Friday, November 19, 2010

Put on Your Best Chiffon for Thanksgiving

photo by Anthony Palatta

Any idiot can make this pie, which is a Thanksgiving classic in my home.  It says something about what an idiot I am that it took me so long to master it!

When I was a kid, my mother always made this light, pudding-like pumpkin chiffon pie. In fact, I never knew there was such a thing as "normal" pumpkin pie. You know, the kind with the rich, dense filling, almost like a cheesecake, but without the lightness of cream cheese. Now, don't get me wrong. I love that kind of pumpkin pie, but I also realize it's not for all tastes.

So if you're looking for an easy and delicious pumpkin dessert for your Thanksgiving table that has mass appeal, look no further. I'm telling you, you can't screw up this no-bake recipe, and your friends and family will be delighted and amazed by the results.

Start by making a crust. (Either do it yourself or bake off one from the store. I like the Pillsbury version if I have to buy one.)  This is the only part of the pie you have to stick in the oven.

While the crust cools, mix a packet of gelatin with some cold water and set it aside to congeal. Next, grab a medium saucepan and mix a can of mashed pumpkin with egg yolks (save the whites, leaving them on the counter to get to room temperature), cinnamon, ginger, allspice, brown sugar, and milk. Stir the ingredients together over a low to medium fire. Let the mixture come to a boil for a minute, then take it off the heat and stir in your gelatin.

It's very important to add the gelatin at this point.  One year I forgot, and the pie ran all over everyone's plates. It was a mess. And it doesn't work to add the gelatin later. I know. I tried.

After setting the pumpkin in the freezer to cool for 40 minutes (you can put your saucepan directly in the freezer), whip up the egg whites you saved with six tablespoons of sugar until you get firm peaks.  ("Like snow," my mother told me.)  Fold the meringue into your pumpkin and dump it into the cooled pie crust.  Set it in the fridge overnight to set.  You're done.

My mom has also frozen it, wrapped well in aluminum foil, with great results.

Warning:  After you've gone chiffon, there's no going back.

Here's my mom's exact recipe:

Ingredients (for a 9-inch pie)

1/4 cup of cold water
1 packet of gelatin
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1-1/3 cups of mashed pumpkin (in a 15 oz. can--just use the whole can.  You don't have to measure it.)
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup milk

3 large egg whites
6 tbsp sugar

1 pie crust (you can buy them in the supermarket’s frozen section)


  1. Combine gelatin and water and set aside.
  2. Mix brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, pumpkin, egg yolks, and milk in a saucepan.  ("You don't have to be so careful with the measurements," my mom says.  "Extra cinnamon and sugar is good too.  But don't go heavy on the allspice.  That's powerful.")
  3. Cook over low while stirring until it boils.
  4. Boil one minute.
  5. Stir in soft gelatin.
  6. Cool in the freezer for 40 minutes.
  7. Remove from freezer, and beat until smooth.  ("Eh, that part's not so important," my mother says.)
  8. Beat egg whites and sugar in a separate bowl until white and fluffy like snow, then slowly fold them into the pumpkin mixture.  ("Just dump it all in and mix it," my mom says.  "It doesn't matter.")
  9. Pour into pie crust and refrigerate overnight.

1 comment:

  1. I was all set to make this for our Thanksgiving, but just as I was starting in the directions (day of), I noticed that it was supposed to refrigerate overnight! I made the pumpkin pie recipe on the Libby's can instead. :)

    Hope you guys had a good holiday!