)
1 tsp sugar
1/3 tsp salt
8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 to 4 Tbsp ice water
Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl. Toss, then rub the butter bits with your fingertips, slowly smearing the butter into the flour. You want to form small flaky chunks in the mixture. Once all of the butter has been incorporated this way, Sprinkle ice water over the dough and use your hands to push and mix it together, adding more water if necessary, until the dough just sticks together when you press it into a ball. Gather all of the dough into a disk, plastic wrap it and stash it in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
Let the dough soften slightly before rolling by sitting out at room temp for 5-20 minutes (5 if it's been chilling for an hour, 20 if it's been a day or so). You want the dough to be cold and firm but still fairly easy to roll. On a floured countertop, roll the dough out into a 10 or 11 inch round (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Transfer to a pie plate and crimp the edges (for the wheat inspired crimp seen here, use kitchen shears to snip the folded over edges of the crust in abut 1/2 inch at a 45 degree angle every 1/2 inch or so around the entire edge. Then fold alternating sections in and out to resemble the grain). Prick bottom and sides with a fork and chill for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 F while you allow the crust to warm up a bit from the fridge (not too long - should be moderately cold still). Line the crust with aluminum foil and weight it with dried beans. Bake for 15 min in the middle of the oven, then reduce heat to 375, remove the foil and beans and let bake for 5-7 minutes more. Cool on a rack while you make the filling.