I get it, I understand why Le Bernardin has to make the most elaborate take on pumpkin pie ever, as pictured in this story from the Times. Imagine if you went to Le Bernardin for Thanksgiving, and at the end of your exceptional, mind-blowing dinner, the waiter delivered a slice of plain old Libby’s canned pumpkin pie, complete with soggy bottom crust and a rosette of whipped cream. It’s almost comical to imagine the flourish with which those graceful waiters would deliver it.
But when it comes to the actual holiday, I am a total traditionalist. And yet, I have never been completely satisfied by my pumpkin pie. I would characterize my baking by saying I am an incrementalist—every time I make a pie, I change something teeny-tiny from the last time, and see how it goes. Switching to blind-baking the crust first was, of course, a great revelation, improving the quality of the pie by about a million, and to most people, that would have been enough. But I am always fooling around with the spices, the baking time and temperature of the oven, and the crust, as well. I experimented one year with a gingersnap crust, thinking the spice of the cookies would add something—somehow, I found it disappointing, a little sweeter than I would like, and the filling sort of oozed through the crumbs so that next-day slices were a little flabby and lacking in character. This year I’m trying a cornmeal crust, inspired by this brilliant pie that I also make every year to rave reviews. I hope for the best, and I wish you the best this Thanksgiving!