Thanksgiving is not Nancy Silverton's favorite time of year. This is because Thanksgiving means pumpkin pie, and Silverton, the baking brain behind Los Angeles' Campanile and La Brea Bakery, does not like pumpkin pie. In fact, it would be fair to say she hates pumpkin pie.
"First," she says, "the canned stuff is awful, then there are those atrocious pumpkin spices, and the texture is so gummy and it never sets up right. . . ."
Well, you get the idea.
But Silverton has to make hundreds of pumpkin pies every year about this time, because the truth is, a lot of other people do like pumpkin pie. And every year she tries to come up with a recipe that she would like to eat.
This year, Silverton says, she thinks she's done it. "I followed my instincts," she says. And her instincts said: Use less pumpkin.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 19, 1997 Home Edition Food Part H Page 2 Food Desk 3 inches; 88 words Type of Material: Correction
Pie in Our Face: The recipe for Campanile Thanksgiving Pie ("Dealing With Pumpkin," Nov. 16) failed to indicate when to add the browned butter and vanilla bean seeds. As soon as the butter has browned, add the butter-vanilla mixture to the pumpkin-yam mixture.
In the recipe for Lemon Meringue Tart With Champagne Vinegar Sauce, the sugar-egg white-flour mixture should be beaten on high speed for 3 minutes.
Also, the ingredients given for the filing for the lemon meringue make enough filling for one tart. The dough, meringue and sauce make enough for two tarts. To make two tarts, simply double the ingredients for the filling.
It was a sweet potato pie after a particularly good barbecue-rib dinner that inspired her. She decided to use mostly Jewel yams (which are not true yams, of course, but dark sweet potatoes) and just enough pumpkin to be able to tell customers who ask that, yes, there's pumpkin in the pie.
"I would prefer to make it only with yams," she says, "but then we wouldn't sell it." Her name for the un-pumpkinish pie: Thanksgiving pie.
Other than the high yam content, what else is different? She uses butter in the filling. "Why doesn't anyone want to make a pumpkin pie with butter?" she asks. Sure it adds fat, but no one ever accused a pumpkin pie of being diet food.
As for the usual pumpkin pie spices, she uses them sparingly. Her filling has vanilla bean, maple syrup, brown sugar, brandy and, for spice, white pepper, ginger and the barest amount of clove. No nutmeg.
But she makes a concession to conventional tastes. "This is what I do," she says. "I sprinkle cinnamon, sugar and fresh-grated nutmeg just on the top so it perfumes the pie."
The result is a subtly flavored, wonderfully textured pie. It sets up perfectly and has a beautiful burnished bronze color just out of the oven. But we do have to point out that there was controversy about this pie among the pumpkin pie lovers in The Times Test Kitchen. It didn't taste like pumpkin pie. As Silverton would say, isn't that the point?
"And who said we have to have pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving anyway?" Silverton digresses.
One of the best ways to disarm the nutmeg-loving pumpkin pie eaters is to feed them a slice of Silverton's lemon meringue tart from her new book, "The Food of Campanile" (Villad, $35). Once again, Silverton goes against the grain by making her meringue smooth and flat instead of fluffy and high. And she serves the tart with a Champagne vinegar sauce that emphasizes the sour over the sweet.
The Test Kitchen was certainly disarmed. The consensus was that this tart was among the year's best recipes and might just find a place on the Thanksgiving table in some of our homes right next to the pumpkin pie.
CAMPANILE THANKSGIVING PIE
1 1/2 cups Jewel or Garnett yams
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3/4 cup cream plus extra if needed
2 tablespoons milk plus extra if needed
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon brandy
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 pinches ground cloves
1 pinch freshly ground white pepper
Baked crust for 1 (9- or 10-inch) pie
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Bake sweet potatoes at 450 degrees until knife inserts easily, about 40 minutes. Cool and peel. Puree yams and pumpkin in food mill into large bowl. Set aside.
Melt butter over medium heat in small skillet. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into butter and brown butter with vanilla, 3 to 5 minutes.
Combine eggs, egg yolk, cream, milk, syrup, brown sugar, brandy, ginger, salt, cloves and pepper in separate bowl until thoroughly mixed. Add to pumpkin-yam mixture. Strain. Mixture should be fairly thin and smooth. It will probably be necessary to thin mixture with 1/4 cup to 6 tablespoons equal parts milk and cream. Mixture should be pourable.
Pour into 9- or 10-inch pre-baked, crimped pie shell.
Combine granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over pie. Bake at 325 degrees until slightly puffed and set in center, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings:
440 calories; 312 mg sodium; 134 mg cholesterol; 29 grams fat; 39 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.58 gram fiber.
MOM'S APPLE PIE DOUGH
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, chilled and cut in pieces
2/3 cup shortening, chilled and broken up
2 cups unbleached pastry or unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 to 4 tablespoons ice waterUnlike most pie doughs which are best made by hand, this dough, from Silverton's new book "The Food of Campanile" (Villard, $35), actually comes out better made in a machine. Silverton isn't sure why this reverse method works so well, but it always produces exceptional results.