Pumpkin pie is a typical dessert eaten throughout the fall and early winter in the United States and Canada. Baked, pureed squash or pumpkin is combined with spices, milk, sugar and eggs, and then baked in a crust (or in a dish, as per the recipe below).
Pumpkin is native to the continent of North America. It was introduced to early American colonists by the Wampanoag tribe. Early pumpkin "pies" were hollowed out pumpkin shells filled with milk, apples, honey and spices, baked in hot ash, and served in the pumpkin itself.
By the 1800s recipes began to resemble the pumpkin pies of today. It also became a traditional dessert served at Thanksgiving dinner – when it was first a regional holiday in the North and then a national holiday in all of the United States as of 1863 (in the South, pumpkin pie was considered a northern tradition so sweet potato pie was served instead). The Thanksgiving holiday stems from a feast held in the fall of 1621 when the colonists celebrated their first successful harvest.
Pumpkin pie gained popularity after the introduction of canned pumpkin by a company called Libby’s in 1929, replacing the need for roasting and pureeing squash or pumpkin. Interestingly, canned pumpkin purée usually does not include pumpkin. The brand Libby’s uses the Dickinson Pumpkin variety of cucurbita moschata for its canned pumpkin. Other brands use a mix of winter squashes of the cucurbita moschata, cucurbita pepp or cucurbita mazima families.
I love pumpkin pie, but I don’t like the crust, particularly the gluten-free versions. I realized only recently that many people, even those who eat gluten, don’t like the soggy crusts of these pies and that there is quite a devoted following to a crustless approach to pumpkin pie.
This no crust version (also known as pumpkin pudding) satisfies my craving for pumpkin pie and focuses on the best part of the pie: the spiced, pumpkin-based custard filling! It is the same filling as a traditional pumpkin pie, but it is baked in a dish, instead of a crust. With no crust, the time to make this “pie” and the number of calories when eating it are reduced too – so it is win-win in many ways.
Here are some step by step instructions for making crustless pumpkin pie:
Measure all of the ingredients. This will ensure a smoother and faster process.
You can use canned pumpkin/squash purée or you can make your own by slicing a small pumpkin or squash in half, discarding the seeds and roasting it cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 200C (400F) until its tender – about 45-50 minutes. You know that it’s done when there is no resistance to a small knife inserted into the side. When the pumpkin/squash is cool, scoop the pulp from the peel and purée the pulp in a food processor or with a hand blender until smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. Add the sugar and then the cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves and whisk until combined. Add the squash/pumpkin purée and mix until smooth. Gradually whisk or stir in the evaporated milk or substitute the evaporated milk with a combination of half heavy cream and half milk. (More information on evaporated milk substitutes can be found here.)
Pour the mixture into a buttered, pie pan or baking dish. Place the dish on a baking sheet and put it in a pre-heated oven to bake. Baking times vary depending on the size and type of baking dish, so you have to check frequently, noting that it takes about 35 minutes for a metal pie pan or 50 minutes for a ceramic or glass one – metal baking dishes require a hotter oven and a shorter baking time than glass or ceramic. It’s baked when a knife inserted near the center comes out clean or if it jiggles slightly in the center but the sides are set, when you gently shake the pie.
Cool completely. Serve the cooled pie or tightly wrap and refrigerate it for up to 2 days.
To serve, you can slice it or scoop it like pudding into small dessert dishes. It’s easier to serve and tastes better when the pie is refrigerated for a few hours or even until the next day – the texture and flavor are enhanced. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Please see the recipe below for a summary of the detailed instructions.