A true harbinger of autumn is the ubiquitous pumpkin pie. When green leaves turn yellow, red, and orange and fall to the ground it is pumpkin patch time. Varieties with names like Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, and Cinderella are all sugar pumpkin varieties that end up in cans and make for smooth velvety sweet pies. For a gorgeous surprise twist on this fall holiday classic, bake the custard and then add the crust to the top--in the form of small deciduous New England red maple, oak, and beech tree pie crust leaves. Shared among the ninety Wampanoag Indians and the fifty surviving Mayflower colonists at the first Thanksgiving, this beloved post feast dessert is an all-American tradition that tastes just as wonderful whether the crust ends up on the top or bottom of the pie.
cuisine American
difficulty Moderate
season Fall & Winter
serves 8

for the Filling

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
  • 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon water

For Christopher Kimball's Foolproof Dough (enough for two crusts)

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup vodka, cold
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Directions for the Filling

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the pumpkin, heavy cream, sugar, molasses, salt, and spices.  
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs and add them to the pumpkin mixture until smooth.

For the Pie Dough

  1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds, and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up until 2 days.

Pie Assembly

  1. On a lightly floured counter, roll out one disk into a 1/8" thick circle and transfer the crust to a large pie dish (the crust will not come all the way to the top in a large dish, no worries).
  2. Place the prepared pie crust in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the crust from the freezer and place it on a half sheet baking pan. Pour the pie filling into the prepared crust.
  4. Place the pie on the lowest oven rack and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees F. and bake 45 minutes longer, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  5. While the custard is cooking, place a Silpat or sheet of parchment on a half sheet baking tray.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the second ball of dough to 1/4” thick. Use leaf shaped cookie cutters to cut out shapes and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  7. Place the leaves in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the pie from the oven and put on a cooling rack.
  9. Brush the leaves with the egg yolk mixture and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the leaves are golden shades of yellow and brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  10. Place the leaves on the perimeter of the cooled pie—use as many or as few as desired. Any extra leaves are fabulous nibbles for the cook and kitchen guests.