When pie crust fails, granola can save the day

Marlene Parrish
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
  • Extra granola can be stored and used as a snack or breakfast.
  • No need to chill and roll out dough.
  • For a fancier look, layer pudding, whipped cream and granola into parfait glasses.

Fear strikes when some home cooks face even the thought of dealing with pumpkin pie. Google could not locate a word for “fear of making pie pastry,” although crust-o-phobia is a contender. How about pie anxiety?

I have a holiday season fix for you. Don’t make the crust. Do make any pumpkin pie filling, bake it in a dish and then add a crisp garnish.

Here’s why: If you are not a pastry baker, now is not the time to take on that challenge. Pumpkin pie is notorious for having a soggy crust, usually because when the eggy filling is baked too long or at high temperature, it weeps liquid. Why chance it?

Here’s how: Get out a glass or metal pie pan. (No, not a flimsy metal foil one.) Make any pumpkin pie filling, pour into pan, bake. Or make individual pie pots. Do this the day before you want to serve and refrigerate.

Here’s the crisp: Soft and creamy pumpkin filling (let’s call it pudding) needs a crisp contrast. Up to three days ahead, make and bake a batch of granola. At presentation, sprinkle a ring of granola around the perimeter of the dish. At serving time, spoon the chilled pumpkin pudding into small, pretty glasses or parfaits and top servings with a fluff of whipped cream and a generous sprinkle of granola.

Here’s the truth: That extra granola will taste terrific the next day for breakfast or sprinkled over ice cream or yogurt. The pumpkin pudding will be long gone.

No-crust Pumpkin Custard

3 large eggs, at room temperature

15-ounce can pumpkin or 2 cups

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch of cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk (or 1/2 cup whole milk plus 1/2 cup heavy cream), at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a 9-inch glass or metal pie plate or ceramic quiche dish. For single-servings, use 8 4-ounce ramekins or straight-sided mini-souffle dishes. Place dish(es) on a “pizza” pan or tray: that makes getting the filled containers to and from the oven easier.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin and sugars. Mix well. Stir in spices, salt and milk; mix until well-combined.

Pour pumpkin mixture into baking dish(es). Bake about 30 to 40 minutes, then begin testing for doneness by jiggling the dish. The custard will be done when just the very center has a slight wobble and a knife, inserted just off-center into the pie, comes out clean. For the individual dishes, the timing might vary depending on the size of the ramekins.

Makes about 6 to 8 servings.

— Marlene Parrish

Easy Granola Topping

With a jar of crunchy granola in the pantry, you have an instant topping for ice cream, yogurt or pudding. To make as a cereal, double the recipe. Hazelnuts are a delicious addition.

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/4 cup mild olive oil or melted coconut oil

2 tablespoons cold water

1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

21/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/4 cup sesame seeds (white, black or a combination)

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together maple syrup, brown sugar, oil, water and salt. Fold oats, nuts, sesame and poppy seeds into the syrup mixture and stir until completely coated. Turn granola mixture onto prepared baking sheets, patting into an even layer.

Bake until oats are golden and lightly toasted, stirring the oats and rotating the pan every 5 minutes or so, just until the oats begin to turn golden, 15 to 20 minutes or so. Watch granola carefully as it can go from almost done to scorched in seconds.

Let granola cool on the baking sheets for at least 20 minutes before breaking it into clumps. Store mixture in a lidded jar at room temperature.

Makes about 3 cups.

— Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria