Fall Baking: Jonathan Dye’s Pumpkin Purée Tutorial & Recipe for Classic Pumpkin Pie!

Pumpkins are ubiquitous to fall, and the world loves to celebrate the image, the taste, and the aroma of this seasonal icon.  In our latest edition on fall baking, we explore the most traditional incarnation of the pumpkin icon — pumpkin pie! Our motivation stems from our abiding respect for the main ingredient of this seasonal delight, which is currently abundantly available at markets and grocers.  Pumpkins, be they great or small, sweet or savory, soft or tough, are just about everywhere in autumn.  Yet as certain as fresh pumpkins are to grocery store displays… so are enormous columns of 15 ounce cans of processed pumpkin purée. Though we acknowledge the convenience of canned pumpkin, we often wonder how many people have taken the time to use pumpkins purchased at the market as food. It seems that most all store bought pumpkins end up as Jack-o-Lanterns or table decor. They can be more than that, or serve a double purpose!  Therefore, (in the spirit of education, thoughtful food use, adventure, and of course the pursuit of great pie) we attempt to compel you, our kind readers, to take this awesome and varietal gourd into your hands, and make your own fresh pumpkin purée (which has applications beyond pie as well: soup, pudding, risotto and more)!  So, we urge you to take this raw ingredient and learn (easily and inexpensively) to create a product that is in every way greater than what you can purchase in a can.  More delicate in texture, more light in color, and certainly more nutritious!

Pumpkin Pie is the perfect format for personal expression, as there are likely as many recipes (and personal favorites) for pumpkin pie as there are for apple pie, meatloaf or chicken noodle soup. So if you already have a favorite family recipe, but have been making it with canned purée, consider stepping it up this year, and starting truly from scratch using our puree technique! (But if you need a pie recipe and purée instructions, we got you covered there, too!)

What follows is an instructional on making pumpkin purée, our adapted recipe for turning that fresh purée into amazing pumpkin pie, and a gallery with some visuals of both processes. Whether you use our recipe or your own, the volume of pumpkin purée will stay the same; so take time to elevate your own recipe or to try ours; we’re sure you’ll appreciate the results.

Step One: Make the Pumpkin Purée

  1. For purée, use sugar pumpkins.  While other pumpkin types could work well, these smaller, sweeter pumpkins will yield a perfect result.  Cut your pumpkin in half, clean the innards out thoroughly, and place onto a baking sheet.
  2. Roast at 425 degrees until the pumpkin flesh has softened throughout, approximately 1 hour.  You will know when your pumpkin is thoroughly cooked when a knife inserted into the flesh has no resistance.
  3. Once cooled slightly, scoop the cooled flesh from the pumpkin skin (discard or compost the skin) and place into a processor.  Purée until smooth.
  4. Drain the purée in a fine mesh sieve until excess water has been rendered; approximately 2 hours.  You’re now ready to use your purée for many applications. So easy, right!?

Step Two: Make your Pie

Classic Pumpkin Pie

(Includes directions for both canned and fresh fresh made purée.)

Yield: Makes 2 10-inch Pies, or one deep-dish 10-inch pumpkin pie

 This recipe is a favorite at the holiday table, inspired by Martha Stewart’s recipe.


 1 sugar pumpkin (about 4 pounds), halved, or 3 cups solid-pack canned pumpkin (not pumpkin-pie filling)

1 1/2 recipes Pate Brisee, divide dough into 3 disks Pate Brisee to Make One Double-Crust or Two Single-Crust Pies

All-purpose flour, for dusting

7 large eggs

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 cups evaporated milk

Whipped cream, for serving


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If using fresh pumpkin, roast it, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet until soft, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool completely. (Roasted pumpkin can be refrigerated, in an airtight container, overnight.) Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Reserve 1 disk of dough for making leaf decorations. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out remaining disks into 14-inch rounds. Fit rounds into two 10-inch pie plates; trim edges, leaving 1/2-inch overhangs. Fold edges under, and press to seal. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Roll out reserved disk to a 1/8-inch thickness. Transfer to a baking sheet, and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Using a small (about 1 inch) leaf-shape cookie cutter or a paring knife, cut leaves from dough. Freeze until cold, about 15 minutes.

Brush edges of pie shells with a damp pastry brush; arrange leaves around edges, pressing to adhere. Whisk 1 egg and cream in a small bowl. Brush leaves with egg wash. Cut 2 large circles of parchment; fit into pie shells, extending above edges. Fill with pie weights or dried beans.

Bake pie shells 15 minutes. Remove weights and parchment; bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Cool completely on wire racks.

If using fresh pumpkin, discard seeds. Scoop out flesh, using a large spoon, into a food processor. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure out 3 cups, and transfer pumpkin to a large bowl (reserve any remaining for another use; if using canned pumpkin, add that to the bowl instead). Add brown sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, remaining 6 eggs, and evaporated milk; whisk until combined.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place pie shells on rimmed baking sheets. Divide pumpkin mixture evenly between shells. Bake until all but centers are set, 35 to 40 minutes. Let pies cool completely on wire racks. Cut into wedges, and serve with whipped cream.

Happy Eating!

-Jonathan Dye

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