Piecrust dough for 1 crust pie, refrigerated at least 30 minutes (King Arthur Flour has a good recipe here), or use a pre-rolled Pillsbury crust
1 15 oz. can packed pumpkin
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1-1/3 c. half & half
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs at room temperature
9" pie plate
Pie weights (as in the photo below) OR a pound of dry beans (navy beans work well).
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Roll out your crust to about an 11" round. If using a pre-rolled crust, you will need to roll it out - Pillsbury crusts are oblong, and will not fill a 9" pie-plate. Fold crust into quarters, place in pie plate and unfold, pressing against sides of pie plate.
3. Fold edge of crust slightly under and crimp as in photo below, trimming off excess crust as needed. Pierce crust with fork 15 - 20 times. Place a sheet of parchment or foil on top of the crust and put pie weights or beans on the foil (see photo below).
4. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and weights, and bake about 5 minutes more, or until crust is dry-looking on the inside where the weights had been. Remove from oven, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.
5. Put pumpkin and spices in a medium bowl and whisk until completely combined. Add the half & half and vanilla and whisk until just combined.
6. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl until whites and yolks are combined (as if you were making an omelet), then pour eggs into pumpkin mixture. Whisk until just blended and pour filling into baked crust. Smooth the top if desired.
7. Bake until center of pie jiggles like jello when pie is moved, 45 - 50 minutes (be careful not to overbake). Cool on cooling rack until pie is room temperature, about three hours. Cover loosely and refrigerate until ready to serve. Great with fresh whipped cream or (if you must) Cool Whip.
Good to know
Like all custard pies, this pie is best if made the same day it is served. Given the cooling time, that means that you would need to bake it in the morning to serve at dinner the same day. If needed though, the pie can be made up to 2 days in advance and will still be very good.
Although you could use fresh pumpkin, even chefs often used canned; they taste the same and using canned is a LOT easier.
Blind-baking (pre-baking) the crust is extra work, but makes the difference between a gummy, soft crust under your pumpkin custard and a smooth, slightly crispy shell that slides right out of the pan when you serve it. Sometimes, as in my photo above, the crust turns out a little bit uneven, shrinking down on one side. Don't worry, it still does the job, and tastes delicious.
Folding the crust in quarters before putting it in the pie plate makes it SO much easier both to move the crust and to center it. It may not seem like a good idea at first, but trust me, it works really well.
A cracked top is the bane of pumpkin pie cooks everywhere! To prevent cracking, cool to room temperature before refrigerating; this is safe, just don't leave out more than 2 hours, or one hour if your kitchen is over 80 degrees. If it does crack, don't worry - just pile on the whipping cream before serving. It will look and taste great.