So, I’m deep in my Friendsgiving planning for this weekend and I think I finally understand — and really, it’s about time, Deb — why Thanksgiving is so daunting, even for people who like to cook: it’s the volume.
I mean, maybe you come from a small family and your Thanksgiving dinner is for 4 or 6 people. That sounds lovely. It’s still a lot of cooking but I bet your one year-old at least weighs less than your bird. (Not to self: photo op!) 20 people or more is completely the norm at our family gatherings and we’re having 16 friends this weekend in our I-won’t-even-tell-you-the-square-footage apartment because you’ll either start clucking your tongue in a completely underserved pity party (woe is us, we live in Manhattan, said nobody you should be friends with, ever) or start sending us house listings in Montclair (coughgrandma). I’m looking at the yield on my usual recipes and then trying to multiply them by three and write a grocery list and it’s basically like: All The Butter Ever Made + A Gallon or Two Of Stock + then I burst into tears, text my husband the list and he schleps everything, in case you were ever wondering who the actual beauty/brains behind this operation actually is.
Last week I established myself as Team Casserole when it comes to the planning of Thanksgiving sides. This week, let me also reiterate my longstanding membership in the Slab Pie Charter. Slab pies — basically, any pie you love, just about doubled and stretched into a jellyroll pan — are pie for dozen (er, a dozen and a half) and there’s nothing not to love about that. Because the filling is thinner and less weighty, I find par-baking of the bottom crusts unnecessary (praise-hands emoji) and also they bake in half to 2/3 of the time. They also are easier to store; I have this one in the freezer as we speak.
This year’s centerpiece pie is 80% pumpkin and 20% cheesecake. (Would you like the reverse, I think this cake is just for you.) It’s as easy as… cake (gotcha) (okay, I’m sorry, that was inexcusable) but it really is very simple. We’re using more or less my go-to filling these days and marbling in some sweetened cream cheese batter. If you’d like a higher proportion of cheesecake to pumpkin, you can double it. The slices you see in photos are 1/15 but my pan was slightly smaller this time and given that there’s probably more than one dessert at your table, you’re going to be much happier with 1/18. You’re also more likely to have one to two squares left the next morning, which means you’ll get to celebrate my next favorite holiday: National Pie For Breakfast Day. Wait, this isn’t a thing yet? Let’s fix it.
Cheesecake-Marbled Pumpkin Slab Pie
My pan was slightly smaller this year (my correctly-sized 10×15 was being held hostage by another slab pie), about an inch shy all around. I baked the extra filling as noted above and made the extra dough into pie dough cookies. It means that my 1 /15-sized slices are smaller than your will be; I think most of us would prefer 1/18 of the regular-sized slab pie, especially with other desserts to try.
Finally, in a classic Do As Deb Says But Not As She Does, I forgot to mix the cream into my cream cheese batter, leaving it a bit thick. It still marbles, but requires more toothpick work to divide and swirl the islands and leaves them a little raised. (I’m sure everyone will object and refuse to eat it now.) Your cream cheese batter should give you less guff.
- 2 1/2 cups (315 grams) flour
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
- 2 sticks (8 ounces, 225 grams tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
- 3 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, from 2 15-ounce (425 gram) cans or homemade
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon (6 grams) fine sea or table salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- A few gratings of fresh nutmeg (or a pinch of ground nutmeg)
- 2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream, light cream or a combination of cream and milk
- 6 large eggs
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons heavy or light cream
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the pie dough:
- By hand, with my one-bowl method: In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. (Some people like to do this by freezing the stick of butter and coarsely grating it into the flour, but I haven’t found the results as flaky.) Add 1/2 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water.
- With a food processor: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and pulse machine until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. Turn mixture out into mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water.
- Both methods: Wrap dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours, or you can quick-firm this in the freezer for 15 minutes. Longer than 2 days, it’s best to freeze it until needed.
Get ready to bake the pie: Heat oven to 400°F (205°C). Line a 10×15-inch jellyroll pan with a fitted rectangle of parchment paper.
Form the crust: On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 13-by-18-inch rectangle (i.e. 3 inches bigger than your pan). Do your best to work quickly, keeping the dough as cold as possible (and tossing it in the freezer for a couple minutes if it softens too quickly) and using enough flour that it doesn’t stick to the counter.
Fold dough gently in half without creasing and transfer to prepared pan. Unfold dough and trim overhang to about 1/2-inch. Fold overhang under edge of pie crust and crimp decoratively. Return pan to fridge until ready to fill.
Make pumpkin filling: Combine pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a sputtering simmer and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Scoop cooked pumpkin filling into bowl, and whisk in cold cream until smooth. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Pour filling into prepared pie crust.
Marble cheesecake: Whisk cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a bowl until smooth. Dollop all over pumpkin batter and use a toothpick or chopstick to swirl decoratively in figure-8s, being very very careful not to drag the point of the toothpick/chopstick into the bottom crust, forming holes.
Bake pie: For 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F (175°C) and bake for another 15 minutes, until only the center barely jiggles and a toothpick inserted into it comes out pumpkin-free. (Damp is fine, but the toothpick shouldn’t have loose pumpkin batter on it.)
Let cool then chill in fridge until serving.