This pumpkin chiffon pie is the stuff of legends. People talk about it as “THE pumpkin pie” and tell others about it. Friends ask me to make extra for them to take home after Thanksgiving dinner. This is the pumpkin pie for people who say they hate pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving is a very big deal in my family. I’ve only missed it once, in 1998, when my husband and I were traveling around the world for a year. We were in Thailand and it was the most depressing Thanksgiving of my life.
Since before I was born, my mother has been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a various assortment of friends, family, misfits, and strays; in other words our chosen family. This was, and has always been, “Friendsgiving” before that was even a thing.
Over the years the number of guests at our table has ranged from 8 to 36, usually averaging in the low 20’s. This is a sit-down meal and it is not a pot luck. We, and by that I mean my mother and I (really mostly her) cook everything from scratch. The menu changes slightly every year, but there are constants (turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, my grandmother’s stuffing with Italian sausage), and this pumpkin chiffon pie.
The pumpkin chiffon pie has been on the menu since the late 1970s when my mother came across it in an issue of Bon Appetit (November 1978). It’s been adapted and tweaked since then, and some time in the early 90’s it became my responsibility to make the pie, which means I’ve been making it for almost 30 years.
What is “chiffon” in relation to pie? Like the fabric of the same name, this pie is light and airy, made possible by the addition of whipped sugared egg whites folded into a cooked pumpkin custard base. This is not a baked pie, but rather more like a pumpkin mousse in a crisp pie shell.
Every year I say I’m going to put the recipe on the blog and share it with the world, and every year I just can’t seem to get to it.
This year is different.
This year, we won’t have 25 people crowded around a table, everyone taking a turn to say what they are thankful for.
This year, we won’t have all the friends and their kids who have been coming every year since they were born (the oldest is now 15).
This year, I’m sharing this recipe so my friends who cannot be with us can have it.
There will be only 6 around our table, but in our house, it would not be Thanksgiving without this pie.
Pumpkin chiffon pie; a light and airy version of the traditional, destined to be a favorite.
Keyword: pie, pumpkin
1.5cupscanned pumpkin15 oz can
2eacheggsyolks and whites separated
1eachenvelope unflavored gelatin
1teaspooncinnamon1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cloves or use 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1eachpie crustbaked and cooled, 8" or 9"
Separate the eggs and reserve the egg whites in the refrigerator.
Whisk together the egg yolks and brown sugar in a medium sized heavy bottomed sauce pot. Whisk in the milk, gelatin, salt, and spices. Stir in the canned pumpkin so everything is thoroughly combined and there are no lumps.
Place pot over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to just below a boil. DO NOT boil. The mixture should thicken. If using a thermometer, it should be done around 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove from heat, cool slightly, and transfer the pumpkin mix to a bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely, stirring occasionally. The mixture should mound slightly when spooned. This part can be done in advance the day before. Make sure it is fully chilled before using.
To finish the pie filling, bring the egg whites to room temperature. Beat the egg whites with a hand mixer with whip attachment until soft peaks form. Slowly add the white sugar and beat the egg whites until stiff and glossy.
Place the chilled pumpkin custard in a large bowl and fold in the sour cream until combined. Fold in the whipped sugared egg whites. Spoon the chiffon mixture into the baked pie shell. Chill several hours before serving.
To serve, top each piece with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
If you are concerned about using raw fresh egg whites, I can no longer recommend using liquid pasteurized egg whites. They just don't always whip up to a stiff consistency when the sugar is added. However, I've been told that powdered egg whites do work quite well, though I've never used them myself. This recipe can be doubled to make two pies or double the filling if making the pie in a larger pie pan (10" or larger).
One of the reasons I’ve never posted this recipe is because I don’t have a good photo of a slice of pie. All of the photos in this post were taken over many Thanksgivings past. I only make this pie once a year, for Thanksgiving, to keep it special. On the big day, I don’t have time for a full photoshoot, nor do I want to cut into the pie before dinner. So you will have to take my word on it and just add a dollop of freshly whipped cream on top.
Do you have a special dish you make every Thanksgiving? Tell me about it in the comments below.
If you’re interested in other desserts and some side dishes perfect for a holiday me, check out my recipes tagged “Holiday”.
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Addendum- After I posted this, my mother found the original clipping of the recipe she had saved from the November 1978 issue of Bon Appetit. It was called a Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie and it was served in a nut crust and garnished with oranges.