Short days and the early dark is back. Are you filling your kitchen with good scents too?
We got talking about Thanksgiving some weeks back. What is the best pumpkin to use for pie? Who's cooking up a Thanksgiving meal this year? In a fit of industry, a few friends and I have updated my old Thanksgiving post for 2014. And reviving the spirit of scientific inquiry, we baked up a storm, making not one but three pies to test which German pumpkin yields the best puree for pumpkin pie. Details below.
Thanksgiving on the town: The newcomers
The wonderful Nalu Diner in Prenzlauer Berg is hosting a Thursday night Thanksgiving dinner for the second year in a row. On the table: two grass-fed Kelly Bronze turkeys from the Hirsch-Depping farm in Neuendorf. (Depping is also my favorite stand at the Hansaplatz organic greenmarket on Fridays.) Trimmings include "stuffing (in both conventional and veggie varieties) and cranberry sauce, yams (sweet potatoes), scalloped potatoes, green beans, mac'n'cheese, glazed carrots, biscuits, & one or two other things."
What makes Thanksgiving dinner in Berlin unique?
"Obviously, it's not a holiday here in Germany, so it always feels a bit devoid of the Thanksgiving spirit -- you don't have the long weekend to look forward to which usually starts Wednesday afternoon in the States. Oftentimes it's hard to source certain ingredients i.e. cranberries, which can be a hassle, though the search in itself can make it this weird treasure hunt that will make you particularly excited for Turkey day. That said, however, it doesn't matter where you are as long as you are with friends, family, and are grateful for the things you have." — Li-Han, chef at Nalu Diner
Meanwhile, Patrick at California Breakfast Slam promises a Thanksgiving buffet beginning at 6pm, with "roasted turkey with gravy, Charming Harry's cranberry sauce, stuffing, mac n cheese, mash potatoes and pumpkin pie".
Thanksgiving on the town: The classics
I was delighted to hear that lovely Suzy Fracassa is serving up a Friday edition of the groaning Thanksgiving table.
What do you like best about cooking Thanksgiving dinner for Berliners?
"They are so damn grateful for it!" — Suzy Fracassa of Fortuna's Table
Thanksgiving dinner is already booked out at The Village in Charlottenburg, but spots are available for an afternoon meal from 12pm onward. The a la carte menu includes a turkey roast with the usual sides, such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and a pumpkin cheesecake.
The Village, Sophie-Charlotten-Straße 49, Berlin-Charlottenburg (map)
Thanksgiving in Berlin: The pumpkin question
For many years I've breezily assumed the omnipresent hokkaido squash made the best filling for pumpkin pie. But what, Lily and I wondered one day, would it be like to have a grand bake-off (inspired by Melissa Clark's rigorous testing into the same question State-side)? Lily has written up the results.
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Last week I received an email, subject line: “Thanksgiving baking.” A friend is visiting from Boston and he wants to make a pie. I’ve been thinking about it idly ever since: do we have a pie tin? Are there even pumpkins in Berlin? If I were back in New England, I might be tempted to roll up to the store, throw cans of evaporated milk and Libby’s puree in my cart and call it a day. But making pumpkin pie from scratch isn’t really much harder.
Pies are designed to be flexible and unfussy-- a good pie turns bruised apples or a homely squash into Thanksgiving's star (not to mention the world's best breakfast). So while pumpkin pies aren’t a traditionally German food, our German squash pies turned out wonderfully: the tart pans we found in our cupboards worked fine and a teacup would have stood in for cup measures in a pinch. Ingredients should be available at all local stores. To be scientific about it, we tested three different squash purees (Butternut, Hokkaido, Muscat) in three different tart sizes (mini tart pans, 9 inch [our recommendation], 8 inch deep dish)-- all widely available in Berlin. All, our blind taste tester confirmed, made an above-average pumpkin pie. Here’s the scoop.
Making your own puree is no great hassle. Take a squash, and cut it into equal sized pieces: quarters or eighths. Remove the seeds. Roast the wedges on a baking sheet in a 200 degree C oven (400 F, gas mark 6) for about 45 minutes or until really tender. Let the wedges cool slightly, then scrape the flesh away from the skins. Puree in a food processor (although I suppose you could also go to town with a potato masher if you don’t have one) until smooth.
With a crust par-baked, it’s time to whip up the filling, which comes together about as fast as the New England can-dump method. The hokkaido pie was our front-runner: the closest to pumpkin in the ‘charming table decoration’ category. But when we tasted it, it had an earthy funkiness that was slightly off-putting. Butternut squash was creamy and bright-- an all around favorite and our final recommendation. Muscat squash, though, made my personal favorite pie: deeper and more mysterious than the Butternut, though a duller brown. The sheer fun of having a giant squash cut to order at the farmer's market doesn't hurt, either. Overall, we were surprised how different each pie tasted, how each of them would certainly pass as pumpkin on a groaning Thanksgiving table, and how much we ultimately preferred the fresh-tasting purees to Libby's. Even after three pies, I was hungry for more.
— Lily Kelting
Expat pumpkin pie
- 2 cups squash puree (Butternut or Muscat)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream (Schlagsahne)
- ½ cup sour cream (Schmand, 24% fat)
- ½ cup brown sugar (the crunchy Rohzucker worked just fine)
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice-- we used ¾ teaspoon each cinnamon and ginger,
- ½teaspoon each nutmeg, allspice, and ground cloves
Heat the oven to 160 C (gas mark 4). In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin purée, eggs, cream, sour cream, brown sugar, spices, and salt. Pour mixture into the cooled pie shell. Transfer pie to a large baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden and center jiggles just slightly when shaken, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool completely before serving.
Yield: 8 servings
Note that anyone in need of American measuring cups, pie pans, and other such things will find them at Kochtail, a wonderful American-run kitchenware shop in Mitte.