I was fortunate enough yesterday to attend a Thanksgiving gathering hosted by a friend who is a fairly talented and ambitious amateur chef, and he outdid himself this year. A table of ten was treated to a succulent brined, grilled turkey with a rosemary-citrus rub, roasted cilantro-lime sweet potatoes, cream-braised Brussels sprouts, southern-style cornbread stuffing, white cheddar mashed potatoes, sour cream & chive biscuits, and a half-dozen other delicious dishes.

I’m not a complete slouch in the kitchen myself, however, and I always enjoy contributing something to a holiday meal even if I’m not an active participant in the preparations. My offering yesterday was a recipe I cobbled together and customized from multiple sources, and as the results were very well received, I thought I’d venture away from my usual topics and share it here:

Pumpkin Praline Cream Cheese Pie

Ingredients: (this recipe makes two regular 9″ pies, or one deep-dish 10″ pie)

Pastry (two crusts)

2-1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp shortening, chilled
6 Tbsp butter (unsalted), chilled
3/8 cup ice water
1/2 tsp cider vinegar

Cheesecake base

12 oz (1-1/2 blocks) Neufchatel cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, PLUS 1 egg white or 2 Tbsp egg substitute
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange juice

Praline streusel

3/4 cup chopped pecans and/or walnuts
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp butter (unsalted), softened
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Pumpkin filling

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (NOT pie filling)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of allspice
3 eggs
1 (12 oz) can low-fat evaporated milk

Topping (for two pies)

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla
2 packets Whip-It whipped cream stabilizer

Preparation:

That’s a long-ish list of ingredients, but it’s actually a fairly easy pie.

First, preheat the oven to 350°.

Prepare the pastry. (You can use supermarket pie shells, but the food gods will frown upon you if you do.) This isn’t a low-fat pastry recipe by any means, but it does use only about 2/3 the fat of some traditional recipes. It uses both shortening and butter, creating a balanced pastry that’s flavorful but not too crisp, both tender and flaky.

Combine the dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening and butter, either by hand with a pastry blender or with a few pulses of a food processor. Add the vinegar to the ice water. Using a fork (or food processor), mix in one Tbsp of water at a time until the pastry is firm and moist, neither crumbly nor wet. Divide into two balls, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (to allow the gluten to relax), then remove and let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

While the pastry dough is chilling, prepare the cheesecake base. Using an electric mixer at low-medium speed, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until combined. Add the egg(s), vanilla, and OJ, and beat until smooth. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out each ball of pastry on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to two 9″ pie plates (or one 10″ deep-dish pie plate). Trim and crimp the edges. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Make the praline streusel. Combine nuts, brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and vanilla in a bowl.

With a rubber spatula, spread 1/2 of the cheesecake base into each pie shell (or, for this and each following step, all of it into the deep-dish shell). Sprinkle 1/2 of streusel over the base of each pie.

Wrap crust edges in aluminum foil (or use crust protectors), and place both pies in oven for ten minutes.

While base is baking, prepare pumpkin filling. Combine the dry ingredients. Beat the eggs. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin and the eggs, then the dry ingredients, then the evaporated milk. Stir gently until smooth and well combined.

Remove pies from oven, and increase heat to 425°. Remove foil/crust protectors. Pour 1/2 of pumpkin filling evenly over each base (gently, so as not to displace the base layer). Return to oven for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350° again. Bake for at least an additional 40 minutes (longer for deep-dish), until edges are lightly browned and puffy and center jiggles smoothly (or, to be certain, a sharp knife inserted near center comes out clean). Remove pies and cool on wire racks for 2 hours, until completely cool.

Prepare the topping. Chill metal bowl and beaters in freezer. Add whipping cream, and beat lightly with electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add sugar, vanilla, and stabilizer. Beat at high speed until stiff peaks form (about 2 minutes). Spread (or pipe) whipped cream artfully around the outer edge of each pie. If desired, sprinkle whipped cream with nutmeg and/or garnish center of pie with 4 pecan halves.

Chill until ready to serve. Enjoy!

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