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Pumpkin pie sweetened with dates and maple syrup

Over the years I’ve had a few pumpkin pie mishaps, some of which I told my family about, and some of which (like the time, when leaving our apartment to head over to my parents house and balancing three pies on my arm while trying to lock the door, I dropped two pies face down on the ground, picked them up, and carried on to serve them at dinner), I didn’t.

One year I was mixing up filling for a number of pies in one go, and had my mixer, full to the brim, going as I was adding the spices to the bowl. I added ground ginger powder to the running mixer, turned to the spice rack to replace it, and saw the jar of ginger powder staring at me from the wall. In my hand? Mustard powder. Mustard powder already mixed into enough filling to make at least three pies. Upon hearing loud expletives from the kitchen, Paul came in and sampled the batter. We debated whether we should throw out all that filling; the fresh roasted pumpkin, the eggs, the milk, and start again from scratch; or serve the pies.

We served them.

pumpkin pie sweetened with dates and maple syrupPeople seem to be firmly entrenched in one of two camps when it comes to pumpkin pie. I’m with the lovers, hands down. As far as pies go, I think pumpkin pie, and in particular this version, can actually make for a pretty nutritious dessert. Pumpkin is rich in nutrients, including carotenes (a precursor to Vitamin A), Vitamin C, and dietary fiber. There is a good dose of protein from the milk and eggs. And, this version is sweetened only with pureed dates and a touch of maple syrup. Heck, if you skip the crust, I’d say this is even a reasonably nutritious breakfast. And what’s a better post-Thanksgiving breakfast than a nice slice of pumpkin pie eaten straight from the fridge?

Listen, I really struggled with whether or not to use a ginger cookie crumb crust, given that I’d taken great pains to come up with a naturally sweetened pumpkin pie filling. I suppose I could have figured out a recipe for naturally sweetened ginger cookies then crushed *those* up to make the crust. What can I say? I’m not perfect. I *did* skip the added sugar which appears in almost all cookie crumb crusts, because it seems silly to add sugar to a crust already made from cookies. This probably changes the texture of the crust ever so slightly, but oh well. If you want your whole pie to be naturally sweetened, go for a traditional pie crust. If you want to be gluten free, use gluten free ginger cookies, or forgo the crust altogether.

Whatever you do, if you’re a pumpkin pie person, you need this pie in your life.

Pumpkin pie sweetened with dates and maple syrup.

Naturally Sweetened Pumpkin Pie Recipe:

A word on the proportion of filling: I find that most pumpkin pie recipes fill a pretty shallow pie plate, but I prefer a nice deep dish pumpkin pie. To fill a standard pie plate use the recipe as is. If your is deep like mine, multiplying the recipe by 1.5 will do the trick just fine. Or, you can do like I did and *double* the recipe, which will give you more filling than will fit in your pie plate, but the excess cooks up beautifully in a few buttered ramekins.

Makes 1 pie

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For the crust:

200g ginger cookies, crushed into fine crumbs (about 1 3/4 cups of crumbs)
60g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

For the pie filling:

75g soft dates, chopped (approx 1/2 cup chopped dates)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup whole milk

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Preheat your oven to 350 F / 180 C.

Place the butter in the bottom of your pie plate and place it in the oven while it is heating up. When the butter is melted, remove the pie plate from the oven, add the cookie crumbs, and stir to combine well. Using your hands and / or the bottom of a glass, press the crumbs onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Place the pie crust into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool slightly.

In the bowl of a food processor pulse the dates and maple syrup together. It will seem like a chunky, sticky mess at first, but have faith. Add 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree to think it out a bit, then run the food processor until the mixture seems smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Add the rest of the pumpkin, and the spices and salt, and puree until smooth. With the motor running, add the eggs one at a time until each is well incorporated. Add the milk, and mix until it is thoroughly blended in (with a double batch, this was the point where the amount of filling I had exceeded the capacity of my food processor, so I switched to whisking it in in a larger bowl).

If you like, at this point you can pour the whole mixture through a sieve to deal with any chunky bits. My filling seemed pretty smooth, so I didn’t bother. Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust right up to the very top of the crust. If you have made a double batch and have excess filling, pour it into buttered ramekins (this was 2 deep ramekins for me).

Place the pie into the oven and bake for 40 – 45 minutes. The filling will be puffed up, and shouldn’t be jiggly when you give it a bit of a shake. Remove your pie from the oven and cool for about an hour, then place it in the fridge to cool for a few more hours, up to over night (I always think pumpkin pie tastes better the next day). Enjoy!

I make a policy of not talking up the nutritional attributes of a dessert because I think that naturally sweetened, whole wheat, or whatever, desserts are still desserts. I’ve already spoken in the body of this post about some of the nutritional aspects of this naturally sweetened pumpkin pie, so I’m going to leave it at that. Enjoy your pie, enjoy the leftovers for breakfast, and remember to moderate.

Do ahead: This pie can be made in advance and can be kept in the refrigerator, covered, for 3-5 days. It will last much longer in the freezer, wrapped well in plastic wrap.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2012

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