Every time I'm looking for a life metaphor, I turn to pie. Dessert pies, fruit pies, pizza pies, shepherd's pies...there's something about the filling and container — separate but harmoniously working together — that acts as a vehicle for me to understand where I'm going, where I've been and where I'm at.
And where I'm at feels a little cobbled together right now — kind of like this specific pumpkin pie I'm bringing to you today (in time for Halloween and Thanksgiving).
This pumpkin pie represents balance. Right now I feel like I'm performing some kind of balancing act. I'm sitting (metaphorically, yet again) on a fence. One foot is on one side of this fence, where exists my "old" or normal way of life. The other foot is dangling into new territory.
I'm scared of this new territory. I don't know what's down there. So, with this pie, I relied on something I knew that works. Something familiar: butter. I made a butter crust.
And then, for the filling, I threw caution and probiotic yogurt into the mix for the "new" me filling. Daring! And weird. And potentially gross and terrible. But, honestly, the result was delicious.
And so I sit here, eating my balance pie, thinking maybe this fence isn't such a bad place to be...for now.
Yes, I feel unstable and uncertain about my direction. But maybe I don't have to give up everything old (BUTTER!), but can take what works (BUTTER!) and bring it with me into whatever is waiting on the other side.
Now, if I could just get down....
Want some of your own balance pie? Here's how to make it. Feel free to improvise...that's what this is about.
For the Crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar (you can use regular sugar)
1 stick of butter
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic glace (optional)
For the Filling:
1 small roasted sugar pumpkin, yielding 2 cups of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup plain kefir or drinkable yogurt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
pinch of salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract or 1/2 of the insides of a vanilla bean
2 tbsp rum or bourbon (optional)
For the crust:
In a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand. I like to cut the butter into pieces before I add it to the food processor. This allows it to blend more easily.
Pour this mixture into a large bowl and form a well in the center. Into this well, add the eggs, egg yolks, salt and balsamic glace.
A note on the balsamic glace: This is optional. I was looking for something to add a bit of sweetness, but also a touch of a bite. I also wanted something sticky. Glace is very thick - almost like molasses. In fact, molasses would be a good substitute if you don't have glace. You can make your own glace with balsamic vinegar. Just simmer 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar on your stove top until only 1/8 cup remains. Ta-da! Glace.
Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Form it into a ball and wrap it up. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour before using.
Meanwhile, make the filling:
If using a sugar pumpkin, roast it in the oven. Heat your oven to 400°F. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the guts and seeds. Hang on to the seeds to roast them later on if you like!
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the pumpkin halves, cut sides down on the sheet. Roast for about 35 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft and the skin starts to peel away.
Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow it to cool. Then peel away the stem and skin. Place the pumpkin meet in a large bowl and mash with a whisk.
Increase the heat of your oven to 450°F.
In a food processor or with a handheld mixer, beat the eggs and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin purée, spices, salt and mix thoroughly.
Add the kefir (or yogurt), rum, and vanilla and mix. If the filling seems too dense, you can add more yogurt 1/4 cup at a time until you achieve your desired consistency. It should look and feel like cake batter.
Roll out the refrigerated crust on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin. If using mini pie tins, grease them with a little cooking spray. If you're using a large pie tin or spring form pan, line it with parchment paper.
Place the rolled out dough into your pie molds. Fill the molds to the top with pumpkin filling. If you have extra dough, feel free to cut them into shapes and place these shapes on the top of the filling.
Place the pie(s) in the oven and bake at 450°F for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325°F and bake for another 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean. Sometimes this takes longer than 45 minutes. Don't panic.
Check on the pie every now and again. If the crust is getting too dark, place some foil around the edges to protect it from the heat. I usually have to do this, and it's not a problem.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Pumpkin pie is best when set, and in order for it to do that it needs to cool a bit.