Winter warmth in the form of… squash.

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Christmas is over. The cold weather is just kicking into high gear here in New York, as is expected.

I’m guessing most people in your house are preoccupied with new gadgets or toys right about now. That’s the best part of the week after Christmas: playing with your new toys! And sleeping late, too, if you’re able. Because pretty soon it’s back to business. Back to work, back to school… and it’ll be cold out there. So when it’s blustery & cold, and the hubbub of Christmas has worn down, and even when the new year doesn’t feel so new anymore, it’s important to have something warm & comforting to look forward to. Or to come home to. You know, a reason to turn on the oven. And of course, for me, that warmth almost always comes in the form of desserts. Although a beautiful new coat & some boots doesn’t hurt either… this is about pie.

Black pie plate from Longaberger, black appetizer plate from Ikea, little cocotte from Le Creuset

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I found this recipe way back in November when I bought a little book that contained a variety of best-loved pie recipes; all kinds, for all seasons, from frozen to fruity to creamy to nutty. I originally made it for Thanksgiving, and since it was such an enormous hit, I felt lucky to have some leftover frozen squash in the freezer so I could make it again. And that I did, just this week. The beauty of it is that you can use any of the following squash:

  • Acorn Squash
  • Blue Hokkaido Pumpkin
  • Butternut Squash
  • Cheese Pumpkins
  • Delicata Squash
  • Hubbard Squash
  • Kabocha Squash
  • Red Kuri Pumpkins
  • Rouge Vif d’Etampes Pumpkins
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Sugar Pie Pumpkins
  • Sweet Dumpling Squash
  • Turban Squash
  • White Pumpkins

Depending on the kind you use, your pie will have a slightly different color. I used butternut squash, myself, so my pie has an orange-y brown color that isn’t quite a pumpkin-y color. A white pumpkin might yield a more yellow color, a rouge vif d’etampes would give a redder color, etc. Also, while you can in theory use any of the aforementioned squash, depending on the variety you use you may have to puree the flesh or dice it more finely before using it- especially the varieties that hold their shape while cooking.

Winter squash is a summer-growing annual vegetable,[1] representing several species within the genus Cucurbita. It differs from summer squash in that it is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. At this stage, most varieties of this fruit can be stored for use during the winter. It is generally cooked before eating.

Winter squash is a low-calorie, good source of complex vegetable carbohydrates and dietary fiber.

It is an excellent source of vitamin A, a great source of vitamin C[citation needed], potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, and a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 (thiamin), copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).[2]

It is also a source of iron and beta carotene. Usually, the darker the skin is, the higher the beta carotene content.

-Wikipedia

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WINTER SQUASH PIE

Ingredients:

  • 1 single 9″ pie crust (frozen works just fine if you need to use it, just defrost according to package directions)
  • 12 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) frozen (or fresh) winter squash, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (thawed & drained first if frozen)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted (for topping)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° degrees F. Prepare your pie crust, place it into your pie plate and crimp the edges. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the squash, sugar, vanilla, egg & sour cream thoroughly. Add in pumpkin pie spice and salt, and whisk. Then whisk in the evaporated milk.
  3. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until set (mine took about 55 minutes).
  4. Remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve with whipped cream and top with toasted hazelnuts, if desired.

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It was so quick to make, the hardest part (and the longest part) was making the pie crust. May I just say, I think this is one of the best pies- visually- that I’ve made so far. The crust came out great, which is usually a problem for me. I’m so impatient I have a hard time making a pretty crust. I just wanna get it into the pie plate and start baking. But this time I ended up with a beautiful pie.

And what’s pie without whipped cream!?

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I decided to make a brandy whipped cream, a spin-off on that bourbon whipped cream I made before Thanksgiving. It was absolutely perfect with the pie. Regular whipped cream would be just fine, but you know me, I always have to be different. Besides, my grandma always used to say that brandy was “warming”… so it just makes sense to use it at a time when everyone wants to be warm & escape the cold. Not for anything, but check out that big, billowy brandy whipped cream. It’s to die for. I prefer to serve the whipped cream & hazelnuts on each slice individually, but you could also pipe the whipped cream around the edges of the pie and then sprinkle the nuts on top of it before you bring the pie out to serve it. That is, if you’re sure there won’t be much leftover, if any- the whipped cream doesn’t hold up well in the fridge (it’d have to be re-whipped due to lack of stabilizers & preservatives). It would make a lovely presentation that way. I know my audience, though, and that they can’t finish a pie like this in one sitting. So I keep everything separate.

It’s also easier to eat the whipped cream by the spoonful that way. But don’t tell anyone I told you that. Stay cozy & well-fed my friends.

Sources & credits: Recipe from Best-Loved Pies, Longaberger black 11″ pie plate, Ikea black plate, Le Creuset mini coccottes in “Twilight” (black shown).
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