Yesterday I had my first stab (get it) at carving a pumpkin. I kept the design simple, mostly because I was literally getting blisters from scooping out the flesh with a spoon that was becoming increasingly bent. Not bad for a first attempt, I think, though the lid got roasted on top of the tea candle. This is probably what happens when Australians try and celebrate Halloween.
With over 1kg of pumpkin flesh harvested from Mr Orangehead, I knew it was my calling and fate to make my first ever pumpkin pie. Like all first attempts, I wanted it to be special and made personal, thus the mascarpone. If like me, you can’t afford storebought mascarpone, I strongly recommend you make your own, especially in a recipe where its flavour takes a back seat to a more predominant pumpkin flavour. It mainly lends an amazing melt-in-your-mouth smooth texture and mellows the spices.
Right now, an hour after baking, the whole house still smells like a pumpkin spice crack den – insanely addicting. I can hardly imagine improving upon it with added alcohol, but of course I had to make it kid-friendly so I used orange sugar (sugar stored with charred orange peel – it’s even more powerful than zest) to amp up the flavour.
A post about comfort food couldn’t go without ranting about why I need to be comforted in the first place. It had been a most stressful morning. Like diarrhea-inducing, knee-shaking, pee-in-my-pants kind of anxiety, the extreme kind you get (well, I get) during and in anticipation of an oral exam. The last time I came close to feeling sick from nerves was, surprisingly enough, the English impromptu commentary in year 12. Long story short, it finished with me calling my examiners ‘guys’, as if feigning familiarity would save me. The worst part, though, was me saying I’d restore an abfraction lesion with ‘GIC or something like that’, to which one of the examiners responded ‘and what exactly would that something or other be?’ Yeah, me and spoken exams don’t go well together. At least it’s not must pass, and more importantly, it’s finally over so that I can study for the end of semester.
Eating sweets should be a mandatory de-stressor to all whose future job is to tell people off for eating sweets.
Back to Mr Orangehead, I’m so proud and pleased about his face not being blemished by huge scars/cracks. Precautions like pouring the filling from a height to eliminate air bubbles and baking at a lower temperature helped. Don’t get hung up on it though, if cracking does happen – you’ll just have a more badass-looking pumpkin head.
For the tart shell/pâte sucrée:
1 recipe of pâte sucrée
For the pumpkin mascarpone filling:
80g brown sugar*
1/2 tsp orange zest*
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger (I used freshly grated)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
300g pumpkin puree**
*Or 80g orange sugar + 1/2 tbsp molasses
**If where you live hasn’t been taken over by pumpkin revolutionists neither and no one bothers stocking canned puree, make your own! Roast or steam your pumpkin until puree-able, pass it through a sieve and drain excess liquid e.g. with cheesecloth.
Make the tart shell, and if you like, use any scraps to make decorative pieces. Put decorations in freezer to firm up until last 10 mins of baking the whole tart with the filling. Bake the shell by itself for about 15 mins or until crisp and lightly coloured.
Pull the tart shell out and turn the oven down to 170C/340F.
To make the filling, first rub the zest and spices in with the sugar until fragrant and well distributed (no lumps). Add the eggs and whisk briefly without incorporating too much air. Whisk in the mascarpone and salt, then the pumpkin puree until just mixed and lump-free.
Either bang the mixing bowl on the counter a few times to release bubbles or pour the filling into the tart shell from a height (~30cm). Pour right up to the top edge of the shell (with the tart ring on), and put on the bottom shelf of the oven to bake approximately 33 minutes. When the centre is jiggly and not completely liquid (refer to gif, about 23 minutes in), you can put on the decorative pieces at this stage. Then bake for a further 10 minutes until the pieces are cooked and the centre is still jiggly.
Turn the oven off but keep the tart in to cool gradually by leaving the door halfway ajar. After 5-10 minutes, take out the whole tray to cool completely, leaving the tart ring/pie mold on until completely chilled. Transfer to refrigerator to chill completely for a few hours before serving/cutting/removing from pan.