Pizza Lab #12: Pumpkin Pie Pizza
Pizza Lab is a fun theoretical column in which Meg A. and Erik S. explore their innermost passion for baking and eating pizzas. It exists purely for the sake of experimenting in the kitchen. It may not necessarily be cost-effective everytime, so don’t try this at home kids.
Poor, poor Thanksgiving. It gets the shaft compared to many of the big holidays. While once a celebration of being humble and grateful for what you have in your life, regardless of any lifestyle or belief or faction, it has instead devolved into a tradition of cramming as much food down your throat as physically possible and then complaining about it later. It’s a shame considering it’s one of my favorite holidays due to the rustic nature and themes going on in its season. But unfortunately consumerism and merchandising companies have decided to rename Thanksgiving Day to Get Great Black Friday Deals With Doorbusters Savings Starting 5PM Thursday Day. For the rest of us who still love the message of the holiday, there’s still much joy to be had in all the various traditional, yummy foods that we partake in. As mentioned from time to time, Meg and I already did a Thanksgiving pizza earlier this year (in May for some reason), so if we wanted to do a timely Pizza Lab, we had to be creative. The product was another dessert pizza that fit well into the Thanksgiving season.
Erik: Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and Thanksgiving Pizza was definitely one of my favorites that we made. But why on Earth did we have to go and make it in May? Haha.
Meg: Yeah, that was kind of a bad call on our part. But we were young and excited about fun pizza choices. We weren’t thinking ahead.
Erik: Ah well. In the very least, it led to our latest experiment, Pumpkin Pie Pizza.
Meg: Yup! While we never originally intended our pizza labs to correspond to the occasions surrounding their creation, it kind of just happened naturally. In the summer we were in the mood for grilled pizza, in November we wanted pumpkin pie.
Erik: That doesn’t sound unintentional to me… Heh.
Meg: Well you know what I mean. When we started pizza lab it wasn’t like, “We must make a pizza that corresponds to its proper month.” Though if we had the original Thanksgiving pizza probably wouldn’t have been in April.
Erik: What a sad thought! To have been deprived of it until just now…
Meg: True. It’s for the best we made it when we did.
Thanksgiving is fun since there’s basically this pool of foods that are considered traditional dishes for the meal. You got your turkey and stuffing and your yams and your greenbeans and others. Because we’ve already gone through the savory meals for a pizza, our next stop to pick one for experimentation was the desserts. Dessert-wise, it’s a crime against mankind to leave out the pumpkin pie. Everybody has it at Thanksgiving, there’s no excuse not to. It’s vegetarian-friendly, can be made gluten-free, and not particularly diet-restricted so long as its not doused in whipped cream. So as long as you don’t fall into the increasingly smaller demographic of antigourditarians, you most likely eat it at least once a year. Maybe not everyone makes it from scratch, but someone at least brings it from the closest grocery deli if nothing else, and you go with it, because well, Happy Thanksgiving.
There’s two methods to making pumpkin pie. One involves using canned pumpkin and the other requires you to made pumpkin mash from an actual pumpkin. The former holds glory with apathetic or lazy people, or ones who simply can’t bring themselves to take their beloved pumpkin out back behind the shed to cull and butcher it. While using canned pumpkin is certainly more convenient, I personally prefer making it from scratch since it can be very rewarding in a strange way. For anyone who’s ever butchered and eaten their own livestock, they can probably relate to this feeling. Similarly, you feel a certain bond to what you’re eating when you personally transformed it from a living thing to an edible foodstuff with your own two hands. While obviously not as gruesome as gutting a chicken, the task of gutting a pumpkin and turning it into something you can eat does require more work than opening a can. For whatever reason though, I just greatly enjoy the feeling of buying a pumpkin for decoration in October, then turning it into a pie in November when its time comes.
To make pumpkin pie from scratch using your own pumpkin, you begin this process like you would if carving a Jack-o-lantern, in that you have to cut it open and clean the insides out. Fortunately since the pumpkin doesn’t need to be a pumpkin anymore, you can instead settle for cutting it into quarters to speed up this process. When all you have is four wedges of clean, orange pumpkin flesh, you place these in shallow water in a pan, wrapped with foil, and bake them at 375 degrees for approximately 45 minutes. When they come out, they’ll be soft enough for you to just scrape the flesh off of the skin with a spoon. Get it all off, into a bowl, then strain the water from this mixture, and what you’re left with is the super-fresh version of that orange gunk you get out of a can. Add this all into a bowl with condensed milk, sugar, and the almighty magical pumpkin pie spice and soon you have a light-brown mixture that is now simply pumpkin pie filling. That’s it. It’s all done. Obviously it’s gonna be super runny, but that’s just because it solidifies as you bake it.
Meg: I think we had briefly tossed around the idea of a pumpkin pie pizza in the past. And this seemed like the appropriate time to bring it to fruition.
Erik: Yeah, it was festive and I also had a pumpkin lying around the kitchen for a month.
Meg: Mm-hmm! Believe it or not, we actually made our pumpkin pie filling from a pumpkin we knew. Not from the canned stuff.
Erik: That’s the way to do it! Plus we opted for a super simple pizza this time actually.
Meg: Yeah, ’cause we threw around the idea of having slices of roasted pumpkin on top of the pizza, but ultimately decided against it. Prepping the pumpkin for the filling took a fair amount of time itself. But really it just took a lot of time to clean the pumpkin flesh itself, mostly just due to trying not to burn ourselves, heh.
Erik: Right. It was easy thanks to our patented (not patented) pumpkin pie spice recipe! Huzzah!
Meg: And once we got the hot pumpkin mush out of the skin, it just needed to be whipped with milk and sugar and whatever. Then it was ready to spread on our dough! Piece of cake. …piece of pie?
Meanwhile, the dough itself was treated to two brushings; we generally coat the crust with a butter wash for dessert pies, but we also wanted to continue our tradition of adding something to the outside crust to give it some flavor. In an attempt to figure out what pairs nicely with pumpkin pie, we thought of many possibilities, such as pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, marshmallows. Randomly enough, we decided on maple syrup, not because it shares any connections with pumpkin pie, but just because it’s a Fall flavor, and we’re big fans of the delightful sap.
Meg: Similar to the Apple Crisp pizza, we made the crust a special treat.
Erik: Yeah, it’s becoming a trend with our dessert pizzas. This time we coated the crust in maple syrup. It gave the crust a tacky, but pleasant texture to it. Not to mention it tasted like maple, haha.
Meg: Actually it smelled more maple-y than it actually tasted. But it was definitely nice and sweet. And the maple was there. …I said actually too much…
Erik: This pizza was borderline almost too sweet. But it was tasty!
Meg: Yeah, the pumpkin filling was really sweet, probably since it uses evaporated milk. The sugary taste worked well with the buttery, delicious crust though.
From here on out, the pizza was smooth-sailing with little else to do. The pumpkin pie filling was poured on top, much in the same way you’d be doing so for an actual pumpkin pie. The only difference here was obviously the amount needed, since a pie requires you to actually fill the whole pie crust area up (hence the term pie filling). This being a pizza, it just needed the crust to be coated in a thin layer of it. Lastly the requisite dessert cheese, mascarpone, was globbed onto it as well, since it was a pizza, and pizzas need cheese.
Overall, the pizza was amazingly sweet and tasty. Like said before, it was almost too sweet due to the pumpkin pie filling, though the sugary flavor was neutralized just enough by the buttery crust beneath it. The maple on the other hand worked well for the crust since it created a nice glaze on the outside which, even if it didn’t taste incredibly maple-syrup-y, gave the pizza a really nice aroma. To add to the success, the pie filling cooked just as it would in a real pumpkin pie, so for all intents and purposes, this thing resembled the real deal in taste and texture as well. We both agreed that it almost felt a little too much like you were eating a real pumpkin pie, if anything because it sorta took away from the fact that this was indeed Pizza Lab. Our goal is to experiment, and sometimes do some fun criss-crossing of foods, but at the end of the day it’d still be nice for the results to resemble pizza more than anything else. All this aside, the pizza was still delicious and, for what it was meant to be, was pretty flawless in its own regard.
Meg: We added mascarpone, like we have for a lot of our dessert pizzas. But it was really unnecessary this time and actually slightly messed up the pizza by getting weirdly oily when it melted.
Erik: Yeah, though that seems like a random casualty this time around since we haven’t run into that problem before.
Meg: Still though, it was definitely a success. It was a delightful pizza. It tasted exactly like a pumpkin pie, but only on pizza crust.
Erik: Yes! It was indeed delightful. And helped get us into the mood for Thanksgiving food.
Meg: It also saved super well. Theoretically it probably didn’t even need to be reheated to eat the leftovers. But I admit I did heat up all of mine.
Erik: Same with me, haha.
Meg: I think this is the pizza we’ve had the most leftovers of too. Not because it wasn’t good, but it was surprisingly filling.
Erik: Yeah, it was, unsurprisingly, like eating a slice of pumpkin pie.
Meg: I think if we had to do it again I’d forgo the mascarpone and just top it with some whipped cream. Though that might have made it too much like a literal pumpkin pie. We can always revisit it on some future Thanksgiving, after already revisiting Thanksgiving Pizza.
Erik: This is true. Maybe when we have our first Thanksgiving at our own place all the food will just be pizzas. Thanksgiving pizza as the main course and pumpkin pie pizza for dessert.
Meg: And each side dish will be served on a small, personal pizza!
Erik: Oh man, now I’m excited for next Thanksgiving already…