Everybody knows the best part of fall is pie. Apple pie, pumpkin pie, chicken pot pie… but pumpkin is the best, and if you don’t agree with me, fine, because that means I get more pumpkin pie.
Making pumpkin pie in Russia is hard, because there are no pumpkins, and there are no convenient pre-made frozen pie crusts. Oh well. So in case you were ever wondering, here’s how to make pumpkin pie, Russian-style, courtesy of trial and error.
The three-two-one crust has never been so easy as in a country that measures by weight and not volume. You’ll need:
- 300g flour
- 200g butter, cut into small cubes
- 100g cold water
- a little salt (1/2 tsp should work)
- a little sugar (say 1 tsp)
First, use a pastry blender or your fingers (let’s be honest: fingers) to cut the flour/salt/sugar into the butter. You’ll want it to come out in little yellowish balls. You don’t want any flour that isn’t attached to some amount of butter. Then add the water little by little until the mixture resembles dough. It’ll still be pretty sticky. Then put the whole glob into the fridge for half an hour.
After your glob is thoroughly chilled, you can roll it out. If you have no rolling pin, a smooth glass or a clean glass bottle will do just fine. You want it to be pretty thin, or else you won’t be able to cut through the bottom (lesson learned).
Place the crust in your pan and bake it at 425F/220C for 5-10 minutes. If it bubbles at the bottom, just poke a hole in it, because this is a Russian dormitory and you have no such thing as pie weights.
Actually butternut squash, but in Russia it’s all the same thing: тыква. Okay.
Most important is finding the vegetable. This process, depending on how remote your location is, can begin several weeks before you make the pie. Second most important is making sure the vegetable is not totally rotted out/moldy inside by the time of baking. If you’re not sure if your squash is rotted out/moldy inside, there are several ways to find out.
- If you poke it and it’s squishy, throw it away. Butternut squash should not be squishy until you’ve baked it for an hour.
- If the bottom is black and fuzzy, throw it away. That’s mold.
- Cut it open. If the seeds are white and/or black and fuzzy, throw it away.
Yes, throwing a way a rare vegetable is sad, but, as I’ve come to say, “Better sad than salmonella.” (That phrase probably makes more sense when used in conjunction with old chicken, but whatever.)
After you find squash, cut them all in half. You’ll probably want more than one, in case one is bad inside. Then scoop the seeds out. Do not throw any of the inside goop down the sink: it will clog the drain beyond even the help of a whole bottle Drain-O, leaving you only one option… pushing baking soda down the drain with an unbent wire coat-hanger and chasing it with vinegar, while cursing the day you decided to carve pumpkins and wash your hands and utensils at the sink. Never had that happen to me before, nope.
Now slather these babies with your vegetable oil of choice and put them facedown on aluminum foil on a clean baking sheet. If the baking sheet is not clean, the aluminum foil will adhere to it and negate the purpose of using aluminum foil (i.e. easy cleanup). Then bake for one hour at 400F/200C.
When they come out, scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a pot. Then use a blender to puree it. But let’s be real, this is Russia and you don’t have a blender, so just use a mixer and/or a spoon and some elbow grease to make it slightly less clumpy.
Then shuffle everything in your fridge to make room for what appears to be a giant pot full of baby food.
In addition to your perfect crust and clumpy “pumpkin” “puree” (being neither pumpkin nor puree), you will need:
- 1 c sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- .5 tsp cloves
- .5 tsp nutmeg
- 3/4 c cream
I used really heaping spoonfuls of all spices enumerated. I like them. They taste good. So mix those heaping teaspoons of spices with the sugar in a bowl. When cooking with a three-year-old, this is a good thing to give the three-year-old to do. In case you were wondering.
While the child is occupied, beat the eggs. Then mix in the “pumpkin.” You’ll want probably about 2 smallish butternut squashes’ worth of flesh for this one. Maybe a little less. Maybe like 4 cups? Who knows. It’ll make about two pies. Anyway, tear the sugar mixture from the child and mix that in. Then slowly stir the cream in, and try not to notice how unpleasant it all looks.
Pour the filling into the crust. Cook for 15 minutes at 425/220, then 35-45 more at 350/175. Remove from oven, cover with foil, then move to refrigerator for it to await decimation at your English Club Thanksgiving party!
Voila. Pumpkin pie a la russe.