Thursday, November 6, 2008

Veggie Might: Mostly Vegan Pumpkin Pie - Of Pumpkins and Baked Equality

CHG will be back to its regularly scheduled posting on Monday. (I can feel my face again!) In the meantime, please enjoy this installation of Veggie Might. It's a weekly column about all things vegetarian, written by the ever-so-lovely Leigh.

(A brief word about the presidential election: Ohio!)

The holiday gatherings I attend/host usually include at least one vegan peep, one dairy-allergic pal, and, recently, a gluten-free friend. The people pleaser in me wants to accommodate them all. Must. Bake. For Everyone.

The Roommate’s just a plain vegetarian, but I wanted to practice for the impending holiday crush, so I whipped up a vegan version one of his favorite desserts for his birthday. (The magic of vegan baking is that no one knows it’s vegan.)

He hates having a fuss made, so I got the bonus pleasure of celebrating his day and confounding him in one pastry blow.

I must say I performed a minor miracle, at least for me. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would make a pumpkin pie completely from scratch—including pumpkin puree and pie crust.

Pie crust was an uncharted frontier in my baking repertoire. It was something I have always been content to buy at the store since it was cheap, easy, and often vegan. Pie crust from scratch just didn’t seem worth the perceived effort.

Turns out, it’s not that complicated, even when one doesn’t own the following equipment: pie pan, rolling pin, pastry cutter, or food processor. What I did have was the winner of VegNews’ Best Cookbook award, The Joy of Vegan Baking, the necessary ingredients in my kitchen (no trip to the store), and a mind for McGyvering the rest:

Pie pan = shallow round glass casserole dish
Rolling pin = smooth-sided drinking glass
Pastry cutter/food processor = fork

For the filling, I combined two recipes: from TJoVB and an adorable screen-printed recipe card from my pal and vegan, B. I’d made B’s recipe last year, and it didn’t quite work. The two combined were perfection. And my first crust was not half bad.

The pie crust recipe makes two—or a top and a bottom. You can freeze one for up to two months, so I’m already ahead of the Thanksgiving game. The filling recipe made almost too much for the dish I used, which was bigger than a pie plate. Making it again, I’d reduce the amount of pumpkin and tofu—or make two pies at a time.

But Oh-bama! It was so good. Because the pie was deep, the pieces could be cut smaller and still be satisfying. I got about 12 pieces out it instead of 8.

It was rich, without being overwhelming, and delicious au natural. No whip necessary. Best of all, TR was pleased with his birthday pie. And he didn’t really seem to mind the attention. The rest of you food freaks are next. You know who you are.

Mostly Vegan Pumpkin Pie
adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking and B’s recipe

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c vegetable shortening
1/2 c vegan margarine
1/3 c + 1 tbsp ice water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

2 c pumpkin puree (fresh – approximately 2 lb pumpkin or canned)
14 oz silken tofu (firm)
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c honey (or agave nectar)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp clove
1/4 tsp ginger juice (or ground ginger)

This recipe involves some advanced prep, so it’s not as last-minute a project as I thought it could be. That said, it’s also not as time-consuming as it seems. Proceed with confidence.

1) Preheat oven to 350ºF.

2) In separate bowls/measuring cups, measure out the flour, water, and shortening/margarine, cubing the latter into 1”-sized pieces. Then stick it all in the freezer for 30 minutes. For scientific reasons that are not yet clear to me (if you know/are Alton Brown, please feel free to share), it helps if everything is super cold when you begin making your crust. Alton recommends refrigerating your pie plate too.

3) With a sharp knife, cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the guts/seeds (save seeds for roasting—yum!), and place face down on lightly oiled/cooking sprayed baking sheet. Bake for 20–30 minutes.

Back to the crust...
4) Take everything out of the freezer. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in bowl and mix with fork. Add cut up pieces of shortening and margarine and cut into flour with fork or pastry cutter until fat is pea-sized. Leaving largish pieces of fat makes the crust tender.

5) Slowly add ice water to mixture and mix until the dough begins to clump. If the dough is too dry to stick together, add a bit more water.

(You can also do steps 4 and 5 in a food processor.)

6) You don’t want to handle the dough any more than you have to, or it will get tough. Divide dough in half. Wrap (in plastic wrap) and refrigerate or freeze the unused half. It will last a couple of days in the fridge and a couple of months in the freezer.

Oh! The pumpkin...
7) When the pumpkin is ready, take it out of the oven to cool.

8) On a cutting board or counter, lightly dusted with flour, roll out the crust starting in the middle and working out.

9) When it’s the desired size and thickness, carefully place in chilled pie pan.

10) Bake for 10–12 minutes.

Now for the filling...
11) Scoop out and puree pumpkin in a blender or food processor. (I have a mini one, so this took me a while.)

12) Add tofu to pumpkin and puree again.

13) Transfer pumpkin tofu mixture to a large bowl. Add sweeteners, vanilla, cornstarch, and spices, mixing well.

14) Fresh ginger tip: Peel, then grate ginger on the zest side of a box grater and squeeze the juice out of the pulp.

15) When the pie crust is ready, pour pumpkin filling into shell and bake for 40–45 minutes.

16) Allow to cool to room temperature and dig in. Try not to lose your mind from the anticipation.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
183 cal, 5.3g fat, $.59

2 c pumpkin puree (fresh or canned) 98 cal, 0g fat, $1.25
14 oz silken tofu (firm): 238 cal, 15g fat, $2.39
1/2 c brown sugar: 418.5 cal, 0g fat, $.24
1/2 c honey (or agave nectar): 481.5 cal, 0g fat, $.99
1 tsp vanilla: negligible calories and fat, $1.16
1/4 c cornstarch: 117 cal, 0g fat, $.23
1/2 tsp salt: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1 tbsp cinnamon: negligible calories and fat, $.04
1/2 tsp nutmeg: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/8 tsp clove: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/4 tsp fresh ginger (or ground ginger): negligible calories and fat, $.04
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour: 2/3 cup flour: 844 cal, 2.25g fat, $.53*
1/2 c vegetable shortening: 440 cal, 52g fat, $.31*
1/2 c vegan margarine1 tbsp vegan butter: 400 cal, 44 fat, $.48*
1/2 tsp salt: negligible calories and fat, $.02*

*These amounts are for 2 crusts. The totals below and per serving totals are calculated using these amounts divided by 2.

TOTALS: 2195 cal, 64g fat, $7.07
PER SERVING: 183 cal, 5.3g fat, $.59


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