Crustless Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crumble is one of my favorite quick Thanksgiving desserts. Start with an easy pumpkin pie filling lightly sweetened with brown sugar, cinnamon, and spices, flecked with fresh ginger, then top the crustless pie with a brown sugar-pecan crumble topping. Double the recipe to fill a larger 13×9 dish or bake the crustless pies in individual ramekins for an extra special presentation.
Thanksgiving Day is an opportunity to reflect on all the gifts in our life and gather with people we love. Counting your blessings is a very good exercise for both the mind and heart, so, why not expand the act to encompass more days and more people?
A few years ago I went to my first “Friends-giving” also called, “Fakes-giving.” The idea behind the event was to make time to share a Thanksgiving meal with friends old and new. Friendships are a tremendous source of love and support so it makes sense to gather our friends, many who feel as close as family, for a meal of gratitude.
Thanksgiving has always been a holiday I have spend with my extended family. Aside from the year I was studying abroad, I have been fortunate to share Thanksgiving dinner with one of the many branches of my family, my husband’s family, or a wonderful overlapping of both. Every part of my family has its own holiday food traditions. Every recipe has a story, who made it first, who made it best, and the time it turned disastrous. For me, the stories behind the food complete the meal; it wouldn’t be the holiday with out them.
I have now been a guest at several of these pre-Thanksgiving meals and each one has been an evening of abundance both in friendship and food. There is no traditional Friends-giving, each is a clean slate. The stories were not yet written. A potluck style meal gives everyone an opportunity to try favorite recipes from traditions outside their own experience. It also serves as a venue for new ideas, recipes pulled from magazine pages, that, lacking a place in the family lexicon, might be less welcome on the family table. Many contributions have used familiar ingredients combined in new-to-me ways.
Of course, I am always on the lookout for new recipe ideas and potlucks can be a tremendous resource. At friends-giving a few years ago I had chance to sample a fantastic sweet potato casserole. Rather than sticky chunks of marshmallow topped sweet potato (something I have never understood), the potatoes were mashed smooth, lightly sweetened with brown sugar, cinnamon, and spices, then topped with a brown sugar-pecan crumble topping. It was a revelation.
The following week I discovered the maker of the sweet potato casserole and I were mutual admirers. Before I could send out an email asking for her recipe, she reached out for the recipe to make the caramel apple salad I brought to dinner. We quickly exchanged recipes and were forever bonded by our exuberance.
I made her recipe the following year for another holiday potluck adding my own twist of a few cranberries between the sweet potatoes and the nutty pecan crumble topping. It turned out wonderful! I even wound up passing the recipe forward in the week following that meal.
As much as I like the casserole, it is a little bit cumbersome to prepare. Before preparing the casserole the sweet potatoes need to be peeled, chopped, steamed and mashed. Not a huge deal but it added considerable time and additional pots and pans to the project. I also wanted the sweet potatoes to turn out a touch less starchy and even smoother than I was getting them with my masher. And, the linear side of my brain found it more than a little perplexing to have a crumble-topped casserole on the dinner table.
I realized, after a bit of thought, the thing to make this dish sing, would be to replace the sweet potatoes with pumpkin, punch up the seasoning, and give this side dish a home on the dessert table. So, that is exactly what I did. Now instead of a casserole, I have a crustless pumpkin pie with pecan crumble ready to present at the next friends-giving. I may even be bold and share this new recipe at my family’s holiday celebration. After all, I have never been one to shy away from stirring a pot.
- 4 cups pumpkin, canned, without salt
- ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp cinnamon, ground
- ¾ tsp nutmeg, ground
- ½ cup milk, 1%
- ¼ cup flour, white*
- ¼ tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tbsp butter, unsalted - cut into small cubes
- ½ cup, pecan halves, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- In a medium bowl mix together: pumpkin, ¼ cup brown sugar, eggs, ¾ tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, and milk. Once combined pour the mixture into a 1.5 qt casserole dish.
- In a second bowl: combine the flour and salt, add the butter and use a fork or your fingers to work the butter into the flour until it resembles lumpy coarse sand. Stir in pecans remaining ¼ cup brown sugar and ¼ tsp cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the pumpkin mixture.
- Bake for 60 minutes. The top will be dark golden brown and the pumpkin will still be loose when jiggled. Allow the casserole to cool completely before serving. The pumpkin will firm as it cools.