You may be tired of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. That’s what Chef Giuseppe Brucia said many years ago. I have written about him before. He is an Italian trained in Switzerland, and was chef of Ristorante Firenze and the Cambridge Club in Shreveport, Louisiana. I attended one of his cooking classes nearly 40 years ago, and there he showed us how to make his substitute for pumpkin pie.
His English was not very good, and the recipe had been transcribed in a sort of shorthand by a volunteer who knew nothing about cooking. On top of that, measurements were either in restaurant terms or approximate, and some of the ingredients were restaurant grade not readily available to the home cook. Nonetheless, I tried to adapt the recipe so that it could be included in the family cookbook. Even with all of those disclaimers, I think you’ll enjoy making the pie – and eating it. Another warning, it is a bit complicated to make, especially the crust. You can save a lot of time and effort by simply using a ready-made pie crust. I’ve used a cake pan with removable bottom to give straight sides and to let the finished pie stand on its own, but without a fluted edge, the crust will shrink. A regular pie pan will work just fine.
Chef Brucia’s Sweet Pie Crust
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 11 ounces (22 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 ounces heavy cream
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon milk
- Sift flour directly onto work surface. Make a hollow in the center
- Place the butter, salt, sugar, and egg in the hollow. Gently mix together with your fingers, being careful not to mix in the flour. Add 2 ounces of cream and incorporate into the mixture.
- With your fingers, gradually draw the flour into the mixture, continuing until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough holds its shape. Add additional cream as needed until the dough is smooth and soft.
- Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. Roll the dough to fit a 9-inch tart or cake pan. Arrange the dough so that it fits snugly without stretching. Run a rolling pin across the edge of the pan to trip the dough. The dough may shrink if you have stretched it while lining the pan.
- Bake blind in a 350° F oven for 12 minutes, weighting down the shell with aluminum foil filled with beans or pie weights. Remove from the oven, and remove the pie weights. Paint with a glaze made by mixing the egg yolk and milk together. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes to brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
Chef Brucia’s Yam Pie
- 1 large yam
- ½ cup water
- 10 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 2 fresh oranges (should yield about ½ cup of stained juice)
- 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1 package (0.25 ounces) unflavored gelatin
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- Peel and dice the yam into 1 inch cubes. In a saucepan, combine the diced yam with the water and 5 tablespoons of sugar. Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, until the yam is soft. Drain the yam, reserving the cooking liquid. Puree the yam in a potato ricer, food mill, or food processor.
- Using a microplane, zest the oranges, setting the zest aside. Juice the two oranges, strain the juice, and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, combine the cooking liquid, orange juice, and butter. Bring to the boil, and heat until the butter is melted.
- Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over ¼ cup cold water and let bloom for 5 minutes. Heat gently for 15 seconds in a microwave until the gelatin is dissolved.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, and the remaining 5 tablespoons of sugar. Add the dissolved gelatin and whisk together.
- Combine the orange and egg mixtures and heat gently while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. (About 155°F. Do not heat too fast or too high or you will wind up scrambling the eggs. If you wish, use a double boiler over not in boiling water.) Remove from the heat and stir in the yam puree and reserved orange zest until well incorporated.
- Pour the completed filling into the prepared pie shell. You may have some extra filling depending on how high the edge of the crust is. Don’t overfill. Refrigerate for at least one hour or until set.
- Cut into 6 to 8 wedges and serve by itself or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.