Squash Pie In A Sorghum Crust

Squash-filled pie

With origins in the Southern USA, squash pie uses a flavorful custard filling that surpasses pumpkin. The version below is a panna cotta rather than an egg-based custard. This allows the filling to be added to the crust immediately before serving, thus preserving crust crunch and flakiness with no sacrifice to flavor. 

Yield:  Two, 6-inch or one 9-inch circular pies.
Time to make: 30 minutes active, overnight dough refrigeration, 25 minutes oven dwell.
Tools needed:  9 inch X 13 inch sheet pan. Medium bowls. Whisk. Two small bowls. Food processor. 2-quart saucepan. Mortar and pestle of spice grinder. Plastic work surface. Plastic wrap. Rolling pin. Sharp knife. Bench knife or frosting spatula. Pie pan(s) (see above). Measuring cups and spoons, or scale. 

Filling Ingredients

3 Tablespoons (45 grams) whole milk
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup (150 grams) baked honey nut or butter nut squash, skin removed
1 Tablespoon (15 grams) brown sugar (light or dark)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (190 grams) heavy cream

Crust Ingredients

1 Tablespoon (15 grams) rice or champagne vinegar
1/4 cup ( 70 grams) cold water
1 1/2 cups (170 grams) sorghum flour plus more for dusting
4 "wings" from a star anise, shiny seeds removed
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons solid virgin coconut oil

To make the filling:

1) Halve and remove seeds from 1 or two small honey nut or butter nut squash. Bake at 425 on a sheet pan, cut side up, until flesh is tender; 30 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool thoroughly. 

2) Measure the milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over milk surface and set aside until well-wrinkled, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place 3/4 cup (150 grams) of the squash, the brown sugar, the salt, the nutmeg, the maple syrup and the cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor. Blend to a smooth purée. Add the milk/gelatin and the heavy cream and blend just until thoroughly mixed.

3) Transfer mixture to a small saucepan and place over medium heat, Stirring frequently, bring the mixture to a simmer. Remove from heat and transfer to a stainless steel or glass bowl. Refrigerate until completely set; 2 hours or overnight.

To make the crust:

1) Measure water and vinegar into a small bowl. Place into freezer. Place star anise wings in mortar and pestle and pulverize. Measure sorghum flour, the anise, salt, sugar, cardamom and xanthan gum into the bowl of a food processor. Alternatively pulse and run the food processor for about 2 minutes, until ingredients are well-blended and the flour becomes quite fine. Cut butter into 1-Tablespoon chunks and toss into food processor. Add the coconut oil. Pulse a few times to round the edges off the butter, then transfer mixture to a medium bowl .

2) Using a wooden potato masher or a flat-ended wood or plastic cylinder, pound the butter/fats mixture to flatten the butter chunks. Occasionally stop and toss the mix, then continue pounding until all the butter is reduced to small leaf-thin pieces. Add cold water/vinegar mix, including any ice chunks, and toss with a fork until all flour is just barely wet. Gather with your hands and press into a ball. Place in plastic wrap or a sealed plastic container and refrigerate, at least 4 hours or overnight.

3) Heat oven to 425. Dust a work surface and rolling pin generously with sorghum flour. Roll dough into a 1/8 inch-thick slab. The dough will be resistant at first but begin to "flow" as it warms. Frequently run a frosting spatula or bench knife under dough to prevent sticking. If making 6-inch crusts, cut dough into two, 8 1/2 inch circles. If making one 9-inch crust, cut dough into 12 inch circle. Transfer to pie tin(s). Gently push dough into the tins. "Repair" any fractures with dough fragments. Make decorative indentations along the top of the rim. Hopefully your skills at this are superior to mine.

4) Bake crusts for 12 - 15 minutes, or until edges are light brown and bottom is bumpy with puffed areas.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. 

5) Just prior to serving, use a frosting spatula or pastry bag fitted with decorative pipe to place filling into pie. Filling may be slightly warmed, but not above 85 F, or it will break.

Serving suggestion: Whipped cream, of whipped cream spiked with brandy!