Sweet decadence has been haunting me as of late. Ever since these goblin colored beauties entered the house I have pondered their aptly given name in reference to what I would create from them. Hmmm, buttercup . . . And yes, I am referring to buttercup squash, not the damsel in distress from "The Princess Bride." I decided a traditional pie, in miniature size, would showcase the squash with seasonality, considering the two inches of snow that blew the other day. Snow"fall" around these parts is almost unheard of. The incredibly dry snow drifts sideways and whirls around in the powerful Wyoming winds creating a sensation similar to being trapped in a snow-globe or better yet, a dishwasher.
We harvested seven nice-sized squash from the garden this year. Two were zapped by the frost and snow volunteering them for duty in this particular dessert. The cold temperatures concentrate sugars in the squash but also contribute to shorter shelf-life at the same time. While cutting open the peeled squash to remove the seeds before roasting I note the cantaloupe colored and scented flesh with curiosity. I know the raw squash won't taste like sweet melon, but it makes me consider new possibilities.
Served on top, black cardamom-spiced, maple syrup-sweetened ice cream provides an interesting accompaniment to the pie. Cardamom, which is related to ginger, has a warming, citrus-y aroma often used in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. Desserts are the most common destination for this historically admired spice, yet savory spice blends like Garam Masala emphasize the medicinal and flavorful benefits the seed pods provide. The crust is a traditional tart dough or 'Pate Sucree' for textural contrast with smaller scale portions. It is sweeter than flaky pie dough, as the french nomenclature suggests, but since the sugar has been reduced in the filling, the crust and ice cream provide a saccharin roundness to the palate. The crust is 'blind-baked' before filled to maintain crispiness. Combined with the rich flavors of pure maple syrup, cardamom gives the ice cream a butterscotch flavor at first, then hints toward citrus notes later on. All together with the mildly spiced pie, one gets an eggnog-like flavor profile from the pairing. A warm brandy in front of a cracking fireplace would elevate this to a state of autumnal ecstasy for the senses.
I prepared 3 small 4-inch pie tarts with this recipe which would otherwise make one 9-inch pie. A full pie takes 5 extra minutes of baking time, both with the crust and once filled. The recipe for the pie filling was adapted from a pumpkin pie recipe in The New Best Recipe, a cookbook from the editors of Cook's Illustrated. A small, 1 1/2 quart ice cream maker was used to freeze the ice cream. Inexpensive and simple to use, ice cream makers are worth every penny in my opinion.
Tart Dough (pate sucree)
1/2 lb butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 egg yolks
12 1/2 oz A.P. Flour
- Cream the butter and sugar 'till smooth.
- Add salt
- Add yolks
- Add flour
- Mix till dough comes together. Do not over mix.
- Wrap in plastic, refrigerate 30-40 minutes.
- Pull dough from fridge, roll out to 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured surface.
- Slide pie dish under and trim edges leaving some excess for shrinkage.
- Cover and refrigerate for 40 minutes, then freeze for 20 minutes.
Buttercup Squash Pie Filling
2 cups buttercup squash puree (peeled, seeded, quartered and roasted, covered with 1/2 cup water in 375°F oven for one hour, blend 'till smooth)
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
4 large eggs
- Combine sugar, squash, salt and spices. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat in heavy bottomed pan.
- Line interior of pie shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans.
- Bake on top rack for 20-25 minutes at 375°F uncovering for the final 5-10 minutes (check at 15 min.)
- Mix in heavy cream and milk. Bring back up to barely simmering. Turn oven up to 400°F.
- Beat eggs 'till smooth. Slowly add hot mixture while whisking eggs until all is combined.
- Fill hot pie shells with hot squash mixture and bake on bottom rack at 400°F for 15-25 minutes depending on size (4" = 15-20 min. / 9" = 20-25 min.) Pies are done when center jiggles like gelatin instead of liquid.
Cardamom-Maple Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp black cardamom (removed from pod, roughly ground)
5 egg yolks
- Bring cream, milk, syrup and cardamom to scalding.
- Slowly add to beaten yolks whisking constantly.
- Strain any large spice granules from mixture.
- Pour into frozen ice cream basin and turn 'till frozen soft.
- Store tightly covered in freezer.