Pumpkin Pie from Scratch

By Jessica Campbell, MS, FNTP

One of my favorite desserts in the fall is homemade pumpkin pie. My daughter shares this passion and we have spent the past few years perfecting what we think is the ultimate comfort food. This dish can replace breakfast on a school day, it is so healthy for you.

We start with a pumpkin or any winter squash from the garden and end with a topping of homemade whipped cream. Making a pie is a labor of love and we do not feel like you can take any shortcuts with this treasured recipe. So wait until you have the time or spread out the steps into 3 days, we promise the end result will be well worth your time and efforts.

When we moved to the Bay Area from New York 7 years ago, we bought our first house. It was a learning experience that we still feel the challenges of today. We live on a RIGHT OF WAY which is sort of like an easement that you have absolutely no control over. The Hetch Hetchy water project came through our front yard about a year after we moved in and tore out the cute "parkitechture" that made our house have curb appeal to lay down enormous underground water pipes for the entire peninsula.

When they were finished, the crew put up a fence and left us with a large dirt yard. They mandated we could not grow trees with deep roots or build any permanent structures. Instead of returning to the curb appeal of grass, we put in a front yard pumpkin patch and garden beds. My kids have adored sharing their pumpkins with friends and I love picking my own vegetables and creating farm to table meals.

This is the size of our pumpkins, they are called sugar pies in the store, and it only takes one to make a perfect pie. One important thing we have noticed with pumpkin pie is that people say they like pumpkin treats when really they mean they like "pumpkin pie" spices. I have made this same recipe with other varieties such as sweet potato, butternut squash and for a real treat, try Delicata squash. The only difference is the color and maybe a subtle flavor change which is usually for the better. Pumpkins have been overbred for jack-o-lanterns and have honestly lost a lot of their heritage flavor.

Choose your favorite winter squash and wash it well. Cut it in half, remove the seeds, and rub it with a little butter, coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. Bake the pumpkin cut side down in a 375° oven for at least an hour until it gives when you push on the skin. Pull it out and let it cool. Once it is cooled you can scrape out the flesh which is 100 times more nutritious than a can of "pumpkin pie mix." I have found it unnecessary and too time consuming to strain and blend the pumpkin first. If you have ample time and want to create the perfect consistency go ahead and strain the flesh over a strainer for an hour and then blend up the thick flesh. As for me, I will take the short cut and simply measure out the flesh and blend it in the food processor with the rest of the ingredients for my pie. I have never been disappointed, however I do often cook it for a bit longer.

We have found an almond flour crust that is nutrient dense, offers a great flavor, and is easy to throw together. Mix up about 2 cups of almond flour, 1/8 tsp sea salt,  2 Tbsp coconut oil or butter, and 1 egg. Mix the 4 ingredients until the dough forms a ball and then pat it out into the bottom of a standard sized pie dish. We do not think this crust needs any sweetener but then again we like the nutty savory flavor it adds. If you were worried about lack of sweetness, you could add 1 Tbsp honey.

We love most of our desserts with homemade whipped cream because the healthy fats slow down the absorption rate of the sugars and it is delicious. One of our most treasured gifts is the whipped cream canister that turns our cream and a spoonful of maple syrup into an instant treat. The recipe and link to my favorite canister is at the bottom of the simple salads recipes. If you do not have a canister, simply whip up the cream and maple syrup with a handheld mixer.

I hope you try this baking extravaganza with your family, whether it is for Thanksgiving dinner or a Sunday brunch, everyone will love your pumpkin pie form scratch.