Dan here today. The scientific community is still sharply divided when it comes to establishing which dessert is best. While some studies, such as this one, have appeared to demonstrate that pie is superior to cake, anecdotal evidence suggests that many people prefer cake to pie. It may take years to establish a scientific consensus on the issue, but I feel comfort in knowing that many of America’s best minds are working on it. In the meantime, here is a pie recipe Beth and I made for Christmas Eve dinner. I make no judgments on whether this pie would be better than cake, but it certainly was tasty. We based this recipe off a sweet potato pie, but since I’ve determined that things which are orange and vaguely starch-y are pretty much interchangeable, I decided to substitute butternut squash in order to use up one of the approximately 500 I had accumulated in the house. The result was well received by both of us, although Beth’s more distinguished palate perceived a nutty flavor to the pie which she enjoyed, while I mostly tasted sugar with just a hint of sweetness. Anyway, without further ado, here is the recipe. We had a few nervous moments with the crust, so if you’re not feeling ambitious, a store-bought crust should work just as well (but Martha Stewart will know and disapprove):
For the crust:
1.5 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
10 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut up
1/3 cup ice water
For the filling:
1 lb butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Put the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor. Process for about 5 seconds. Then add the ice water, and process for another 5 seconds. The mixture should start to look like coarse breadcrumbs.
2. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it, then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.
4. Cover the butternut squash with about two inches of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 12 minutes or until tender. Put the squash through a potato ricer or mash with a fork.
5. In a large bowl, mix the butter into the squash. Then add the sugar, milk, eggs, and spices. After you add the milk, the filling will be very liquid, and you will be afraid that you have just ruined it (at least if you’re me). You have not. It will set up nicely after baking.
6. Grease a pie dish with a little bit of butter. Roll out the dough and line the pie dish. Place a piece of parchment paper in the center of the pie, and add some dried beans to weigh it down. Pre bake the crust for 10 – 15 minutes. (Note: I am not sure if this is technically necessary, but given how liquid the pie filling was, we didn’t want to take any chances of it soaking into the dough).
7. Remove the parchment paper and beans (unless you like beans in your pie, which sounds gross to me), and add the filling. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes.
8. Allow the pie to set for a few minutes before slicing and serving.