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pumpkin pie brûlée with a gingersnap crust

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, and there are some important pie-decisions to be made. For us pumpkin pie traditionalists, overly-complicated recipes using fancy ingredients are fine, but sometimes you just want the familiar and classic version. This ultra-creamy and smooth pie is just that: spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, dark brown sugar, ginger, and allspice, this dessert has a dreamy, custard-like texture and genuine pumpkin flavor. If you have never made a pie before, this should be your first, as it could not be easier to make. All the filling ingredients are simply mixed in one bowl, you pour it in the pan, and bake it. This year we tried something a little different and are excited to share our discovery that keeps the spirit of the original, while adding a little extra… flare!

Applying a creme brûlée technique adds a crispy and delicate golden brown top to the rich and velvety pumpkin cream filling without distracting from the classic flavors. It is simple to do, requiring only two things: sugar and fire. A sprinkle of sugar, torched until bubbly and amber, forms an irresistibly crackly layer that accentuates the silkiness of the creamy pie. Kitchen torches may seem intimidating, but in fact they are easy to use, and if you can light a candle, you can brûlée a pie. It only takes a minute, and the spectacle of torching the dessert is guaranteed to impress your guests and fill the room with oohs and aahs and the fragrant aroma of caramelized burnt sugar.

While most pumpkin pies use a traditional pastry shell, we blend gingersnap cookies into a delicious crumb crust. The result is sweet, buttery, and crumbly, with warm flavors of ginger and spice that perfectly complement the creamy pumpkin filling. This is also a slightly healthier option, as it uses less than half the butter of a standard crust. The texture and flavor improves dramatically when it is chilled so be sure to keep it in the fridge until it is ready to serve. Trust us, this makes all the difference! We are big believers in family traditions and recipes, and the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without a homemade pumpkin pie. This crowd-pleaser is an elegant twist on a familiar classic that is guaranteed to bring a little light to this year’s Thanksgiving table.

Pumpkin Pie Brûlée with a Gingersnap Crust

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) gingersnap cookie crumbs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons (about 1 ounce) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
2 large eggs
2 cups (16 ounces) pumpkin purée (see note)
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup (2.5 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the brûlée:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Prepare the crust:
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a food processor, combine the cookie crumbs, flour, ginger, brown sugar, and butter and pulse until evenly blended. Transfer the mixture to a pie plate, and use the back of a spoon to press it gently into the bottom and sides of the plate, forming an even crust. Bake crust for 10 to 12 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the filling.

Prepare and bake the pie:
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin purée, evaporated milk, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and salt, then whisk until thoroughly blended. Pour into the crust, and bake pie for 35 to 45 minutes, until the center is set and jiggles like gelatin when the plate is nudged: If it looks more like liquid, it is not done yet. Remove pie from oven and let cool completely on a rack. Chill in the fridge, and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Just before serving, sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top of the pie. Use a kitchen torch to melt the sugar, with some spots turning dark amber. Serve, and enjoy!

note:
— This recipe uses 16 ounces of pumpkin purée, so a standard 15-ounce can is not quite enough. Save yourself some time and buy two cans at once!
— Culinary torches are widely available at kitchen supply stores and online.