For the Americans (and Canadians) among you, pumpkin pie is a clear staple of the Thanksgiving dinner table. And back home, with the help of a can or two of Libby’s pie filling, a frozen crust, and some Cool Whip, baking a pumpkin pie is relatively simple. But if you’re trying to celebrate Thanksgiving while living abroad, things become a little more complicated. (Unless you’re willing to cart cans of Libby’s across the ocean, or pay an arm and a leg at a speciality food store). Suddenly you’re faced with having to make a pie from scratch, using unfamiliar ingredients, and converting everything to the metric system. Quite honestly, it can be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re no Martha Stewart to begin with.
Somehow, after celebrating almost six Thanksgivings here in Deutschland, I’ve managed to piece together some good resources for making pumpkin pies in Germany. Though it is certainly time intensive, making a pumpkin pie from scratch isn’t as hard as it seems. (I even did it one year while hobbling around on crutches.) And most importantly, it tastes ah-mazing.
So for those North American expats new to Germany, and for those Germans who’ve been converted into Thanksgiving fans, it’s about time I share my secrets to making pumpkin pie from scratch. Below are recipes and tips for pie crust, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie filling, and whipping cream — using ingredients you can find in any German grocery store, with their actual German names, and already converted into grams and liters. It doesn’t get any easier than this, so let’s get started!
This may be the most intimidating step if you’ve never made a pumpkin pie before, but it’s actually not so hard…
- 1 medium-sized pumpkin (Hokkaido is a good choice)
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Wash the exterior of the pumpkin with cool water. Remove the stem and cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and stringy fibers from the center using a metal spoon and discard (unless you want to roast the seeds). Leave the pumpkin in halves or cut into quarters. Coat the surface of the pumpkin halves with vegetable oil. Place the pumpkin halves cut side down in a roasting pan. Add about 125 ml water to the pan. Place the pumpkin in the oven and bake for 60-90 minutes. The pumpkin should be baked until the flesh is very tender. Poke with a fork to check for doneness.
When the pumpkin has cooked to proper tenderness, remove from oven and place on a cutting board. Allow to cool until can be handled comfortably. Scrape the flesh out of the pumpkin halves and discard the skins. Place pumpkin flesh in large bowl. Mash the pumpkin by hand using a potato masher. (Another method is to mix it with a hand mixer, blender, or food processor.) Drain moisture from the puree by placing it in a sieve lined with paper towels or a double layer of coffee filters. Be sure the sieve is placed in a bowl to catch the liquid as it drains from the pureed pumpkin. Cover the puree with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator and allow puree to drain for at least 2 hours (but overnight is best).
After draining, the puree should be about the same consistency as commercially canned pumpkin filling. If the puree will not be used immediately, place it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
The pie crust
Although there’s nothing particularly special about the crust for a pumpkin pie, making it from scratch can be a little tricky when you’re new to baking in Germany — especially if you’re trying to sort out the difference between all the different types of flour! So here’s a quick guide to a homemade pie crust…
- 250 grams Weizenmehl (Type 550) (flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon Backpulver (baking powder)
- 75 grams Zucker (sugar)
- 1 Ei (egg)
- 125 grams Butter
In a large bowl, mix the Weizenmehl, Backpulver, Zucker, Butter and Ei together. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter. Work the mixture only until it forms coarse crumbs that resemble tiny split peas. Gather the dough and form a ball, but be careful that you don’t overwork the dough. For 1 pie crust, flatten the ball of dough into 4-6 inch disc and place on a cool, lightly floured surface.
Starting in the center of the flattened disc, roll outwards. With every couple of rolls, turn the dough a quarter of a turn to produce a round crust. Sprinkle the dough lightly with flour when it shows signs of sticking (but only use when necessary). Roll crust to approximately 1/8 inch in thickness and 2 inches in diameter larger than an inverted 9-inch (23-cm) pie pan. (Since pie pans are hard to come by, you can also use a cake spring form pan, which works just fine.)
To transfer the crust to the cake pan, partially wrap the crust around the rolling pin and gently lift the crust onto the pie plate, being careful to get it center over the plate and not stretch the dough. Once it is in place, unroll the crust from the rolling pin. Gently press the crust against the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Trim the overhang to about 1 inch. Fold the overhang under so that it is flush with the rim of the pie plate. Flute the edge to finish it. Place the finished crust in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before baking or filling.
Pumpkin pie filling
Now that you’ve got the crust and puree finished, it’s time for the fun part. Ever wonder what the real pumpkin pie ingredients were? Now you get see for yourself!
- 350 grams** Kürbispüree (pumpkin puree)
- 150 grams brauner Zucker (brown sugar — despite the direct translation, this is not the same thing as in the US, but that’s ok for this recipe)
- 1/2 teaspoon Ingwer (ginger)
- 1/2 teaspoon Muskatnuß (nutmeg)
- 1 teaspoon Zimt (cinnamon)
- Pinch of gemahlene Nelken (ground cloves)
- 2 tablespoons of Zuckerrübensirup (substitute for molasses)
- 3 Eier verquirlt (stirred eggs)
- 200-250 ml Schlagsahne (whipping cream)
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Add the brauner Zucker to the Kürbispüree and Schlagsahne. Beat until well-blended. Add the Ingwer, Muskatnuß, Zimt, and Nelken. Stir into the pumpkin mixture. Add Zuckerrübensirup and beat until well blended. Add the Eier to the mixture. Beat the Eier until thoroughly mixed. Poor the mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Bake for about 45 minutes.
** A reader tip from Natalie on gauging the amount of puree you’ll get from your pumpkin — her 1.9kg pumpkin resulted in 837g puree, or about half of the total weight of the pumpkin. Thanks for sharing Natalie! **
Check after 30 minutes to see if it looks like the crust is going to brown too much. If so, place a piece of foil over the pie. Remove foil for the last 10 minutes of baking time so crust will finish browning. To check for doneness, insert the tip of a table knife in about 1 inch from the center. The knife will come out clean if the pie is done.
And finally, there’s usually no Cool Whip to be found in these parts, but making your own whipped cream is really simple…
- 1 liter Schlagsahne (whipping cream)
- 1 teaspoon Vanille Aroma (vanilla aroma)
- 110 grams Puderzucker (powdered sugar)
Mix the liquid ingredients in a bowl. Mix in the Puderzucker. Whip the mixture with an electric hand mixer until raised peaks form and hold their shape. It should take about four minutes (or much longer if using a manual hand mixer or whisk — but don’t mix for too long, or it will turn into butter). Serve and enjoy!
That’s all there is to it, folks. I really promise, if I can do it, so can you! I would really love to have you share your tips (or questions) about how to make a pumpkin pie in Germany in the comments below. Otherwise, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving next week, no matter where in the world you’re celebrating!
Looking for other posts about celebrating Thanksgiving abroad? You might find these interesting: