Alright friends, this is it. This is THE pumpkin pie recipe of my dreams. I am so embarrassed to admit how many pumpkin pies I have made in the past month. It has been fantastic and a little bit compulsive, and I'm not even a little bit sorry. I even made myself a pumpkin pie for my birthday in lieu of cake for the sake of research. You’re welcome.
What makes this pumpkin pie recipe the absolute best I have ever made (or eaten)? So many things. Pure Maple Syrup brings a depth of sweetness and rich flavor that elevates this pie to the decidedly non-boring category. Grade B provides the best flavor in my opinion. (What’s Grade B mean? It just means it was tapped late in the season. It has a deeper amber color and richer taste. Grade A is early in the season. )
Bourbon…because Bourbon in baking is amazing. It’s one of my very favorite flavor pairings with Maple, and it goes so well with pumpkin too.
Speaking of pumpkin….This pie actually tastes like pumpkin! How? By heating the pumpkin puree until it develops a nice toasty, almost caramel-like aroma and amplifies the pumpkin flavor so that it remains the star.
Black pepper. Just a little pinch for a hard-to-pinpoint pop of flavor. Not to mention all the deliciously usual suspects: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves. Using half-and-half lends a creaminess that I find preferable to using evaporated milk, although either are fine. Corn starch? Yes, that’s right. Just enough to help thicken up the filling a bit. It yields a perfectly velvety filling and slices like a dream.
And finally…A TORCH. While this step is completely optional, I feel like Thanksgiving calls for a bit of dramatic flair and the pumpkin pie deserves some pomp and circumstance after so many years of just sitting around while we all complain about how stuffed we are only later to be buried in Cool Whip during a football game. I went ahead and gave this pie the Brulee treatment a la crème brulee, which merely requires brown sugar and an open flame to obtain that signature sweet crunchy shell. A kitchen torch works best for this, although a broiler can be used as well. Also, freshly whipped cream because I’m in the business of making food-related memories and this pie is UNFORGETTABLE. A note about the brulee top: do not brulee the top until ready to serve. If you do it ahead of time and then refrigerate the pie, the sugar will melt and turn into a sweet syrup on the top of your pie instead of the lovely crunchy shell that we’re going for. Trust me on this one. You can also just brulee one slice at a time if you would prefer. That’s a VERY fun job to outsource to an eager Thanksgiving guest who has a steady hand and can be trusted with a tiny flamethrower. Choose carefully and may the odds be ever in your favor.
Also, let’s quickly talk about crust for a moment. Making pie crust does not have to be a stressful endeavor. I would encourage you to give it a try if you haven’t before. After going back and forth between par-baking and just baking straight in the raw crust, I am firmly in the camp of partially baking the crust for pumpkin pies ahead of time after this most recent in-depth recipe-testing marathon. It’s the most foolproof way to obtain a crisp base without the dreaded soggy bottom that many a pumpkin pie have endured. It also reduces the baking time for the filled pie by about 10-15 minutes, which helps avoid over-baking the filling and reduces the likelihood of a cracked surface. If you prefer not to par-bake your crust, please see notes in recipe for necessary adjustments.Print
Maple Bourbon Pumpkin Pie with Brulee Top
This is THE pumpkin pie recipe to put all other pumpkin pies to shame. Caramelized pumpkin for REAL pumpkin flavor, pure maple syrup, bourbon, and a gorgeous crispy Brulee top all make this pumpkin pie unforgettable.
- Yield: 1 9-inch pie 1x
Pie crust for single crust pie (I use this All-Butter Pie Crust)
For the Filling-
15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
¾ cup half-and-half
½ cup Grade B pure maple syrup
⅓ cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Generous pinch black pepper, about ⅛ teaspoon
2 eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature
2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Brulee Top (optional)-
¼ cup light brown sugar
Kitchen torch or broiler
For the Freshly Whipped Cream-
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375°. Position rack in center of oven if using a metal pan. If using a heavy ceramic pan, position the rack in the lower third of the oven.
Roll out pie dough and line a 9-inch pie plate with the dough. Crimp edges. Prick bottom of crust a few times with a fork. Chill in freezer for 30 minutes. Line pie dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans or rice. (Do not try cooking with beans or rice that have been used as pie weights, by the way. Save them to be reused as pie weights again in the future.) Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes until crust just begins to brown a bit. Gently remove the pie weights and parchment paper. Prick crust again with fork. Return to oven for 10 more minutes. Remove and let cool while preparing the filling. (Note- If you prefer not to par-bake your crust, chill the dough thoroughly but do not prick the crust. Bake pie in lower third of oven and increase baking time by 10-15 minutes.)
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-low heat, add the pumpkin puree, stirring frequently with a spatula for about 15 minutes. This caramelizes the pumpkin and gives the pie a more pronounced pumpkin flavor. It also evaporates some of the moisture which lends a really velvety texture to the filling. Transfer to large mixing bowl.
Add half-and-half, maple syrup, brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla, and spices. Whisk until completely incorporated. Add eggs and whisk until combined. Add corn starch and whisk very thoroughly until completely incorporated and filling is slightly thickened.
Pour into prepared crust and bake on center rack for 45-50 minutes until center has just set but still has a bit of a sheen. Filling that is baked properly is not cracked. If you see cracks beginning to form, remove pie from oven before it is overbaked.
Let cool completely before slicing or Brulee-ing the top. (Is that even a verb? It is in my house.)
To Brulee the top- Do this step just before serving--not ahead of time as the beautiful crispy shell can melt into a syrup if refrigerated. Sprinkle about ¼ cup of light brown sugar evenly over the surface of the filling. Smooth sugar very gently to maintain an even layer of sugar. Using a kitchen torch, working in small sections at a time, carefully heat the sugar until it melts and is golden brown. (See video below.) This can also be done under the broiler in the oven but is much more difficult to get the top toasted evenly, and also makes it very easy to scorch the crust. Consider wrapping the crust with foil before using the broiler method.
Serve immediately with freshly whipped cream.
To make the whipped cream- combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a chilled bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high with whisk attachment until light and fluffy. Don’t get distracted and walk away or you’ll accidentally make butter.
Keywords: brulee pumpkin pie, maple bourbon pumpkin pie, toasted pumpkin puree, caramelized pumpkin
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