I do not like Pumpkin Pie. I try to like it. I feel like I am supposed to like it. And every year at Thanksgiving I eat a piece out of obligation, hopeful that my palate will change and Pumpkin Pie will taste good. Spoiler alert: it never tastes good.
I think there are few factors that make Pumpkin Pie truly one of the more difficult pies to get right.
First, the filling is custard-based, which means there is a very exacting time frame in which it will be perfectly cooked without overcooking and curdling. If you participated in the Pie Challenge this summer, you will remember that it normally takes upwards of an hour for a pie crust to become shatteringly crisp and fully cooked on the bottom. That’s too long for a custard filling to bake, which means most Pumpkin Pies have a soggy bottom. Gross.
Second, I’ll say it. I don’t like the combination of pumpkin and pie crust. It tastes bland. Pumpkin is a squash, and squash needs a lot of help to not taste so sqaush-y. Pie crust doesn’t cut it for me. As mentioned above, it’s usually soggy and under baked, but even if it weren’t, I want a different texture in my pumpkin crust.
Finally, in my opinion, most pumpkin pies are too sweet. It’s as if the sugar and spices are trying to crowd out the squash, and the result never works for me.
Last year, after yet again facing disappointment in the Pumpkin Pie department, I vowed to create a version that I might actually enjoy. My goal was to create an experience that would allow for me to want to eat Pumpkin Pie for pleasure instead of obligation.
Today, after so.much.testing, I am ready to share my results! This is the pumpkin dessert I have been looking for, and it addresses all of my hangups with pumpkin pie.
The crust is made in the style of a graham cracker crust, only with gingersnap crumbs. The gingersnaps I used were the thin wafer kind, not the thicker chewy ones. You need to pulverize them in the food processor to get fine crumbs. I tried to do it by hand, and the results just weren’t the same.
The filling is balanced, with just enough brown sugar for subtle sweetness, and the right dose of autumn spices. It’s sophisticated, exciting, and not too sweet. Topped with sweetened whipped cream, I found myself enjoying every bite and finishing an entire slice (!!!) without an ounce of obligation.
I cannot wait to make this tart for our Thanksgiving table this year. I hope you will make it too!
Pumpkin Tart with Gingersnap Crust
for the crust…
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground gingersnap crumbs (from 6 ounces of cookies)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
for the pumpkin filling…
- 1 can pumpkin puree
- 2 extra-large eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a sheet tray with parchment paper. The lined sheet tray will make it easier to transfer the tart in and out of the oven.
- To make the crust, combine the gingersnap crumbs, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter in a small bowl. Combine until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture feels like wet sand. Carefully press the crumb mixture into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable base. (If you do not have a tart pan, you can bake this in a standard 9-inch pie plate.)
- Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until lightly browned and beginning to smell like ginger and butter.
- While the crust bakes, mix the filling. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, whisking to make sure all of the spices are evenly distributed.
- When the crust comes out of the oven, change the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- Pour the filling into the hot crust and return it to the oven. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the center is no longer jiggling. A little bit of movement is fine (the tart will firm up as it cools), but ripples of movement mean the filling is not done.
- When the tart is finished baking, remove it from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cover the tart and refrigerate overnight (or for several hours) until fully chilled. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.