This recipe, credited to "Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the White House," appeared without much fanfare nearly 60 years ago in a cookbook of favorite family recipes printed at a U.S. naval base. The Associated Press food editor at the time gushed that "our tasters, finishing their last mouthfuls with blissful satisfaction, declared it the best of its kind."
The filling is light on the tongue, with pleasant and balanced spices. Although a regular pie crust works fine, we recommend a shortbread or gingersnap crust for this pie. You also could make this in a 9-inch square pan, then cut it into squares.
Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or a dollop of creme fraiche.
Make Ahead: The filling can be made and refrigerated a day in advance. It's best to assemble the pie an hour or two before it is served.
Servings: 8 - 12
- 3 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites (see NOTE)
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups canned pure pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 envelope (1 tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- One 9-inch baked pie shell (see headnote)
Bring an inch of water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the water is barely bubbling.
Beat the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl that fits into the saucepan to form a double boiler. Add the brown sugar, pumpkin, milk, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, stirring to thoroughly combine. Place the bowl over the hot water and cook until the mixture has thickened, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes.
Place the cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and allow to soak for 5 minutes. Add to the pumpkin mixture and stir to thoroughly incorporate. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to chill until the mixture is partially set: A spoonful of the mixture dropped onto a plate will just hold its shape.
To assemble the pie, beat the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer on low, then high speed until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat on high speed to form stiff peaks.
Fold the whites into the pumpkin mixture, combining them gently until there are no streaks of white. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and chill until set.
NOTE: Because the eggs remain raw, use pasteurized eggs if you have food-safety concerns.
Adapted from the "Mare Island Centennial Cook Book" (Vallego Times-Herald Commercial Printing, 1954).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
Email questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.