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Testing Erin Jeanne McDowell’s Pumpkin Sugar Pie

Good gourd! I made a pie today! And it looks beautiful and it smells like the holidays, and I’m just thrilled!

I must say that this was definitely a labour of love as pumpkin pie ingredients aren’t as readily available at the supermarket when you live in Italy. This meant I needed to truly make this pie from scratch. I’m talking about chopping up my own pumpkin and puréeing it. I’m saying that I had to create my own pumpkin spice mix. I will tell you that I concocted a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, which I also had to dry and pulse into powder. In summary, this was truly a labour of love!

Luckily, after being inspired by a Food52 Instagram pie post, I found this amazing recipe by Erin Jeanne McDowell for a Pumpkin Sugar Pie, which I have included at the end of this post. Not only did it produce a tasty result, but it was also so gorgeous and fairly easy to do… especially if you have pumpkin pie purée and pumpkin spice ready to go at your fingertips! A note on the pumpkin spice blend in the recipe below, this is my own concoction based on McDowell’s recipe which consists of: 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg.

But, why did I make this pie? Well, first off, I’m having major pumpkin spice withdrawal. Second, I’m hosting my very first Friendsgiving! While I’m already anxious about burning my turkey into oblivion, I’m looking forward to sitting down with some great people and sharing some traditional (and not so traditional foods) for this Thanksgiving!

Let me clarify that though I am Canadian, I’m blessed to have an American dad, which means I get the luxury of two Thanksgivings every year. The lovely thing about being in Bra this year is that I have some American classmates who are also keen on sharing a make-shift, Italian-inspired Thanksgiving!

After ordering a turkey and trying my best to pick up all the classic items during my grocery shopping, I had to improvise on a few things, making my own stuffing from scratch and swapping cherry jam with a splash of lemon in place of cranberry sauce. The results, however, were still pretty immaculate once we finally all gathered together for the meal!

Worried that my 14 pound turkey wouldn’t fit in my oven, it (thankfully!) did and didn’t burn thanks to the aluminum foil tent I covered my bird in. At a low 325° F for 3 hours and 45 minutes covered and then 30 minutes uncovered, my turkey was a gorgeous golden brown. It was also super juicy, which I credit to letting it rest for 30 minutes before carving!

Though the bird was quite a thing of wonder for my European classmates who have never celebrated Thanksgiving, I also made peas and pancetta, roasted Brussel sprouts with walnuts, and extra stuffing! Plus, my lovely guests brought mashed potatoes, vegetable spring rolls, mashed squash, Eritrean stewed greens, apple cake, charcuterie and all kinds of booze!

Needless to say, we all ate well! But, there’s always room for dessert! Nervous to cut into my pie, I was pleasantly surprised with the overall texture of the pie. The filling was sturdy and the crust was beautifully sweet and didn’t crumble into oblivion. Each pie slice cut perfectly and looked amazing. Topped with fresh whipped cream, it tasted exactly like Thanksgivings back home!

Definitely worth all the extra steps, this pumpkin pie has that classic spicy flavour that we all know and love, but the sugar cookie crust is a fun substitution instead of a regular flaky pie crust. Plus, a cookie crust is also easier to manage as it’s just cookie dough. Though it can take some time to make the crust and filling, you truly can taste the difference (and the love!) with homemade baked goods.

I’d like to mention that in preparation for Friendsgiving, I made this pie a few days prior to avoid any time-related constraints and because my Italian oven is so tiny I have to do everything in shifts! If you choose to freeze your pie like I did, make sure you let it cool completely before wrapping it completely (and tightly!) in cling wrap twice. Though I wouldn’t let the pie sit in the freezer for weeks on end, it kept well for the few days in the freezer leading up to the event. Just remember to take it out of the freezer the day of your event and let it defrost on the counter for a few hours.

This pie had rave reviews among the whole turkey day squad, so I think you should give it a try if you’re ever feeling inspired to be a real Betty Crocker!

. . .

Erin Jeanne McDowell’s Pumpkin Sugar Pie

*Makes one 9-inch pie*


Press-In Cookie Crust

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract...I used 1/3 of a vanilla bean instead!

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1 tablespoon water

Pumpkin Spice Blend

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Pumpkin Sugar Pie

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice blend

  • 9-inch pie crust


Press-In Cookie Crust

  1. Cream butter and sugar until smooth for 2 minutes.

  2. Add egg yolk and vanilla and stir.

  3. Pour in flour and salt and mix until fully incorporated about 1 minute.

  4. Add the water and mix just until the dough is smooth for 1 minute.

  5. Turn out the dough and use your fingers to press it evenly into the pan. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

  6. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes until the crust is beginning to turn lightly golden. If the crust starts to puff up, deflate it with a fork and continue baking.

Pumpkin Sugar Pie

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and flour to combine.

  3. Add the brown sugar and mix to combine. Whisk in the milk, cream, vanilla extract, and salt, and mix just to combine.

  4. Gently whisk in the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice until incorporated.

  5. Place the par-baked crust on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pour in the custard.

  6. Bake until the filling appears set at the edges but is still jiggly in the centre about 30 minutes.

  7. Cool to room temperature then chill for at least 2 hours until ready to slice.

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You truly have a talent in everything you do! I am so proud of you that you had an American Thanksgiving in Italy. And to make this pie 🥧 from scratch? Wow! That’s quite the task. Your Grandmother Sylvia was quite proud of you also. I told her what you did. KEEP ON COOKING! 🥣 (Do you remember when I’d drive you to your nonna’s in the morning and you’d tell me, “Dadda, according to my research, I’m smarter than the average bear?” Well, I think you were on to something there! 😉)


Dec 10, 2020

@Maria Checchia I will definitely be in charge of pie-making next Thanksgiving! ✨


Maria Checchia
Maria Checchia
Dec 10, 2020

I am amazed but not surprised by your creativity! You truly put your heart and soul into cooking and it shows! You are a natural and make me and others want to try this recipe and others, as you make it appear easy and stressfree!

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