Food + Wine

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie…or should I say Cream Cheese Dickinson Squash Pie…?

There are a lot of people who dislike Pumpkin Pie out there.  And I am not one of those crazy pumpkin people who will start throwing things at you when I hear that.  Promise.  (Pumpkin people be crazy.)  I love pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but I also love pecan pie…I basically just love the hell out of some pie, ya’ll.  But the complaint I get about Pumpkin Pie is that it’s too…bitter, maybe a little sharp in flavor?  And whenever I hear people tell me that, I always come back with,

Yeah, but you’ve never had MY Pumpkin Pie.  I put cream cheese is mine…rounds out the flavors and takes away that edge.’

And I always get the same response-

Huh.  Now that actually sounds good.’

It just makes it taste better, the cream cheese.  Simple as that.  It isn’t enough to make it taste like cheesecake, it’s still very much a Pumpkin Pie, but it’s just enough to richen it up a bit and give it an incredible mouthfeel.  The cream cheese isn’t even something that you would be able to notice…it just makes it…better.  Trust me.

And while we’re on the subject of Pumpkin Pie, lemme talk a bit about something that’s gonna get me in a LOT of trouble with some of you.  I use canned pumpkin in my pie.  In my delicious Pumpkin Pie, I use canned pumpkin.  I am not a lazy cook, nor am I lazy in any facet of my life, I believe in farm to table, I believe in natural and real food being better for you than processed food.  I’m THAT person.  But when it comes to Pumpkin Pie, you gotta go canned.  I’m sorry.  Cook those pumpkins for something else, I still want you to cook them if you bought them.  If not for the smell alone, but crank open a $1.29 can of pumpkin puree when you’re making your pie.  DO NOT BUY THE PUMPKIN PIE FILLING.  I’m talkin’ the plain, pumpkin puree.  It tastes better, it’s a better texture, it’s just better.  Wanna know why?  It aint even pumpkin, ya’ll.  Yeah…Libby’s created their own squash variety called the Dickinson years ago.  It looks a lot like a butternut squash, and that’s what they use for their ‘canned pumpkin’.  Yup.  (Libby’s be lyin’.)

The pumpkins we buy before Halloween to carve or decorate our homes with around Thanksgiving, those adorable Cinderella round beauties?  Well if you cook those, they’re 90% water and mostly hollow, plus incredibly stringy (especially the big ones) so you’re almost wasting your time.  Even when pureed, and strained, you still can’t achieve that same texture you’re gonna get from the canned pumpkin.  You’re just not.  But if you really and truly don’t wanna use a canned product, and you aren’t a Libby’s farmer, then use butternut squash for your next pumpkin pie and trust me, it’ll taste a hell of a lot better than your pumpkin pie you made last year from your pumpkin patch pumpkin.  Butternut squashes, (and the Dickinson variety) are sweeter, fleshier, creamier…just all around better than pumpkins.

Knowing this information is perhaps a bit dangerous though…I may have messed with your pumpkin-happy worlds a little too much over there.  I mean…we may have to start changing the way we say things this time of year now… We may have to start seasoning our squash pies with squash spices and sipping on squash lattes.  Or…we can all just continue to live in ignorant bliss and pretend I didn’t teach you anything today.

But please, just please, if you’re gonna make my Pumpkin Pie, and you can’t bear to cook something yourself that isn’t an actual pumpkin, just open the damn can.

*Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie

First you’ll need to blind bake your crust*.  You do this so it gets a head start in baking and won’t end up being soggy once your filling has set.  All you do is roll out your pie dough, transfer to your greased DEEP DISH pie plate, press it down, crimp the edges if desired, and then poke the bottom with a fork several times to keep it from bubbling up.



Bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes. (And if it cracks, no biggie.  It’ll be hidden by filling, remember?)Turn your oven down to 350, set it aside and allow it to cool a bit while you make your filling…

In a large mixing bowl combine the following…
-1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree 
-8 ounce brick neufchatel cream cheese (I prefer the flavor of reduced fat, believe it or not), SOFTENED.  (It has to be completely room temperature/soft or else you will have what’s known as the cottage cheese effect…little tiny white pieces that will never, ever, be mixed into your filling.)
-3 large eggs
-3/4 cup light brown sugar
-1 cup evaporated whole milk (I use this because it’s really creamy but isn’t as rich as heavy cream. You can use whatever milk/cream you prefer but I strongly suggest you stay away from anything less than a 2% milk fat.)
-splash vanilla extract
-splash almond extract
-pinch kosher salt
-1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Using an electric beater, blend everything until creamy and completely well mixed.

Pour batter into your blind baked pie shell (if you happened to use the pre-made, pre-rolled, store-bought kind (no shame!), chances are it’ll have shrunk down and will no longer be up to the edges of the pie plate, in which case you will have more filling than there is room for in your crust.  You can do one of two things, just pour as much as will come to the top of your crust and save the rest for a tiny little pie or bake it off in ramekins as a pumpkin custard OR just pour it in there anyway and cover the edges of the crust, thus completely hiding it.  It’ll still taste good.)

Cover any exposed crust with an aluminum foil ring to prevent it from burning and bake at 350 for 25 minutes, then remove the foil ring and bake for another 25 minutes or so until there are a couple cracks that have begun to form around the edges and the center of the pie has the slightest shimmer when you shake it.

Allow to cool and serve room temperature.

A little whipped cream never hurt anyone either.

(*For my standard butter pie crust recipe, click HERE.  For my gluten-free pie crust recipe, click HERE.  And to watch me show you my pie crust tips, visit my YouTube channel HERE)

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