Smooth and creamy, perfect pumpkin pie. What begins as a classic, with a flaky, all-butter pie crust and flavorful pumpkin custard filling, is transformed with the addition of roasted sugar and warming chai spices, for what has become a holiday family favorite.
That’s right. This roasted sugar pumpkin pie is all kinds of perfect.
You won’t see a lot of “best” labels on this blog, but I’m making an exception for this beauty. Flaky all-butter crust. Decadent chai-spiced pumpkin filling. And a secret ingredient that takes things over the top.
Well, not so secret. I told you right there in the title – roasted sugar. It’s easy and delicious and perfectly at home in this otherwise mostly traditional pumpkin pie.
We usually make a gingersnap pumpkin pie for the holidays, a tried-and-true recipe that has a special place in our family lore. But with a press in gingersnap crust, it’s arguably more tart than pie.
A sweet and spicy ginger cookie crumb crust paired with pumpkin filling is another kind of perfect, but I decided we ought to have a classic pumpkin pie too.
All too often, pumpkin pie crusts are, at best… boring. So if we’re going to go the traditional pie pastry route, it better be a darn good version. That means my go-to all-butter crust, with an emphasis on buttery, of course flaky, and (it should go without saying), properly cooked through.
Many pumpkin pie recipes don’t require the pie crust to be blind baked first, but I’ve tested it both ways and think it’s essential. That is unless you’re a fan of soggy, uncooked pie bottom beneath your silky and delicious pumpkin filling.
So we’re going to take the extra step and blind bake the crust. I’ve recently adopted a new par baking method from Stella Parks’ BraveTart cookbook, which uses regular old granulated sugar as a pie weight. It works brilliantly.
Not only does the sugar easily fill every nook and cranny (so the pie dough stays in place and bakes evenly), the end result is roasted sugar – which imparts lovely caramel notes and complexity to your favorite sweets, and can be used 1:1 in place of traditional sugar.
And of course we’re going to add it to our pumpkin pie!
My pumpkin pie filling begins with canned pumpkin. Or you can use canned butternut squash. They will taste nearly the same – and that’s because the Libby’s pumpkin we all grew up with is actually, horticulturally speaking, a variety of squash.
Or, you can also roast your own pumpkin or squash and blend it into homemade puree – just be mindful of the moisture levels. We want that thick, canned consistency.
Along with the pumpkin goes the roasted sugar, a few scoops of brown sugar to deepen the flavor, and a collection of heady, warming chai spices – ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, and black pepper.
They’re a lovely way to balance out what could otherwise become a cloyingly sweet pumpkin custard. Don’t get me wrong, this pumpkin pie is still incredibly rich, and we’ve yet to add sweetened condensed milk. For nostalgia’s sake, and all.
But that spiciness and the depth of flavor from the roasted sugar (and caramelizing the custard base prior to baking), tempers some of that sweetness and makes for an absolutely irresistible pumpkin pie that somehow manages to taste just like it did from my childhood, and so much better at the same time.