Choosing to omit simple sugar and dairy products from my diet doesn't mean I'm going to be left out of Thanksgiving's festivities. I'm always trying to create an alternative version of some of my holiday favorites, and I haven't had a single complaint about my Pumpkin Pie yet, so why don't you try it and see if your guests can tell the difference?
For my pies, I often use squash in place of pumpkin, my favorite choice being the sweet kabocha squash or butternut (see note below on baking the squash or pumpkin). I always find it a bit challenging to give exact weights and measures, because there are so many variables when it comes to cooking. For example, when I made my pie recently the only dish I had available was a very deep dish, so it took a lot more pumpkin to fill it and of course the other ingredients had to be altered accordingly. I made it for a group of my Irish friends who assumed when they were invited to sample my Pumpkin Pie that it was a savory dish and were quite thrilled when they were served up a slice of what they described as "just like cheesecake."
I tend to do everything from scratch, simply because I get to indulge in spending most of my day in the kitchen, so in the recipe I suggest baking your own pumpkin or squash. However, the health police will not come knocking on your door if you choose to buy a can of pumpkin puree, especially if it's organic!
To make pastry:
Combine the flour, almonds, sea salt and orange zest in a bowl. Add the coconut oil and mix in until mixture is crumbly. Add the syrup and juice and continue to mix until mixture binds. Set aside while you prepare your filling.
To make filling:
Combine all the filling ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until creamy. If using kuzu, dissolve it in a little cold water before adding.
Preheat oven to 375° and lightly oil an 8-inch pie pan. Roll out the pastry on a piece of plastic wrap and transfer it to the pie pan, trimming and decoratively crimping the edges. Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake on middle shelf of oven for 45 minutes.
Check after about 30 minutes, and if the outer edge of the crust is well done, cover the top loosely with foil for the last 15 minutes to avoid burning the pastry.
My guests could hardly wait, but the pie does set and is much easier to slice if served cold.
Note: There are a couple of ways you can make the pumpkin or squash puree:
1. Peel and dice pumpkin and put into a casserole dish with 1 cup apple or orange juice and 1 cinnamon stick, which you can break up. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Drain off any juice that hasn't been absorbed and puree the pumpkin with remaining filling ingredients.
2. If using butternut squash or smaller pumpkin, cut it in half lengthwise, spread a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of a baking dish and put the squash cut side down on the paper and bake at 300° for about 40 minutes. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Then scoop out the flesh and puree with remaining ingredients.
- You can substitute sweet potato for the pumpkin or squash. Kabocha or butternut squash are sweeter than pumpkin, so you may need to adjust the sweetener added accordingly. For my pie, I used butternut squash—it was a deep dish so it took 1 1/2 squashes.
- Maple syrup, honey or rice syrup can be used in place of the agave syrup. You could also use alternative sugars such as maple or date sugar, which are available at some health food stores, or stevia.
- You can use butter or oil such as safflower, sunflower or olive oil in the pastry in place of the coconut oil.
- For a vegan version, you can omit the eggs and instead add 4 ounces soft tofu to the mixture.
For a nice, crunchy contrast to the creaminess of the pie, you can make a topping of 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries, tossed with 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil and 1 tablespoon agave syrup. Sprinkle over the top of the pie about 5 minutes before the end of cooking so the nuts toast up a bit.