Maple and Pumpkin Custard; get the recipe, below. (Deb Lindsey /For The Washington Post)

Even the most traditionalist fan of Thanksgiving can see that pumpkin pie has a problem. It is neither its overexposed blend of spices nor its reliance on whipped cream to hide cracks and help the spoonfuls go down.

It is that soggy bottom crust, which is often underdone to boot. A blind-baked or chocolate-coated crust is hardly a sure hedge against a heavy and wet filling.

Luckily, we're in stress-free mode this season — right down to our holiday desserts. Ditch the crust here, and you have . . . pumpkin custard. Whisk its ingredients together in the same pan you bake it in, and the preparation gets easy. Serve it straight from that same pan, and you're golden.

This recipe solves several pumpkin pie issues, in fact. Its spices are subtle. Its custard is buttermilk-tangy and lighter in texture than your standard pumpkin filling. And this is also equipped to keep crust lovers from picketing your table, thanks to its quick crumble topping.

If pumpkin's not your go-to orange pie filling, know that this one-pan method works with canned butternut squash or sweet potato puree as well — and don't forget to top it with a dollop of whipped cream.


Maple and Pumpkin Custard

12 servings

Serve with lightly sweetened cinnamon whipped cream.

This is best served warm, about an hour out of the oven.

Adapted from "Cast Iron Gourmet: 77 Amazing Recipes With Less Fuss and Fewer Dishes," by Megan Keno (Page Street Publishing, 2017).


6 large eggs

Two 15-ounce cans pumpkin puree (may substitute sweet potato puree or butternut squash puree)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 cups buttermilk (regular or low-fat)

1½ cups packed light brown sugar

½ cup pure maple syrup (see headnote)

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch kosher salt

½ cup flour (all-purpose or a gluten-free blend)

2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar

4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits

½ to ¾ cup chopped pecans

Handful fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the eggs in a large (12-inch), well-seasoned cast-iron skillet until well beaten, then whisk in the puree, until well blended.

Gradually whisk in the heavy whipping cream and buttermilk, until well blended.

Whisk in the brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt, whisking to form a smooth liquid. Scrape/wipe down the sides of the skillet to make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Bake (middle rack) for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, sugar, butter and pecans (to taste) in a medium bowl, then use your fingers to incorporate and form a crumble topping. Cover and refrigerate until the custard is ready.

Transfer the custard to the stove top (off the heat); it will not be quite cooked through. Scatter the crumble mixture and a few cranberries over the top, if using. Return the skillet to the oven; bake (top rack) for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a knife inserted into the center of the custard comes out mostly clean.

Serve warm.

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