Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel Topping – plus, the secret to making the perfect pumpkin pie

Pumpkin Pie, 1/3
Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel Topping – recipe in post

I’m thankful for so many things this year. I’m thankful for my family, my friends; the roof over my head and the food in my belly… oh, how I’m thankful for that! I am rich with love, and happiness, and all kinds of luxuries, which I hope never to take for granted.

I’m also thankful to be marrying a man who makes some of the best pumpkin pies I’ve ever tasted (among other things).

Okay, okay, so this is all old news – everyone says they make the best pies, or knows someone who does, so what gives? All the recipes look alike, and people end up debating over milk vs. cream, how many eggs, or how much sugar… when all of these things are, for the most part, personal preference. So how do you make a pie better than the rest, you ask? How can you elevate any pumpkin pie recipe from good, to great? I’ll tell you.

Pumpkin Pi
Pumpkin Pi – this was my Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween

As shocking as it may seem, the key is in the pumpkin. I know I’ve preached these words before, but when it comes to pumpkin pie I can’t say it enough – fresh is always best! Making pumpkin puree is beyond easy, and can make all the difference. The first time I made pumpkin puree, I literally licked the bowl clean. Sweet, flavorful, and a far cry from the mush that comes in a can.

I did a step-by-step photo tutorial on this very subject last year. I show two ways to make pumpkin puree – roasting in the oven, and steaming. For pies, or other sweet applications, I prefer steaming as it goes much quicker and results in a sweeter puree. The only downside is that steamed purees can be on the watery side, so you may find it necessary to strain out some of the water, or reduce it down in a pot over medium-low heat. You can check out my tutorial here: Pumpkin Puree Two Ways

The other big benefit of making your own puree is, of course, the seeds! Roasted pumpkin seeds are one of my all-time favorite snacks, not to mention they’re incredibly nutritious. Instructions for roasting pumpkin seeds are included in the tutorial.

Whatever recipe you make this year, whether it be this one, another one, or something passed down through the family, I urge you to give fresh pumpkins a try. Just this once. Just to see if you like it.

Because you will.

Pie Crust Pumpkin Pie, 3/3

While The Fiancé makes the filling, I bring the crust and pecan topping to the party.  We make such a team, he and I, and for that I am very thankful, indeed!

What are you thankful for this year? Tell me in the comments below!

Pumpkin Pie, 2/3 

Recipe notes: This pie uses milk instead of heavy cream, condensed milk, or creme fresh, making it a little lighter consistency than the average pumpkin pie. If you prefer a denser filling, you can try subbing the milk for something a little thicker, but I have not experimented with that myself.
We like our pie with fresh whipped cream. If you’d like to get really fancy, spruce up your regular whipped cream with a splash of bourbon or rum – just be sure to set some regular aside for the young’uns!

Update, Dec. 2nd – I’ve received a few comments from readers that this pie didn’t work out for them… if you tried this recipe and had any problems with it, my apologies! I’ve made it a dozen times with no problems (except under-baking it once out of impatience). If you made this pie and weren’t satisfied with how it turned out, please let me know – I would love to solve this issue!

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel Topping

Flaky Pie Crust
Makes two bottom crusts, or one top and one bottom

2 1/2 cups (350g.) all-purpose flour
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks, or 226g.) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
4-5 TBSP cold water, as needed

1 egg + 1 TBSP water, beaten (for brushing the crust)

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter, or a couple of forks, until the mixture has pea-sized crumbs.

Add 4 tablespoons water, and fold with a rubber spatula until the water is fully incorporated and the dough just holds together. Or, use your hands to squeeze and press the dough, but try to work quickly so the heat of your hands doesn’t melt the butter. It may seem very dry at first, but keep folding and pressing the dough with and eventually it will come together. Depending on the humidity and temperature, it might be necessary to add another tablespoon of water.

Shape the dough into two equal sized discs, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes before rolling, or store in the fridge or freezer for future use.

Unwrap one disc of dough, and place it on a large sheet of parchment paper. Lay another sheet of parchment on top, and roll the dough between the two sheets. After a while the dough will stick to the parchment and become harder to roll out. When this happens, peel the top sheet of parchment away, then place it back down. Flip the entire thing, parchment and all, upside down and now peel away the second sheet of parchment. Place it back down and continue rolling until the dough big enough to cover your pie pan.

To transfer the dough to your pie pan, peel back the top sheet of parchment paper, and use the bottom sheet to flip the dough into the pan. Pull away the second sheet o parchment and press the dough into the corners of the pan, and trim/shape the edges. Keep prepared pie crust in the fridge until ready to fill.

Before baking, brush the edges with the egg wash. If you’d like, sprinkle the crust with some coarse sugar, or cinnamon sugar.

Tip: when I make pies for thanksgiving, I like to roll my crusts before-hand, then roll them into a long tube while still between the two sheets of parchment paper. Then I just keep them in the fridge until I’m ready to use. Let them warm up for 5-10 minutes before unrolling, then fill and bake!

Recipe from The Fiancé
Makes enough to fill one 10” pie – if you’re using a smaller pie pan, you will have a little extra

2 cups whole milk*
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (click for tutorial)
3/4 cup turbinado sugar (or light brown sugar, loosely packed)
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon**
1 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 – 1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp. sea salt)

*Can be substituted with half-and-half, or cream, for a richer pie
**We use rounded measurements on our spices, because we like things a little spicy. Feel free to adjust things to your liking

First, make your pumpkin puree!

Preheat oven to 450f.

In a sauce-pan over medium heat, warm the milk until steaming (but not boiling!). Reduce heat to low and let cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Add the milk and pumpkin puree to your blender, and pulse to combine. Add in the sugar, eggs, vanilla, spices, and salt – blend well. If the mixture is still warm, let cool to room temperature before pouring into the crust. If you’d like to skip the blender, the ingredients can be whisked together in a bowl.

Pour into prepared pie crust, and bake at 450f. for 10-15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350f., and continue baking for another 40-50 minutes. If the crust begins to darken, wrap the edges in aluminum foil to prevent burning. If your oven heats un-evenly, rotate the pie part-way through baking.

Remove the pie from the oven and top with pecan streusel (recipe below). Return the pie to the center rack for another 10-15 minutes, or until the pecan topping is golden. The center of the pie should be slightly loose when jiggled, and will set up when cooled.

Let cool completely before serving. If the filling is still loose once cooled, the pie can be refrigerated to help it set up further.

Note: for single-serving, crust-free pies, pour filling into 4oz. mason jars and bake at 325f. until just barely set on top. Bake jars on top of a cookie sheet to catch any drips. Let cool, seal with lids, and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Tip: Filling can be made up to several days in advance – to save myself the hassle come Thanksgiving, I make my pie filling and store it in a large glass jar in the fridge. Note that the baking time may increase dramatically if you use chilled filling – I’ve had them take as much as twice as long to set up. Just remember to add the pecan topping at the very end of baking!

Pecan Streusel Topping
Inspired by this recipe (click for link)
Makes enough to top one 10″ pie

2 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 TBSP unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
3/4 cup of pecans, roughly chopped (or walnuts, almonds, or a mix)

Make the streusel topping while the pie is in the oven.

Combine flour, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture looks like wet sand. Stir in pecans.

Crumble evenly over the pie towards the end of baking. Do not add to pie early on!

Serve with fresh whipped cream, and garnish with a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg, to taste.

Pumpkin Pie

My apologies for how close this is to Thanksgiving – I had all the right intentions for making this post a week ago, but had some kitchen mishaps slow me down. Better late than never!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

16 thoughts on “Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel Topping – plus, the secret to making the perfect pumpkin pie

  1. corrie

    Looks Wonderful! And I LOVE your jack-o-lantern. My oldest daughter is on her math team at school so we make plenty of pi comments and jokes around here.

    1. Willow

      Heheh, nice! I used to have pi memorized to some ridiculous decimal, but it didn’t last very long. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind there’s a long trail of digits floating about aimlessly. :P

  2. cooknotchef

    Let me start by saying I’ve made dozens, yes, dozens of recipes from this blog. Always reliable, always delicious. Funny, I see many comments about how ‘this looks wonderful’ and ‘gotta make this’. Well, I did, and then proceeded to take it to ‘THE’ family thanksgiving. It looked awesome… But, not to be. Wrinkled noses, and unflattering comments ensued. My complaints: filling was too ‘airy’, guess I’m fond of a denser pumpkin filling. Sea songs overpowered pumpkin taste, and the pecan streusel soaked up all the moisture from the filling, and never ‘caramelized’ into a crunchy topping( kinda what I was hoping for). Please don’t let it stop you from attempting this pie, maybe I royally screwed it up, or it’s a personal preference thing.

    1. Willow

      I’m so sorry this didn’t work for you! I’m inserting a note in the recipe that it is a lighter, less dense pie – that is true. I can’t imagine the issue with taste, though… I’ve made this pie a dozen times, and the Fiance a dozen times before that, and it’s always been delicious. I’m making a note to myself to toy with this recipe, and make revisions as needed. I hate to think this undid anyone’s celebrations. Thank you for letting me know.

    2. Lisa Brennan

      This pie was my go-to pie for Thanksgiving AND Christmas last year. It turned out beautifully when I made it with pumpkin, the first time, then just as great when I switched to sweet potato for the next two or three times. The topping was really perfect, and I was gleeful when the turbinado sugar I used in the topping worked out so well. You have a spiffing pie here, thanks for the wonderful idea.


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