The Crust: Store-bought or Homemade?
A store-bought pie shell will certainly suffice in a last-minute pinch, but it’s worth making a buttery crust from scratch to match your sweetly spiced pie filling. It’s not that much extra work, and this detailed step-by-step guide makes the process even easier. You can make and freeze the dough about a week in advance, so it won't get in the way of your main Thanksgiving prep, either. When you're ready to make the pie itself, be sure to weigh down and blind bake the pie crust before adding in the filling. This keeps the crust from lagging behind the filling during baking and turning soggy.
The Filling: Canned or Fresh?
The answer to this age-old question depends greatly upon time constraints around the holidays. Using canned pumpkin puree is more convenient than preparing and roasting a fresh pumpkin, and many pastry chefs use it themselves in pumpkin pie recipes. It's very smooth and boasts a deep flavor and consistent moisture content. Just be sure to choose 100-percent pure pumpkin puree instead of overly sweet, pre-spiced pumpkin pie filling. This way you'll be able to control the amount of sugar and spices added to the filling and work with fresh spices. Fresh pumpkin has a milder flavor and requires you to peel, chop and remove the seeds from the squash, roast it, then puree the pieces (a considerable effort). It also contains more moisture, which can sometimes lead to watery custard if the pumpkin is not drained after pureeing. While fresh pumpkin will result in a lighter-color pie with a nicely dense texture, it requires a little more work than simply opening a can.