Scientifically Sweet: Caramel Custard Pumpkin Seed Pie

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Caramel Custard Pumpkin Seed Pie

If we'd have to vote on the second best thing after chocolate, I think it would be a tie between caramel and peanut butter.

This recipe showcases a brand new way to bake with caramel and it turns it into a custardy gooey, gel-like texture. Think Pecan Pie filling... this is new age Pecan Pie (without the pecans).

It starts with making pastry. I'm sure you're a pro at that by now after this and this, and this to name a few.

Then we make caramel since it is the star of the show. Caramel seems daunting to some people. I was once one of them. It's like you go through a period of never getting it right - you're always left with a grainy mess and lot of frustration.

Then suddenly... you get it! It's actually not as delicate as so many people make us believe. And once you get it, you will never make grainy caramel ever again. The trick is to be confident and trust in these three facts:

1. Water works
2. Sugar can take the heat!
3. Swirled, not stirred

Yes, there is a thing called dry caramel. You put plain sugar in a pan and heat it until it turns amber and caramelizes. The problem is that most stove-top burners are not perfectly even when it comes to heat distribution and so you get some areas of smoking burnt sugar and some white sugar that has barely melted. When you try to swirl the pan it doesn't move because it is too thick and concentrated to do so.

A tiny bit of water - 1 or 2 tablespoons per 100g (1/2 cup) of sugar - will get things moving. The water will slowly dissolve the sugar so that a) there is less chance of it recrystallizing, and b) the mixture is more fluid so that you can swirl the pan for even colouring.

High heat helps!

Pure sugar melts at super high temperatures. So, if you notice a clump of chunky-looking sugar in your pan, crank up the heat and swirl the pan constantly to melt it. If it goes untreated, you'll be on your way to Grainyville. Just make sure you don't burn it... that would be another story.

It's not quite like Mr. Bond's martini, but caramel also doesn't like to be stirred.

Introducing a utensil like a spoon or a spatula to molten sugar can introduce dust and other fine particles to nucleate crystallization or simply disturb the mixture and encourage individual molecules to re-unite and form crystals. Gentle swirling of the pan is all it takes to get even heat distribution for even caramelization.

The next step is the custard part, and of course that means eggs! One whole egg and one egg yolk get mixed into the cooled caramel. A bunch of sliced almonds and some pumpkin seeds go in for great texture. The light toasting on the nuts adds this savoury nuttiness that compliments the burnt sugar flavour.

This tart or pie (which one is it?) lets caramel really show off. It's full of textures and rich, complex, sweet and savoury flavours. It's great slightly warm and even at room temperature. The only thing that could make it better is a bit of ice cream, or chocolate... or both. Maybe try this in place of your annual Pecan Pie recipe and be daring. The nuts are your recess where anything goes - walnuts, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts or even macadamia nuts for super indulgence. Just go nuts! (pun totally intended).


Caramel Custard Pumpkin Seed Pie
Makes one 9-inch tart

For the pastry:
1 ¼ cups (180g) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (25g) sugar
¼ tsp salt
7 tbsp (100g) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp ice water

For the filling:
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 cup (227ml) 35% whipping cream
80g flaked almonds, lightly toasted
60g pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
¼ tsp salt
1 large egg
1 egg yolk

To make the pastry, whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and toss to coat in flour mixture. Using your fingertips, rub butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. The butter should be well dispersed with some larger, oat flake-sized pieces remaining and there should be very little dusty flour in the bowl. Whisk egg yolk with water in a small bowl until well blended and drizzle into flour mixture while gently tossing with a fork. Continue to stir until dry ingredients are moistened and it holds together in clumps. If the dough still feels quite dry, sprinkle in another ½ tablespoon of water.

Turn dough out onto a clean work surface and bring it together in a ball with your hands slightly cupped, turning it frequently and pressing in loose bits until it is cohesive. Flatten dough to shape it into a disk, wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough out to 1/8-inch thickness and fit it into a 9-inch round fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Press the dough into the edges and then push some excess pastry down the sides to reinforce the edge crust. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Prick with a fork and bake until golden, 15-20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

To make the filling, place sugar and 3 tablespoons of water in a 3-quart heavy duty saucepan over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Brush around the inside of the pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve any sugar crystals as necessary. Cook the mixture without stirring until it turns deep amber, 6-8 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally to colour evenly.

Remove from heat and slowly, carefully stir in the cream. The mixture will bubble and foam vigorously. Continue stirring until smooth. Return the pan to medium heat, bring mixture back to a boil and cook for 2 minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, salt, almonds and pumpkin seeds. Let cool for 10 minutes before stirring in egg and egg yolk until very smooth. Pour filling into pre-baked pastry shell and place on a baking tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the center is just set.

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  1. That's one tasty looking pie/tart, whatever.

  2. Wish I had a slice of this caramel pumpkin pie to devour right now.. it looks so incredibly delicious!

  3. Hi, I found this on FoodGawker and was hoping I could get your permission to post the recipe on my instagram recipe page (@foodie_recipes) as it looks delicious! I will tag you in the photo and put your website address on the post! Hope this is okay, thanks :) x

  4. This was absolutely amazing! I made 1.5 x the recipe and baked it into bars instead to feed more people (using 9x13 pan).

    1. This was the last recipe in 2015 for the ABC Bakers. Thanks for all your wonderful recipes and keep up the good work. I will continue to follow your blog and recipes :)

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  8. This looks so good. I mean, it would be a perfect dessert for dinner. I already like roasted almonds so much.

    Thanks for sharing this great post. Keep up with the good work.

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