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Pumpkin Pie

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Nothing says Thanksgiving like pumpkin pie.

In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. For us it is truly fall with warm sunny afternoons, the spectacular colours of autumn and daylight into the early evening. To me it also feels like the official beginning of pumpkin season. Suddenly pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin muffins appear everywhere.

Then, at the perfect moment everyone wants pie, there it is. Boxes of pies piled high at the entrance of every store you enter. Does anyone make homemade pie anymore?

Baking is a skill you can learn and a homemade pumpkin pie is not unrealistic. All you need to learn is how to make a gluten free pie crust and, as pumpkin lovers will tell you, the season goes all the way to the end of the year.

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American Thanksgiving

Our friends to the south celebrate Thanksgiving in late November. I think this presents a wonderful opportunity for all of us. If you want practice before the big event American’s can host a Canadian Thanksgiving feast in October. For us northerners we can plan a menu with all the things that weren’t served at our family event by hosting an American Thanksgiving dinner. It seems to me that these events would be hosted with friends rather than family, but hey, it’s your party so do what you want. Break all the rules and make it entirely gluten free. You could break tradition and serve my Southwestern Turkey Feast, or just make dessert. Who wouldn’t come to an all pumpkin dessert buffet?

Flaky Pie Pastry

My mom was the maker of pies in my family. She made perfect, flaky pie crust using lard, and in later years changing that to shortening. She says it is the key ingredient but she has only ever baked with wheat flour.

I turned to America’s Test Kitchen for tips and tricks on pie making. I own, and highly recommend, both volumes;

These are excellent resources for cooking in general and baking in particular. They would also be a perfect gift idea.

Top Tips For Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

  • -xanthan gum adds structure
  • -sour cream makes the dough easier to work with
  • -vinegar makes a flaky, tender pastry
  • -rolling the dough between plastic wrap makes it easy to flip
  • -adding warm filling to a partially baked crust helps cook pastry and filling evenly

The recipe instructions tell you how to successfully roll out and bake gluten free pastry. For more tips you can also refer to the recipe description in my post titled Homemade Flaky Pie Crust.

I tweaked the America’s Test Kitchen recipe and used my own gluten free flour mix. People often say they have trouble with overly brown edges on their pumpkin pie. I didn’t have that problem but if you do you can make a homemade piecrust shield using tin foil. For serious pie makers with this problem you can purchase silicone pie crust shields…who knew!

Piece of Pumpkin Pie topped with freshly whipped cream
Piece of Pumpkin Pie -photo credit Jim Little

Canned Pumpkin vs Pumpkin Pie Filling

You can buy fresh pumpkin, and there are varieties of pumpkin, but let’s assume you are a normal busy person and you’re looking for the canned pumpkin.

The shelves are piled high with canned pumpkin but when you look at the label you learn a little more. Some cans are pure pumpkin and others are pumpkin pie filling. I like to eat real food as much as possible so I buy pumpkin. The ingredient list should say pumpkin. That’s it.

Store bought canned pumpkin pie filling will have an ingredient list. It may include spices, additives and preservatives including wheat. I just avoid it.

A Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Feast

Whether you look forward to your family’s traditional Turkey Feast or dread these events, offering to bring the pumpkin pie is a great way to ensure you will be able to eat it. If it is your first pie I recommend a practice session well in advance of the dinner. Making the same recipe twice within a few days or a few weeks is the best way to learn. Most importantly, it takes the pressure off when you know the recipe works.

Eat your practice pie, share it with friends, freeze some and decide what you think of thawed pumpkin pie. The more practice you get the more confident you will be, and then you can get a little adventurous with the pastry and maybe make another kind of pie.

Let me know in the comments below how your pie turned out. This is the longest recipe I have ever posted. I’d love to hear in the comments below if some of them were helpful.

More Pumpkin Recipes

Little Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies on a pedestal tray.
Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies -photo credit Jim Little


6 Tbsp cold water
3 Tbsp sour cream
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2¾ cups plus 2 Tbsp gluten free flour mix (I used my mix)
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp xanthan gum
1 cup butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces and frozen for 15 minutes
1 can (15 oz/425 g) canned pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
1 cup light cream (10%)
⅓ cup whipping cream (35%)
4 eggs


BEST BAKING TIP EVER – read the entire recipe before you start
In 1-cup measuring cup combine water, sour cream and vinegar.
Combine flour mix, sugar, salt and xanthan gum in food processor with dough blade. Pulse for 5-10 seconds.
Add butter on top and pulse until combined into uniform crumb-like mixture.
Pour sour cream mixture onto flour, pulse until well combined and looks like pastry.
Divide dough into 2 pieces. Place each piece of dough on a large piece of plastic wrap. Press into a disk and cover completely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
Remove dough from fridge, let sit a few minutes or up to 20 minutes until it is pliable.
Lightly dust the dough with tapioca starch or sweet rice flour at any step if the plastic wrap doesn’t peel off easily.
Unwrap dough and leave the disk in the center of the plastic wrap. Cover with a second piece of plastic wrap.
Using a rolling pin always roll from the center of the dough toward the edges. Turn the plastic as needed to keep the dough an even thickness making an 11-inch or 12-inch circle for a 9-inch pie plate.
Slip a flexible cutting board or place mat, under the bottom plastic. Flip the dough over the pie plate so the second piece of plastic is on top.
As you peel away the top piece of plastic ease the dough into the pie plate.
Tuck the overhanging pastry under itself to create a finished edge all around the pie plate.
Make a decorative edge using your thumb or fingers to press the dough into the top edge of the pie plate.
Cover the pie crust loosely with plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in lower third of the oven.
Remove plastic wrap and bake piecrust until light brown, about 20 minutes.
While crust is baking reheat or make the pumpkin pie filling.
Remove partially baked crust from oven to wire rack and increase heat to 425°F.
Pour warm pumpkin filling into the hot piecrust right away.
KEY STEP - Crust must be warm when pumpkin filling is added.
Bake until the filling is puffed and lightly cracked around the edges but center wiggles slightly, 20-25 minutes.
Let pie cool on wire rack until set and cooled completely.
Serve with whipping cream or ice cream.
Process pumpkin puree, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in food processor until combined, about 1 minute.
Transfer pumpkin to medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook pumpkin, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Whisk in cream, return to simmer briefly. Remove from heat.
Put eggs in food processor and pulse for 5 seconds.
With machine running slowly add hot pumpkin mixture through feed tube. Once all pumpkin is added, process an additional 30 seconds until evenly combined.
Return pie filling to saucepan to reheat when pastry is cooking.
Extra pumpkin filling can be cooked in ramekin dishes placed in a water bath, like you would cook crème brulee.
Pastry dough will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge if wrapped well or it can be frozen. Double wrap if not using the same day.
This recipe make 2 pie crusts. If you are not making two pies freeze the other crust in a pie plate for quiche, lemon meringue pie or to repeat your pumpkin pie.


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