If you’re on pumpkin pie duty this Thanksgiving, then serving a sweet and velvety dessert is a surefire goal. While you may have already perfected the taste of your go-to pie, nailing that smooth finish on top of the filling will make it extra wow-worthy. Trouble is, even when you’ve followed the recipe to a T, it can seem impossible to prevent the surface from splitting. Luckily, a few simple baker’s tricks is all it takes to avoid just that. So keep reading to learn how to keep a pumpkin pie from cracking to impress your crowd and give your gathering a truly sweet finale!
What causes a pumpkin pie to crack
Pumpkin pie filling typically consists of canned pumpkin, spices, eggs, dairy like evaporated milk and sugar. These ingredients infuse the dessert with the right blend of earthy, spiced and sugary flavors that make you crave another slice. They also affect the pie’s texture and appearance during baking, which is why it ends up either smooth and creamy or cracked and rubbery. Pumpkin pie often cracks when the eggs in the filling are overcooked. This happens when they’re heated too long and tighten up within the mixture — causing splits to form on the surface.
How to keep a pumpkin pie from cracking
The key to stopping those cracks in pumpkin pie is baking it until it’s just done and nicely set — any longer and the surface will split. While inserting a toothpick into the center is a common way to check doneness, taking the filling’s internal temperature after the minimum bake time offers more precision. What to look for on your thermometer? You’ll want to see an internal temperature of at least 160°F, which indicates the eggs have cooked.
Additionally, the center’s appearance is an indication of whether it’s done or not. “I think as soon as the center of the pie starts to puff up, the eggs are cooked — and the pie is done,” says Colleen Worthington, owner of Kneaders Bakery and Cafe. These tips will go a long way to preventing a cracked pumpkin pie. So, they’re great to use with a few more steps to create a smooth, velvety pie this turkey day.
3 more tips for making a tasty pumpkin pie
Nailing a mouthwatering pumpkin pie starts before it hits the oven. Below, Worthing along with Jessica Randhawa, recipe creator behind The Forked Spoon, share their tips for preparing a homemade pie without hassle.
1. Use this canned pumpkin brand for consistent results.
When making pie, Worthing prefers using Libby’s 100% Pure Canned Pumpkin (Buy from Walmart, $2.62) as it bakes well and only contains pumpkin. Bonus: She also reveals that older canned pumpkin creates a tastier pie compared to freshly canned varieties since it’s had more time to mature. “The color is better and it cooks more consistently,” Worthing adds. So if your can or two of Libby’s from last Thanksgiving hasn’t expired yet, use it for this year’s pie!
2. Don’t overmix the filling.
As with any baked good, it’s best to whisk pumpkin pie filling until the ingredients just come together. Otherwise, excess amounts of air will enter the mixture. “Too much air incorporated into the eggs can cause the pie to puff up and crack as it cools,” Randhawa explains.
3. Allow the pie to cool slowly.
Taking the baked pie out the oven right away is another culprit of cracking. Instead, Randhawa suggests letting the pie cool gradually in the oven with the door ajar for about 1 hour after baking. “This slow cooling process prevents sudden temperature changes that can lead to cracking,” she says. Sticking a clean, folded tea towel or wooden spoon between the oven door and cavity helps it stay propped as the pie cools. Afterwards, transfer the slightly warm pie to a cooling rack before serving.
A delicious pumpkin pie recipe
You now have all the tips you need to whip up a tasty, uncracked pumpkin pie. So try this Pumpkin Pie Tart recipe as it features all of the classic sweet flavors of the dessert in an easy-to-serve tart shell. (This tasty sour cream pumpkin pie is also a worthy option for your Thanksgiving dessert spread!)
Pumpkin Pie Tart
- Pie dough for single crust
- 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- ⅔ cup + ¼ cup honey
- 2 eggs
- ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Whole pecans, currants and fresh mint sprig (optional)
- Active: 40 mins
- Total time: 4 hrs
- Yield: 12 servings
- Heat oven to 350°F. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough into 12″ round; fit into 9″ tart pan with removable bottom. Fold overhanging dough under; f lute edge. Prick bottom with fork. Chill 30 minutes. Line dough with foil; fill with dried beans, rice or pie weights. Bake until edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Bake until just starting to brown around edge, about 10 minutes. Let cool on rack.
- In bowl, whisk pumpkin, evaporated milk, ⅔ cup honey, eggs, cinnamon and nutmeg; pour into crust. Bake until center is just set, 40 to 45 minutes. Slightly crack open oven door and let pie sit about 1 hour. Then, place tart on cooling rack.
- Just before serving, prepare whipped cream: In chilled bowl with chilled beaters, on medium speed, beat cream and vanilla extract until cream starts to thicken. Add remaining ¼ cup honey. On medium-high speed, beat until soft peaks form. Spread over tart. If desired, garnish with pecans, currants and mint. Serve immediately. Cover and chill any leftover tart; let come to room temperature before serving.
- Note: Leftover pumpkin pie should be stored covered in the fridge and eaten within 3 to 4 days.
For more seasonal dessert recipes, check out these stories below:
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