Happy Hallowe’en!

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We’re excited to spend our first Hallowe’en in our new place – there are tons of kids everywhere, so we went all out. They’re predicting rain for today so I’ve only put up half of our decorations for now. We can’t wait to have our own house with a big front yard that we can fill with all kinds of spooky spectacles.

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I have some red lights to put in the chest cavity of Skully, our skeleton.

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I’m especially pleased with the pumpkin this year – I got a ghost pumpkin, the white kind, and made it into the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the evil villain from Ghostbusters, one of my favourite movies of all time.

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And my fall leaf wreath is seasonally fitting as it decays.

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Our Hallowe’en party isn’t until tomorrow, but the Pie STILL doesn’t have his costume ready (TSK!). I’m going as a gorgon, as the party is monster themed. Because I have short hair, I made a hat of snakes to look like my actual hair. I used Model Magic because it’s flexible and lightweight. I named myself Zola, so I could introduce myself as the Gorgon Zola (like the cheese! Get it? GET IT?)

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This is WAYYYY less itchy than that horrid beard I wore last year (though I did win best costume because Wolverine is awesome).

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Have a safe and happy Hallowe’en!

The From-Scratch-iest Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Some day I’m gonna be super hardcore, growing my own pumpkins in my magic pumpkin patch and harvesting my own gluten-free flour from the enormous gluten-free flour tree on my massive acreage. Until then, however, I will acquire all my ingredients from fairies, just like everyone else. Or the grocery store. Whichever is more convenient.

Still, there’s a certain satisfaction to be garnered from taking a thing from the absolute start to its completion. For me, for now, that means making things as from scratch as I possibly can. And for this particular recipe, that means pie crust from scratch and pumpkin that I slaughtered and roasted myself. Don’t question my wording on that. Have you ever cut up a pumpkin? Yes, “slaughter” is appropriate.

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Let’s start with that, shall we? Look at these beautiful pumpkins. These are NOT carving pumpkins. They are sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins, specifically grown for their tender sweetness and exactly the sort of thing you want to dismember and roast for this pie.

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Give them a good washing to remove any dirt.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and grab yourself a nice big rimmed cookie sheet or baking dish.

Decapitate your pumpkin by gently sawing off its stem.

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Cleave the pumpkin in two vertically.

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Eviscerate your pumpkin by scooping out the seeds and guts. You can wash and dry the seeds for roasting later on. They’re very good for you but may make you a little gassy. Just sayin’.

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Brush the fleshy surfaces of the pumpkin with vegetable oil. If you’re roasting this pumpkin for savoury purposes, then you would probably dust it with salt and pepper as well, but we’re using it for un-savoury purposes (as in, sweet, not nefarious), so you probably shouldn’t do that.

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Place the pumpkin halves face-down on the baking sheet and let that roast for about 45-60 minutes (depending on your pumpkin size). If you want this whole thing to go faster, then cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces.

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When the pumpkin is done the whole thing can be stabbed easily with a sharp knife.

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While that is baking, try to figure out how to scrub the residue off your hands. It’s harder than you think.

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Let the pumpkins cool a little bit so you don’t burn yourself, then scoop out the flesh and discard the skins.

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I ate some toasted pumpkin seeds while I waited for the pumpkin to cool a little bit more.

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I puréed the pumpkin flesh in a food processor to make it extra smooth.

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Because fresh pumpkin is more watery than canned pumpkin, you might want to drain it a bit. These mesh bags are actually for picking produce at the farmer’s market, but they’re also perfect strainers for thick substances like mashed pumpkin.

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I ended up with about 4 cups pumpkin goo, which is pretty much exactly what I needed for two pies. I shoved it in the fridge for a couple of days before I made the pie.

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Now for the crust, which I prepped the night before I made the pie. Gluten-free pie dough still needs to rest, just the same as regular pie dough, so that the flour can absorb all the liquid properly. This recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart, makes one pie shell bottom, so I did it twice.

As with regular pie crust, you still want all your ingredients to be ice cold when you work with them, and you want to handle them as little as possible.

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Start by whisking together 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup white rice flour, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 2 teaspoons castor/superfine sugar in a small bowl.

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As well, assemble a small pitcher of ice water. Cube 1/2 cup cold butter and put that in a bowl as well. Finally, crack 1 large egg into another bowl and scramble it a little. Shove the water and the egg into the fridge and the butter and flour into the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

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When you’re ready to go, dump your flour and your butter into the bowl of your food processor.

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Pulse the dough until the butter forms little pea-sized crumbs.

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Tip in the egg, as well as 1-2 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough clumps together.

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I would err on the side of less water as opposed to more. In this batch I think I added 2 tablespoons water and you can see it’s very sticky (gluten-free dough will be stickier by nature, but not this sticky).

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So the next time round I used less water and got this more crumbly dough.

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Squish your dough into a patty and wrap it in plastic. Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably three hours, at best, overnight.

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When you’re ready to roll (literally), place a piece of waxed paper on your work surface and lightly dust it with gluten-free flour. Plop your dough patty down and dust that with flour as well.

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Place another sheet of waxed paper over top and carefully use a rolling pin to spread out your dough. Work from the inside out, and flip it over and lift up the waxed paper as often as possible so it doesn’t stick in weird wrinkles.

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When you’re ready to plop the dough into your 12″ pie pan, remember that the dough will stick more to the waxed paper than regular dough, so you might want to chill it a bit beforehand.

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Trim and crimp the edges as usual and chuck it back in the fridge.

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If you’re only making one pie, then halve the ingredients for the filling, but if you’re making two (because really, why not make two?), then here’s how you do it. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups pumpkin purée, 3 300mL cans sweetened condensed milk (900mL total), 4 large eggs, and 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice.

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Nice and smooth and sweet!

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Pour the filling into your two shells and carefully shove them into the oven (preheated to 425°F) on the same rack, if possible. Bake for 15 minutes at 425°F, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 35-45 minutes.

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They will be done when the middle is almost set and you can jab a knife into the filling about an inch from the crust and it comes out clean.

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Set those on a rack to cool completely, then EAT!

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Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I think this wee cake is the easiest and quickest way to enjoy this season of pumpkiny goodness, and is adapted from Disney’s Spoonful (Yeah.  Disney.  Who knew?).  Spray a 9″ x 13″ pan with cooking spray or line it with parchment paper (the spray actually works better in this particular case) and preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, mix together 4 eggs, 1 15oz can pumpkin purée (that’s half of one of those giant E.D. Smith cans, FYI), 1 1/3 cups sugar, and 1 cup vegetable oil.

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In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, and a teaspoon each ground cloves and allspice, if you’re feeling adventurous and SPICY.

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Add your floury ingredients to your pumpkiny ingredients and give that a good whisking.  TADA.  There’s your batter.  That was easy.

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Spread the batter into the baking dish and bake for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Set that sucker on a wire rack to cool completely.  You can either tip it out onto another plate or leave it in there, your choice.

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While that’s on the go, get out another bowl and chuck in 4oz plain cream cheese (that’s half the 250g-ish blocks you get in the store), 1/4 cup softened butter, and 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat the crap out of it with an electric mixer.

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Sift in 2 cups icing sugar and beat more crap out of it until you get icing.  Such beauty from such violence.

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Spread that luscious cream cheesiness on your cooled cake and cut that baby into squares.

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So moist and fantastic.  If you don’t like your pumpkin cakes to be super sweet, then I’d cut the sugar to 1/2 or 3/4 of a cup.

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There was none left before long, so make sure you get a taste before they’re all gone!

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Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes

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We sent Gren ahead of us to Ottawa a week before we moved, so he wouldn’t get stressed out during the chaos of moving.  But in the days following his departure, we kept finding ourselves looking for him, or expecting him to suddenly appear.  We kept  having to remind ourselves we would see him shortly, but it was still sad.  Anyway, you all know that we feed Gren pumpkin regularly to keep him, well, regular.  After he left, I had almost a full can sitting around, so we decided to use up the last of our flour and whip ourselves up some pumpkin pancakes for breakfast one day.  Not very seasonal for August, but they were darned tasty anyway.

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Turn your oven on to 250°F and chuck in a heatsafe dish (this will keep your cooked pancakes warm until it’s time to eat).

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (or a gluten-free equivalent), 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.  If you have pumpkin pie spice on hand, that will do instead of measuring out all the other spices.  If you’re feeling lazy.  I also added in 1/4 cup sweetened desiccated coconut, for texture.

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In another bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups milk, 3/4 cup pumpkin purée, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 egg, and a drop each of vanilla extract and coconut extract (optional).

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Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones.  The batter will be pretty thick.

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Scoop about 1/3 cup of the batter into a heated pan and cook for however long it takes for you to be happy with the consistency of your pancakes.  These ones are pretty thick so it took a while at medium heat.  The batter makes about 12 pancakes.

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Serve with butter and maple syrup, or whatever else floats your boat.  LIKE BACON.

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Treats

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This is the last pumpkin post, I swear.  We’re finally rid of it.  Fortunately, there is one member of our family who will never tire of pumpkin, and that is The Short and Spoiled One.

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Have we met?

This is a quick recipe that I put together with inspiration from Betty Crocker and Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups brown rice flour with 2 tablespoons ground flax meal (optional) and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  It occurs to me after the fact that you could also use a mixture of brown rice flour and quinoa flour, seeing as quinoa is the new superfood for dogs these days.  Very trendy of you.

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In another bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs with 1 3/4 cups (or 1 14 oz can) of pure pumpkin purée (not the pie filling) and 1/4 cup peanut butter (all natural, with no added salt or sugar, please).

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until a shaggy dough forms — you may need to use your hands.

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Sprinkle with more flour and stir that in if it’s still tacky.

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Take the dough and form it into a small ball with your palms.  Flatten it into a patty and place it on the baking sheet.  Angle your thumb sideways on one side of the cookie and press it into the dough.  Use the point of one of your fingers to make four indentations along the curve of your thumbprint.   So it looks like a wee paw print.  Cute, eh?

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Bake for about 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your cookie.  A finished cookie is crisp and dried out.

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Allow them to cool completely on a rack and store them in the fridge to keep them fresh for a couple weeks.  At room temperature in an airtight container they’ll keep for about a week.

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Gren obviously enjoyed testing them.  Here he is waiting for my okay.

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Scarfing down the first piece.

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Discovering the second.

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Scarfing that one too.

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Are there no more?

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Gren was nice enough to share with some of my coworkers’ dogs, and this was the review:

Photo credit: E. Wright

Pumpkin Soup

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Right.  So.  In my effort to effectively use all the pumpkin purée left over from our Pumpkin-Off, all 14 cups of it, we are starting to get sick of pumpkin (though the amount of fibre that has been added to our diet is extraordinary).

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The solution?  SOUP.  Most pumpkin soup recipes call for a single can (a little less than 2 cups) of the stuff, but I’m just gonna giv’er and dump in the rest of what I got.  BLAM.  It came out to about 2 1/2 cups.

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I don’t really feel like blending this soup, because the pumpkin is pre-puréed, so I’m just going to cut everything else up really small. It’s a really quick recipe, too, no need to simmer for a long time, so you can make it, say, just before lunch, and then eat it right away.

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First I got my spices ready: minced garlic, a little bit of cumin, some curry, and a bit of chipotle.

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And the incidentals: lemon juice (don’t mock my plastic lemon, it’s the best I can do in Newfoundland), chicken broth, and coconut milk.

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Then my vegetables: three carrots, an onion, and a red pepper.

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The carrots I scrubbed and grated with the skins still on.  That’s good vitamins for ya.

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The red pepper and onion I diced up.

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In a large saucepan, then, heat up a bit of olive oil on medium-high and toss in your onions.  Cook those until they’re softened.

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Then add in your cup o’spices, and stir that around for a minute or so.

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Chuck in your grated carrot and diced pepper and stir that around as well, spritz it with lemon juice, then add in your coconut milk and stir until fully incorporated.

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Add in the pumpkin finally (it was already cooked, so I didn’t want to overcook it), and pour in the chicken broth until you’ve reached a consistency that you like.  Let that simmer for about 20 minutes and that’s it, you’re all done.

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Season with salt and pepper, and a little more lemon if you like.  At the eleventh hour I added a teaspoon ground cloves to boost the pumpkin.

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This one came out a bit spicy, because I guess my curry was hotter than I had previously thought. I would recommend serving with a bit of yogurt or sour cream.

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Pumpkin Pie

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I get a lot of questions from readers I meet about my husband.  The main one is, “why is he called the Pie?”  Well, I’ll tell you why.  And this goes back about nine or ten years, back when we had first met, and long before we started dating.  It’s really a great story.  I’ll tell it to you here:

One day, he told me that he really liked pie.

Yep.  That’s the whole story.  That’s why he’s called the Pie.  And now you know.  I hope you aren’t too disappointed.

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Sometimes, the Pie’s favourite pie is blueberry.  Sometimes it’s apple.  I can’t keep track.  But I know that pumpkin pie, even though it doesn’t qualify as a “true pie”, is at the top of my husband’s list of favourite pies.  And now that I have sort of mastered the art of vodka pie crust, and especially considering the amount of pumpkin purée I have in my possession, it is a logical choice, and this recipe looks lovely.  So here it is, a pumpkin pie that is so from scratch with its home-made pastry crust and fresh pure pumpkin that it’s almost like I made it entirely by hand-stitching individual atoms together (I can do that, you know).

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So, now.  It’s been a while since I made that vodka pie crust from Smitten Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated, so I think I’m going to lay it all out for you again, just so we both can get some practice.  If you like, you can take some more of Smitten Kitchen’s tips on better pastry from her second tutorial.  Like her, I’m not a fan of shortening, so I went with an all-butter version of the crust today.  And this dough recipe makes enough dough for two single crusts, so I guess that means I HAVE to make two pumpkin pies.  I will try to sneak one into the freezer so the Pie doesn’t eat it too fast.  That way later on when he grumbles about having no more pie I can dramatically reveal that he is wrong.  I like doing that.

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For the pastryyou need to make sure everything is cold.  If your kitchen is frigid, like mine, this is easy.  For everyone else, just keep chucking stuff in the refrigerator if need be.  Ingredients.  Tools.  Bowls.  You name it.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt.

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Cut 1 1/4 cup cold butter into cubes and make sure it’s cold (re-chill it after you cut it before adding it to the mix).

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Dump that into the flour and use a pastry blender to chop it into tiny buttery-floury pieces.  You want to keep going and going and going, using a knife to clean off your pastry blender occasionally, until you end up with a mixture that closely resembles cornmeal.

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Put a dishtowel under the bowl to keep it from sliding around on you.

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Here’s the right consistency. You still need whole chunks of butter in there but you want them small.

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Drizzle 1/4 cup cold vodka (keep that baby in the freezer) and 1/4 cup ice water over the mixture.

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Use a big rubber spatula and a folding motion to bring everything together.

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You don’t want to stir so much as squish and squash everything into one big blob.  It will be pretty tacky, but that stickiness will disappear when the vodka burns off in baking.  You can use your hands to gently squish the remainder together, but don’t work it too much. If you feel you need to add more liquid, drizzle a bit more vodka onto it, but just a little.

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Divide your blob into two even pieces and flatten them into disks.  Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap for at least 15 minutes, and for up to 2 days.

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When your dough is sufficiently chilled, lay a piece of plastic wrap out on your work surface.  Unwrap one of the disks (keep the other in the fridge) and place it in the centre of the plastic wrap. Place another sheet of wrap over top.

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Working from the inside and moving out, use a rolling pin to flatten your disk into a nice round piece of pastry.  You’ll need a rough circle of about 12″ in diameter to fit in a 9″ pie pan.  Most plastic wrap is about 12″ wide, so you can use that as a guide.

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Notice how you can see gobs of butter in my dough?  That means I will have some lovely flaky pastry.  As the butter melts it will leave a little open space, which will fill with steam from the vodka and water, which will in turn expand the empty space, making the proper pastry flake.

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Chill your flattened pastry again for a bit.  If you put it on a baking sheet and chuck it in the fridge you should be good.  When you’re plopping it in your pie pan, make sure to remove the bottom layer of plastic wrap before rolling it over a rolling pin or folding it into quarters to place it in the pan.  I’ve done both methods here, so you can see what I mean.

Rolling pin:

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Folding:

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Gently lift the edges of the dough to make it easier to press into the bottom of the pan without tearing.

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Trim off the excess pastry from the edges of the pan.

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I used a fork to press the edges more firmly down onto the glass.  Chuck those back in the fridge when you’re done.

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I had some scraps left over from trimming, so I cut up a small apple, sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar, and rolled out the scraps again to form a small circle.

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I put the fruit on one half, folded it over, and pinched the edges shut.  Then I put it in a sprayed pan and baked it with the pie.

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It looks a little demented, but we’re not going for high quality here, just a snack.

For the pie filling, you need some pumpkin purée.  You can be lazy and buy the stuff that already has the eggs and spices in it and whatever and just dump that in your pre-bought frozen pie shell but that’s just not cool here at Ali Does It.  Make sure if you’re using canned pumpkin that it’s pure pumpkin, without the sugar and salt and all things spicy.

Now, you American folks are likely working from the 14 oz can of Libby’s or whatever it is you have.  Fourteen ounces is about 1 3/4 cups of pumpkin goodness.  Here in the FAR NORTH of Canada we have E.D. Smith pumpkin, which comes in 28 oz cans (~3 1/2 cups), so we generally use half a can for one pie, a whole can for two.  And of course I’m working from a I-have-way-too-much-pumpkin-purée-in-my-fridge perspective.  So I will be using that instead of the canned stuff.

Preheat your oven now, to 425°F and position a rack in the centre of the oven.

Beat up 4 eggs in a large bowl.  Whisk in 3 1/2 cups pumpkin purée, 2 cans (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk (I believe some countries sell condensed milk in 400 mL cans — I would just use the whole can anyway for a slightly sweeter pie), 1 cup packed brown sugar, and 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.

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Take your pie shells out of the fridge and divide the mixture between them.  You may end up with extra filling (lord knows I always do).  I emptied it into a smaller pie pan and baked it as-is, for a sort of pumpkin pudding.

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Chuck the pies (and whatever else you now have on the go) in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 375°F and keep baking for about 35 more minutes, until the pastry is all golden and lovely and you can stick a knife in the centre of the pie and bring it out clean again (i.e. the filling has set).  You can see that our crustless pie and the turnover turned out equally well, though with them in the oven everything took an extra 15 minutes or so to cook. Let the pie cool completely on a rack and refrigerate until ready to serve.  You can heat it up again if you like.  We enjoy ours with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.  Yum!

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