Pie season approaches, and I've been designing an emergency pie clinic.
Just as I was sketching out the ambulance bay and the triage wing and the surgery suite, I crumpled and tossed the plan. By the time a pie is in an emergent state, it's too late.
Some pie disasters can be salvaged. Specialists are skilled at casting the cracked crust or de-curdling custard. Even the general practitioner knows that most pie problems can be treated with whipped cream.
Pie can be saved. It's the pie baker who never fully recovers.
Which is why we need to change our approach to pie. We don't need high-tech emergency care. We don't need low-tech primary care. We need preventive care.
The holiday pie baker needs early intervention. A crisp ginger crust that won't crack. A silky pumpkin filling that won't curdle. Backed by a reliable recipe, the pie will arrive at the table fabulous. And so will the pie baker.
Prep: 1 hour
Bake: 50 minutes
Serves: 8 to 12
1 (2- to 3-pound) green or red kabocha squash*
1 cup (packed) dark-brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon fine salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Ginger crust (recipe follows)
Whipped cream, optional
1. Roast: Slice squash in half. Use an ice-cream scoop to scrape out seeds and any stringy innards. Brush with a little oil. Set squash cut-side-down on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Slide into a 400-degree oven and roast until tender (pierce with a fork, right through the skin), about 40 minutes.
2. Swirl: Scoop out orange flesh (discard skin) and drop it into the food processor. Swirl completely smooth. Measure 2 cups puree.
3. Toss: Use a fork to toss together sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg.
4. Mix: Return squash to the food processor. Add cream, eggs and sugar mix. Swirl smooth.
5. Bake: Pour squash mix onto baked ginger crust (still in its pan, still on a baking sheet). Slide into the center of a 400-degree oven, and bake until pie is jiggly all the way across, about 50 minutes. Cool completely. Unsnap sides of pan, release pie. Slice and serve with whipped cream, if you like.
Ginger crust: Stir together 1 ½ cups gingersnap crumbs, 5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter and 3 tablespoons sugar. Press firmly across the bottom of a deep 9-inch springform pan (the sort used for cheesecake). Set pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide into the center of a 400-degree oven and bake until crust is fragrant and slightly darkened, about 12 minutes. Cool.
*Kabocha squash, also called Japanese pumpkin, has sweet, dense flesh that makes excellent pumpkin pie. Check the grocery store, farmers market or pumpkin patch. If you can't find one, substitute pie pumpkin.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.