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Brown Sugar Pumpkin Pie with Toasted Pecan Crust

Moist, molasses-rich dark brown sugar and tangy buttermilk add depth to an otherwise traditional pumpkin pie filling. It’s baked in a simple cookie-like press-in crust made by grinding smoky toasted pecans and mixing them with butter, flour and sugar. The result is a comforting dessert full of warmth and earthiness.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pecan halves 
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • 1 tsp. flaky sea salt, such as Maldon 
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed 
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon 
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger 
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée 
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk 
  • 3 eggs 
  • Sweetened whipped cream for serving 

Directions:

Position one rack in the bottom of an oven and another rack in the middle and preheat to 350°F.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the pecans on the middle rack until fragrant and lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Pour onto a plate to cool, then finely grind in a food processor; take care not to overprocess them.

In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg yolk and flaky sea salt. Add the ground pecans and the 1 1/4 cups flour and stir, working the dry ingredients into the butter mixture by smearing it against the sides of the bowl, until the dough comes together in large, shaggy clumps.

On a lightly floured work surface, press the dough into a mound and knead until it just comes together. Press the dough into a flat disk, then transfer to a 9-inch pie dish. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the dish. Use the bottom of a metal measuring cup dipped in flour to smooth and even out the dough. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork, then freeze the pie shell for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt and process until smooth. Add the pumpkin purée, buttermilk and whole eggs and process until combined.

Place the frozen pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the filling into the shell and bake on the middle oven rack for 30 minutes. Remove the pie from the baking sheet and transfer directly to the lower oven rack. Bake until the center jiggles only slightly when the pie is tapped, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

To serve, cut into wedges and top with whipped cream. Serves 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Desserts, by Raquel Pelzel (Oxmoor House, 2008).