Homey crust with a sassy filling
Union Bakery's classic pie has a crust so plain it looks homemade. But there is nothing plain about this delicious pie: The tender crust is all-butter pate brisee, and the filling is subtly spiced with cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, and a dash of bourbon. The surprise is, it is made with butternut squash, not pumpkin.
A 9-inch pie is $20 at Union Bakery, 1138 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena, (626) 403-1850.
Flaky, but with staying power
Bake & Broil's pumpkin pie has a flaky crust and a generous load of fluffy, gently spiced filling. It's a great pie for a long, leisurely holiday meal. After standing for hours, it tastes as fresh as when you bought it -- no soggy crust or solidified filling. A fancy variation is topped with a brown sugar-walnut streusel flavored with orange zest.
A 9-inch pie is $7.95; streusel topped, $8.95, at Jongewaard's Bake & Broil, 3697 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, (562) 595-0396.
Deep dish, and a tall order
Hearty eaters on your guest list will love the deep-dish pumpkin pie from the Filling Station Cafe. It's as big as three or four pies, a tall structure of soft, light filling in a fluted, 11-inch crust. The filling is true pumpkin, and the crust is a cross between tart pastry and sugar-cookie dough. The baker, co-owner Hyun-Sook Chung, makes the pies by hand.
Deep-dish pumpkin pie, $20 at the Filling Station Cafe and Coffee House, 201 N. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 289-9714.
A praline crunch, a buttery crust
This one is a guaranteed spectacular finish: BakeAway's 2 1/2-inch-tall pie is decorated with thin tracings of praline and chopped, roasted walnuts. It has a butter crust and a squashy-tasting pumpkin filling (the bakery will not divulge the contents). Located in an industrial strip of Robertson Boulevard, BakeAway is a wholesale facility, but will fill retail orders with advance notice.
A 9-inch pie is $17 at BakeAway Deluxe Baked Goods, 3380 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 287-2772.
Dressing a tart for any occasion
Sugar Plum Bakery, a pretty Parisian-style shop, takes an elegant spin on the pumpkin pie. Pastry chef Anna Delorefice calls it a tart, though it's more substantial than the usual: A rustic shortbread crust holds a creamy custard filling with a tang of mascarpone. The top is adorned with a festive shortbread cookie, shaped like a turkey, star or, for Hanukkah, a star of David.
An 8-inch tart is $26 at Sugar Plum Bakery, 7122 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 934-7900.
More dense, plus extra toppings
Shelly Register, pastry chef for restaurateur-chef Tim Goodell, runs this new bake shop. She goes a bit denser and less custardy with her filling, more like a sweet potato pie. The crust is very flaky and unsweetened, and for an extra $5 you can get whipped cream, toasted pecans and caramel sauce to finish off this hearty dessert.
A 9-inch pie is $15 at Village Bakery, the Camp, 2937 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 751-2220.