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Microwave . . .

From Pumpkin to Pie in No Time

October 22, 1987|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving

With a microwave, you can transform a small pumpkin into a pie that is an impressive timesaver.

For each pie, pick a pumpkin weighing at least 2 1/2 pounds. It must be prepared by first microwaving until the flesh is tender, then mashing. Before microwaving a whole pumpkin, pierce it in several places using the tip of a paring knife. This will allow steam to escape during cooking.

Wrap the pumpkin loosely in wax paper, patting the paper to mold it around the pumpkin. Place it on a microwaveable plate or in a shallow dish and microwave at HIGH (100% power) about 15 minutes or about five to seven minutes per pound. After half the microwave time, turn the pumpkin over, using heavy potholders to protect your hands.

After It's Done . . .

After the pumpkin is done, cut it in half. When it is cool enough to handle, scoop out the seeds and flesh, discarding the seeds, or roast pumpkin seeds in conventional oven. Mash, puree or process the flesh until smooth.

The recipe that follows has a very mellow flavor. In addition to all the traditional ingredients, some flour is added. It is used because the filling dries out less in a microwave than in the conventional oven.

The biggest difference between microwave pumpkin pie and one that is conventionally baked is that the filling must be cooked separately until almost set. It then is poured into the pie shell to finish baking. This technique, which is essential for an evenly microwaved filling, has a delicious bonus. It means you can use a sweet gingersnap crumb crust for the pie. Crumb crusts do not cook well when filled with uncooked custard pie fillings. But they do work well with a partially set filling.

Use Winter Squash

With this recipe you can also make a winter squash pie, instead of pumpkin. Hubbard, buttercup or butternut squash can be used.

To make a squash pie that is more delicate in flavor than the pumpkin pie here, use granulated sugar rather than brown sugar and omit the cloves. Squash pie is more delicate in flavor, and it can be overpowered by strong-flavored ingredients. As with pumpkin, pierce the squash and then microwave it in its shell before pureeing. If it's too hard to pierce, let the squash microwave at HIGH for about two minutes or so, until the shell softens somewhat.

Another adaptation of this recipe is sweet-potato pie. Because of the natural starch in sweet potatoes, the flour should be reduced to two tablespoons in this variation. Unlike pumpkin or winter squash, potatoes are not hard to peel so they may be peeled and cubed before cooking, then microwaved with a very small amount of water before mashing.

If you have to purchase spices for the pie, buy pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. You will need a total amount of pumpkin pie spice equivalent to the three spices given in the recipe that follows--about 2 1/2 teaspoons--for approximately the same flavor. A variation to please those who don't care for spicy flavors, although certainly not a traditional one, is to substitute one teaspoon of vanilla and a few drops of lemon extract for the spices.

MICROWAVE FRESH PUMPKIN PIE

1/2 cup butter

1 cup plus 5 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

1 1/2 cups gingersnap crumbs

2 cups pureed fresh or canned pumpkin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups half and half

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup finely chopped peanuts or other nuts

Bourbon Whipped Cream or Bourbon Dessert Sauce

In 9-inch glass pie plate, place 6 tablespoons butter. Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 1 minute, until melted. Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar and cookie crumbs. Using fork, stir mixture until well blended. Press lightly onto bottom and sides of pie plate. Microwave at HIGH 2 to 4 minutes, rotating half turn every minute, until hot and set.

In 2-quart microwave casserole or bowl, place mashed pumpkin. Add 1 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, flour, salt, half and half and eggs. Whisk well. Microwave at HIGH 8 to 12 minutes, whisking smooth every 2 minutes, until mixture is thick enough to form mounds on top when whisk is withdrawn.

Carefully pour hot mixture into pie crust and smooth top. Microwave at MEDIUM (50% power) 10 to 14 minutes, until pie is set around edges and soft but somewhat set in center.

Meanwhile, in 2 cup bowl, place remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons brown sugar. Microwave at HIGH 2 to 4 minutes, until bubbling and sugar is dissolved. Stir in nuts. Mixture should be sugary and crumbly.

Carefully spread mixture evenly over top of pie. Cool and refrigerate. Serve with Bourbon Whipped Cream or Bourbon Dessert Sauce, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Bourbon Whipped Cream

1 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons bourbon

In chilled bowl with chilled beaters, whip cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar slowly, beating until cream is stiff. Fold in bourbon. Chill until needed. Makes about 2 cups.

Bourbon Dessert Sauce

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup half and half

1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon

Place butter in 1-quart microwave casserole. Microwave at HIGH (100% power) until melted, about 30 seconds. Stir in sugar and half and half. Microwave at HIGH 2 to 4 minutes, until hot and sugar is completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature, stir again, then stir in bourbon. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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