Dessert as Easy as Pie:

The inside scoop on pumpkins

Pumpkin Center, N.C., is a real town. Really. And not just one town. There’s a Pumpkin Center in Onslow, Burke and Lincoln counties. All three villages are about two to four hours from the Triangle, and they tend to offer special events this month in honor of their namesake.

Meanwhile, in our area, the Great Pumpkin Contest takes place Oct. 9 at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh, patches are open for picking, and stands provide just the right choice to carve into jack-o’-lanterns or to display for autumn color.

Belonging to the Cucurbitacae family that includes melons, cucumbers, squash and gourds, the pumpkin isn’t a vegetable; it’s a fruit. It weighs in at less than a pound to more than 1,000 pounds.
Our North Carolina farmers grow a variety, including Mammoth Gold, Happy Jack, Big Max, Atlantic Giant and Sugar Pie.

All across the country, October is pumpkin month. Recent cookbooks that feature the best from New England to the Carolinas include sweet finishes made from the orange orbs.

Laura’s Maple Pumpkin Pie

For the pie:

One 9-inch pie shell, unbaked

1 cup fresh pumpkin (from 1 small pie pumpkin)

2 eggs

1/4; cup pure maple syrup

1/4; cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2; teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/4; teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup whole milk

1/4; teaspoon maple extract

For the maple whipped cream:

1/4; cup heavy cream

1 to 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and place face down on baking sheet with 1/4 cup water. Bake pumpkin in the oven until soft, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Scrape pulp away from skin, discard skin, and puree pulp in a food processor. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pumpkin until smooth. Slowly whisk in the cream, milk and maple extract until smooth. Strain mixture into a separate large bowl through a fine mesh strainer to avoid lumps.

Pour mixture into the pie shell. Transfer to the freezer and freeze overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place frozen pie onto a baking sheet. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until pie is completely set.

Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool.

Make maple whipped cream: 30 minutes before making the whipped cream, place a medium stainless steel bowl and the whisks from your electric hand held mixer in the freezer. (This will speed up the whipping process.) Pour heavy cream and maple syrup into the bowl and whisk with the mixer on medium speed until cream forms soft peaks. Place a generous spoonful on top of each piece of pumpkin pie, and serve.

Yield: One 9-inch pie

Hazelnut Crunch Pumpkin Pie


1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into bits

5 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening

1/4 cup ice water


3 eggs

1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin puree

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Hazelnut topping:

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup toasted, skinned hazelnuts, chopped, or 1 cup hazelnut crunch (available at bakers’ supply stores)

Make the crust:

In a medium bowl using a pastry blender or in a food processor with the steel blade, combine the flour and salt. Blend in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Drizzle the water over the mixture. Stir or pulse until the dough begins to come together. If the mixture seems dry and crumbly, add a little more water a few drops at a time. Gather the dough into a ball, and then flatten it into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough:

Butter a 9- or 10-inch pie pan. On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 1/8-inch-thick circle. Drape the dough over the rolling pin and place it without stretching it into the center of the prepared pan. Fit the dough into the pan and trim off all but a 1-inch border of dough. Fold the border under to form a high rim. Pinch the dough together all around to form a fluted edge.

Cover with plastic wrap and place the pan in the refrigerator to chill at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Bake the crust:

Line the dough with parchment paper or foil. Fill with pie weights or uncooked beans. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove the paper and pie weights. Let cool.

Make the filling:

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs. Stir in the remaining filling ingredients. Pour into the prepared crust and bake for 45 minutes, or until the center of the pie jiggles slightly when tapped.

Place on rack to cool completely.

Make the topping:

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the honey and stir the chopped hazelnuts. Pour over the pie and spread evenly. Cool completely at room temperature.

To serve:

This pie is best served at room temperature the day it is made.

Yield: 6 servings

Pumpkin Butterscotch Swirl Cheesecake


1-1/2 cups finely crushed gingersnaps

5 tablespoons brown sugar

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cheesecake batter:

2-1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

6 large eggs

1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1-1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup caramel or butterscotch sundae topping

Finishing touches:

Bourbon-spiced Creme Anglaise

Whipped cream

Toasted ground pecans and gingersnap crumbs, for dusting

Warm butterscotch or caramel sundae topping or dulce de leche

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

For crust:

Combine gingersnap crumbs, brown sugar, butter, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. Press into bottom of a 9- or 10-inch spring form pan and place on prepared baking sheet.

For cheesecake batter:

In a mixer bowl, blend cream cheese on low speed with both sugars until well blended. Add eggs and blend on low speed until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, flour, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and whipping cream, scraping sides and bottom of bowl often and blending until smooth. Swirl caramel topping into batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until cake seems firm in center, 55 to 70 minutes. Turn off oven, open oven door, and let cool in oven until cake is almost at room temperature. Cover loosely with a sheet of wax paper and place in refrigerator to chill overnight.

To serve:

Top the cake with bourbon-spiced Creme Anglaise or with softly whipped cream and a dusting of ground toasted pecans mixed with crushed gingersnaps. Then add a final drizzle of sundae topping.

Yield: 14 to 20 servings

Filo Pumpkin Tart

Filo crust:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

12 filo leaves

Pumpkin filling:

1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup whipping cream

1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Finishing touches:

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Ice cream

Custard sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a 9-inch pie or tart pan on prepared baking sheet. Smear a little melted butter on bottom of pan and drape a sheet of filo on top. Repeat with 7 more filo leaves, smearing each with butter before adding the next one.

For pumpkin filling:

In a medium bowl, using a hand whisk, blend pumpkin with both sugars, eggs, vanilla, whipping cream and pumpkin pie spice. Mix well and spoon into filo tart shell. Fold overlap of pastry inwards, crimping edges to make a thickened border. Butter 4 remaining filo leaves and stack them on top of each other. Roll up into a snug roll and arrange this on tart border to add a nice outer edge.

Bake 15 minutes and then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until tart is done, about 20 to 25 more minutes. Chill 1-½ hours or overnight before serving. Dust edges of tart with confectioners’ sugar before serving or serve with ice cream or custard sauce. Store in refrigerator.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Hayne House Pumpkin Bread

Recipe from Hayne House B&B, Charleston

4 eggs

2-1/2 to 3 cups sugar

1 cup oil

1 cup cold water

(15-ounce) can pumpkin

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Beat eggs and stir in next 4 ingredients. Sift dry ingredients together and add to pumpkin mixture. Mix well. Divide into 2 large or 3 medium greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 75 minutes until done.

Yield: 2 or 3 loaves