Hi friends! Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!
Neither Erlend nor myself come from very traditional families, so we usually just spend Thanksgiving with each other and a small, quiet celebration. For the last few years, we’ve been roasting duck instead of turkey and doing Asian-style sides. Some people are weirded out by it, but it’s our jam. Because here’s a little secret: I kinda, sorta, am not really that into turkey. Or stuffing. Or cranberry sauce. Or Thanksgiving foods in general.
I know, I know. I’m the worst. But I don’t know, the traditional Thanksgiving flavor combinations and ingredients just seem like they need some updating, ya know? Why have soggy brussels sprouts when you could have them momofuku style? Or a dry, overly large turkey when you can have a succulent, beer-roasted duck instead?
But alas, this year, we’re breaking our little not-so-traditional tradition and doing something much more normal: eating turkey with Erlend’s parents in the Upper West Side. And of course, I’ve been made in charge of the dessert. And instead of the cheesecakes, egg tarts, and matcha pies that I’ve often baked in place of all the traditional Thanksgiving desserts, I’m going somewhat old school with this pumpkin pie:
Okay, okay. With its speculoos crust and meringue topping, it’s not the most traditional pumpkin pie. And this’ll actually the second time in the last few months that I’ve made this pie. Because last month, I’d staged and styled a Friendsgiving photoshoot with some of my friends for Crate and Barrel (in the middle of October!). While I’m happy to spend time with Erlend and his incredibly sweet family, a part of me is a little disappointed that he and I are not doing the scrappy and somewhat rebellious dinner that we usually do. But luckily this (insanely) early Friendsgiving gave me the opportunity to get all that funkiness out of my system:
Because for Friendsgiving, I’ve traded traditional green bean casserole for a Middle Eastern green bean salad complete with caramelized onions, labneh, and za’atar. I’ve added brown butter and orange zest to my sweet potato mashed potatoes, and thrown roasted corn, bacon, and leeks into my cornbread stuffing. It’s Thanksgiving alright, but with a much-needed millennial update. Oh god, is that the most obnoxious thing I’ve ever said? I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Anyway, be sure to check out Crate and Barrel’s blog to read more about my October Friendsgiving! I’ve got a cute little story about how each of the recipes were inspired by some of my oldest and newest friends, as well as a handful of tasty and vegetable focused sides like green beans with caramelized onions, labneh, and za’atar, cornbread stuffing with roasted corn, leeks, and bacon, and brown butter and orange zest mashed sweet potatoes. And of course, this pumpkin meringue pie, but you can also get the recipe down below.
Some baker’s notes:
- The crust is made from speculoos, a type of gingerbread cookie that’s Dutch in origin. You can now find it in Trader Joe’s or in regular supermarkets where it’s sold as Biscoff. In a pinch, you can use ginger snap cookies or graham crackers, but I really recommend using speculoos as it adds a unique spice to the pie that’s hard to emulate. If I had to guess, the flavor is some kind of combination of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and pepper.
- It’s best to make the meringue right before serving; it stays soft, shiny, and silky that way, which contrasts wonderfully when torched and toasted. In a few hours, it will harden, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re into a harder meringue.
Get the Recipe: Pumpkin Meringue Pie with a Speculoos Cookie Crust
For the Speculoos Crust
- 10 ounces speculoos cookies
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, tightly packed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the Pumpkin Filling
For the Meringue Topping
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (10.5 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- A food processor
- a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom
- a candy thermometer (preferably digital — I love this one)
- a culinary chef’s torch
For the Speculoos Crust
- First, make the crust. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F).
- In a food processor, combine 10 ounces speculoos cookies, 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Pulse together until coarse and well combined. While continuing to pulse, stream in 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter and continue pulsing until the crumbs come together in giant clumps.
- Use a rubber spatula to transfer the crumbs into an ungreased 9-pinch tart pan with high sides and a removable bottom. Use your fingers and the back of your hands to press the crumbs onto the bottom and sides of the pan, creating an even layer. The bottom and sides of the crust should be around 1/4-inch thick.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly while you make the filling. Be sure to keep the oven on!
For the Pumpkin Filling
- Next, make the filling. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, combine 1 can pumpkin puree, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cardamom, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook for 5 minutes, using a heatproof rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan frequently. The mixture should start to sputter around 2 to 3 minutes in — don’t be afraid, this is what you want! You’re trying to cook off as much water from the pumpkin as possible to prevent your pie from being all holey and pockmarked with bubbles. By 5 minutes, the mixture should become thick and glossy.
- Remove from heat and slowly stream in 1 can sweetened condensed milk while continuing to whisk the mixture. Continue whisking until the sweetened condensed milk is fully incorporated, before whisking in 2 large eggs one at a time, only adding the second egg when the first has fully incorporated into the mixture.
- Once the eggs are fully incorporated, carefully pour the mixture into the prepared cookie crust shell. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges of the filling have set. The filling may have bubbled and puffed slightly in the oven, but don't worry — it settles down as it cools. You can use a knife to tap on the sides of the tart pan to test the filling; the middle should wobble slightly, but the edges should stay in the same place. Be careful not to overcook — it's better to pull it out of the oven earlier than later, as the filling will continue to cook after it's pulled out the oven. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely until fully set.
For the Meringue Topping
- Once the pie has completely cooled, it’s time to make the meringue topping. Once the cupcakes have cooled to room temperature completely, make the icing. In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine 3 large egg whites and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Set aside.
- Combine 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/4 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar in a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Stir to combine and fit a candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Place over medium heat and cook until the mixture boils, thickens, and reaches 240 (F). Once the mixture reaches 240 (F), immediately pour it into a liquid measuring cup to prevent it from getting hotter.
- Return to the egg whites and turn the mixer to medium speed. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites, aiming for the side of the bowl rather than the whisk and egg whites. When all the syrup is added, turn the mixer to medium-high and whisk until the icing becomes shiny, thick, and holds a firm peak. This should take around 10 minutes — don’t whisk any longer than that, or the icing will become too thick to spread and pipe!
- Transfer to a piping bag with a start tip and use immediately, piping a meringue pattern on top of the pie. Gently torch the meringue with a chef’s torch; be careful at this point, the meringue burns very, very quickly! Enjoy immediately.