Apple Almond Cornmeal Bread

It was more than a week since I had strained my back this Thanksgiving. I hadn’t even entered the kitchen let alone cook anything decent. Thanks to caring friends, we had hot home cooked meals served for lunch and dinner right at our table all throughout. Personally, that was a thing of true Thanksgiving for me, to have had timely help.

I couldn’t wait to heal. Just when I was feeling a lot better to do things by myself, all of a sudden this intense urge to bake something nice took over me by surprise. I wasn’t going to rationalize. I gave in. Baking made me feel normal once again as if nothing had happened in the first place. It was liberating. Sounds weird but true.

I had all the right ingredients – an unopened box of cornmeal, few organic apples, a brand new bottle of molasses and some unfinished applesauce. And quickly when I tinkered with my i-phone apps, I fished out a recipe that I felt confident enough to tweak on my own terms. The result was 200 miles opposite of disappointing.

Chocolate lovers, don’t be surprised. The seductive dark chocolate color is the work of a slow and sensuous molasses. Baking with molasses was a first for me and I was thrilled with the color and the mellow sweetness that sugar just does not offer otherwise.

I was happy the cornmeal experiment did not go awry. This fruit bread was soft, supple, fluffy enough without a trace of egg in it.

Operation success. Patient Happy.


recipe reference – Vegan Apple Almond gingerbread from Whole Foods Recipes

Printable Recipe

Things you’ll need:

1/4 cup almonds, coarsely crushed
2 tbsp slivered almonds, for topping
4-5 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp cane sugar or raw sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup stone ground cornmeal
1 tsp aluminium free baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup (4 oz) all natural unsweetened applesauce
1 cup or 1 Fuji or Gala apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped


two 5 inch loaf pans or one 8 inch loaf pan
lining tray
silicon spatula
wire rack

How it’s done:

Grease two 5 inch mini loaf pans or one 8 inch loaf pan with oil or butter.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Put slivered almonds in the bottom of pan and then rotate pan to distribute them around the bottom and sides so they’ll stick to the greased pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, ground cinnamon, salt and crushed almonds with a whisk.

Microwave the butter for 10-20 secs and not more to just soften slightly.

Whisk together butter and sugar until creamy in another mixing bowl. Now, whisk together the remaining wet ingredients – buttermilk, molasses, applesauce and vanilla extract.

Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients bowl and fold in chopped apples gently until just combined. Do not over mix. Spoon batter into the pan(s) using a silicon spatula for near zero batter wastage. If using two 5 inch pans, place them at least 2 inches apart for uniform hot air circulation.

Bake until cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes for 5 inch pan and 45-50 minutes for 8 inch pan. Do not over bake.

Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes and then invert onto a plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


When buying molasses, make sure it has unsulphured molasses as the only ingredient. I have used Grandma’s brand all natural molasses.

Add an additional tbsp of sugar if need be. The cake was mildly sweet which is how I prefer mine.

Skip the APF altogether and use whole wheat flour if you feel awkward about APF. You might have to up the buttermilk or applesauce by 1 or 2 tbsp if so.

You could consider swapping baking soda and baking powder quantities as I felt that the loaf was a bit crumbly.

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Just Home Made turns One! Celebrating with Raspberry Pear Tart and a Giveaway

**This GIVEAWAY is now closed (29th Sep 2011 midnight). Winner will be announced in my next post**

Can you believe it is a whole year already? You won’t believe me if I say I had almost forgotten about the milestone, almost. Luckily, my amnesia broke its spell before the month passed! I really didn’t know where or how to begin, it took me a better part of the day to get over my writer’s block. So here’s my inadequate attempt:
A food blog that I started on a lazy afternoon as a way to keep my sanity in check (letting go of an almost decade long career to care for your firstborn baby is natural right?) means so much more to me now. If there is something that I think of non-stop (other than my little girl and my husband or my family) and even just before I fall asleep, it is none other than this blog. Sometimes or most of the times my eyes and my mind are filled to the brim with dreams for this blog that I just can’t fall asleep!
Just Home Made has consumed the creative better of me and keeps my soul alive..
From an inconsequential beginning with my first post, from the first few hither-tither comments on the blog or the first few extra hits, subscribers, Twitter follows and Facebook likes, from knowing that somebody’s ‘search results’ landed them on my page to getting to know so many of you lovely bloggers – sweet, helpful and kind, to meet Helene in person at her photography workshop it has been an amazing roller coaster ride with butterflies in my stomach when I check the site stats, heart beating faster on reading your comments, adrenaline rush when phone buzzes over a tweet mention or message, a contended smile on my face when blog photos get featured on various sites and everything in between I failed to express here..
And undoubtedly it is with your love and sweet words of appreciation that I have been able to see my humble blog take this beautiful journey. Blessed are my mornings when I wake up eyes still closed but hands busy scrambling for the phone eager as a two-year old waiting to unfold a chocolate wrapper, only to see your comments lined up in the inbox…
For all those beautiful moments of joy and whatever Just Home Made is today, I owe it to you from the bottom of my heart, Thank You!
Don’t underestimate the power of your words, they bring a million dollar smile to my face (ask my husband)! So anytime you are here, don’t forget to say hello or you dropped by, I’d love to hear from you!
There, I got it off my chest..
So, in my sheer excitement, I bring you in this post a GIVEAWAY and an elegant fruit tart while still trying to bid summer a grass-fire good-bye here in Texas.
Baking was completely alien to me all my life until I started blogging. Much like a bewitched window shopper on Rodeo drive, gaping (with almost mouth wide open!) at all the luscious desserts and baked goodies on food blogs luring with drop dead gorgeous photographs or mouth-watering recipes, sparked an inextinguishable fire in me to turn on the oven. From being a baking lay person who couldn’t make out a thing between why baking soda and why not baking powder to brave it all and try a hand at baking a pie and this tart from scratch, all brownie points must go to blogging!
Among all things baked, I must say that I am not just a wee bit but totally and completely partial to fruit desserts . So, little surprise to see this fruit tart making it for my blog’s birthday celebrations. My love for summer fruits like cherries, berries and stone fruits is timeless and I have left it to be no secret either on many of my posts earlier. Pears however come a close second and amongst the different pear varieties, I particularly enjoy snacking on Seckel and Red Anjou pears. When I was on the lookout for a good fruit dessert, I realized that Pears were a neglected lot in comparison to the lion’s share of baking limelight berries and stone fruits devour. And that’s quite the reason I chose a shy and silent but full of character Pear and paired it with the beautifully ruby pink and sublimely flavorful raspberries, just for the fun of walking the less trodden path or so I think!
The original recipe called for Macadamia nuts and a 11 inch fluted pan. I had bought a 10 inch pan with great enthusiasm, so I stuck to it even though the recipe quantity is more for the size of the pan. Just pat an extra cookie or two with extra flour mix like I did.

Verdict? The tart was delicious with a mild raspberry and pear flavor burst in between. But I also see why these are a rare sight compared to the stone fruits. Unless I knew Pear was in there, I am left with just an indistinct sweet juicy fruit flavor. Nonetheless, it made for a lovely fruit dessert for the first try.

(see giveaway rules below)
Now, let me come to the part that interests you most – the giveaway!
One of my friends and neighbor PG started out as a Tupperware Consultant recently. After attending her Tupperware party and a preview of some cool products, I got the perfect idea for the giveaway. I get to give some business to my friend and also give away something nice to you lovely readers as my token of appreciation for all the boundless love and support you have given me so far.
So, to celebrate this milestone, I am giving away a TUPPERWARE Best Seller – One Classic Sheer® Midgets® Set of 6 storage containers (2 oz)
If you are like me who loves to organize (rather organization obsessed!), then you will surely like to own these cute storage containers. Cute and utilitarian, they come in handy to store anything from spices in the kitchen to buttons, thumbtacks or tiny knickknacks around the house or to go in a lunch box.
*If you need more information on TUPPERWARE, go to
TUPPERWARE products are not sold in stores, only through consultants and online.

Giveaway Rules:
Giveaway is open to residents of USA. If you live outside of US, but can provide an US shipping address, you are eligible to participate too.
To Enter:
Leave a comment on this post telling me what you like or dislike about Just Home Made or what you would like to see here in future or any other suggestions for improvement.
For an extra chance to win:
  • Follow Just Home Made on twitter and tweet about this giveaway including my twitter handle and tell me you did or if you already do:
@justhomemade Just Home Made turns One! GIVEAWAY-Win a Tupperware – Classic Sheer® Midgets® Set of 6 storage containers
  • Like Just Home Made on Facebook and tell me you did or if you already do
  • Subscribe to Just Home Made via Email and tell me you did or if you already do
  • Link to this giveaway on Facebook, then leave a comment telling me and including a link to the post
 Hurry! Last date to enter this giveaway is 29th Sep 2011 11:59 CST 
One winner will be chosen based on a random draw. Will contact the winner for the shipping address once announced.

Raspberry Pear Tart with Hazelnut Crust Recipe

recipe adapted from
Yield: 16 servings
Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
For the Crust:
  • 1-2/3 cups half and half mix of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cane sugar
  • 2/3 cup or 10 ⅔ tbsp cold butter
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • ¼ tsp salt
For the Filling:
  • 4 small-medium pears (I’ve used Seckel pears)
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch (corn flour)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp lemon extract / lemon zest
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries (6 oz or ½ dry pint, more will also do)
For the Topping:
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup cold butter or 4 tbsp
  • 1/3 cup almonds
  • 10″ fluted Tart pan with removable bottom
  • Baking or lining tray
  • Cooling rack
 How it’s done:
Read the full recipe before starting.
To start with, roast hazelnuts and almonds. To roast the hazelnuts, microwave for about 2 minutes in 30 sec intervals until fragrant. When cooled, pulse it in a food processor or coffee grinder or mixer until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Pulse more and you will end up with hazelnut butter.
Roast almonds the same way. Chop into bits when cooled and keep aside.
Wash the pears, pat dry, peel, core and slice into thin rounds about 1/8th of an inch. Squeeze lemon juice over the pear slices (to keep them from browning), mix well and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425° F
In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar; cut in cold butter and either mix well with your fingers or process in a food processor (I did the former) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. If you see pea sized butter blobs here and there, it is fine. Stir in hazelnut meal.
Gently press this flour mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 10 inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom.
In a large bowl, combine the pears, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and lemon zest/extract. Add raspberries and toss gently. Carefully lay out the fruit mix on to crust filling empty spots with raspberries.
Bake at 425° for 25 minutes.
In the meanwhile, for the topping, in a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and lemon zest; cut in butter and mix until crumbly. Stir in chopped roasted almonds. Sprinkle over filling.
Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate leftovers.
Tastes best served warm by itself or served with honey yogurt or even an indulging rich vanilla ice cream with some raspberries on top.

  • Do not overly press the four mixture onto the tart pan or it will result in a hard tart crust instead of crumbly.
  • Instead of washing the raspberries as they become soggy, just wipe them with a soft wet cloth or tissue.
  • You can core the fruit even if you don’t have a corer. Insert a (vertical) peeler at the bottom end of the pear and rotate clockwise and anti-clockwise once each or until the core comes out. 
  • If you happen to make the flour mixture for the tart crust before slicing up the fruit, do not fret! “Carefully” place the tart pan (remember the pan bottom can move) on a baking tray and put it in the refrigerator until the filling is ready. Since the flour mix is dry and crumbly, tart crust can shatter easily at this point.
  • Be very careful when taking the baked tart out of the removable pan to place on the cooling rack or it might break.
  • Add a few drops of water to cane sugar if you do not have brown sugar
  • If you can’t find Hazelnuts, they can be safely substituted with almonds without much damage to the recipe or taste.
  • Microwave leftover slices for about 30 secs before serving.

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Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffin

Eggless Whole Wheat Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffin | Valentine’s Day Special

I normally don’t believe in Valentine’s Day.

Roses, Strawberries and Chocolate are not my kind of Valentine’s day either. Yeah, probably twelve years back may be. Both of us are over and done with that phase of romance now, I guess. Nonetheless ironically, it seemed like ‘not a bad idea’ as a theme on the blog for Feb the 14th.

Besides, I have been yearning to eat strawberries the whole winter (happens only when we can’t get them right!) and now, the timing seems to be right as the northern crop has already hit the supermarkets.

I love strawberries by their fruity selves, not dipped in chocolate or any other way, smoothie may be an exception though.  This time, I thought I could do with a little change. I sometimes wondered how strawberries tasted in a baked product as I’d not heard of as many recipes as there are for blueberries. But, I was somehow not in the mood for any cake (possibly due to an overdose of cakes on all blogs I’ve been hopping lately). Cupcakes sounded very cute but you must know I am not much of a fan of whipped cream, so pass. Muffins (though they seemed like twins) on the other hand turned out to be a pretty neat option.

Does the thought of muffin and cake puzzle you like it did for me? Are they same, are they not?
Here’s some food for thought on Cupcakes vs Muffins from “Cake Spy”
With that definition, I don’t know if I left my muffins be muffins or dragged them into the cupcake arena!
Even though it felt like too much of a big deal, my requirement for an eggless whole wheat muffin with strawberries and chocolate chips finally did meet a recipe. Frosting and I are not the best of friends but, I did make the best use of some leftover frosting to dress up my muffins for Valentine’s day.
But don’t let yourself be restricted to just these muffin decorating ideas. Valentine’s day is definitely a time to let your imagination take control of your creativity!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you! Here’s to a day filled with love and lovely home made muffins..

What better way than a home made ‘something special’ to show someone you love? What say, you?

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe

recipe adapted from Parita’s Kitchen

Makes about 12 small muffins
Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
For the muffins:
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp aluminium-free baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup cane sugar + 1/2 to 1 tbsp
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup non fat greek yogurt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup non fat milk (or milk of your choice)
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped hulled strawberries (about 5-6 large strawberries)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 100% natural Ghirardelli)
Other things:
  • Baking tray/sheet pan
  • muffin pans (two 6 muffin pans)
  • paper muffin cups
  • whisk
  • Ice cream / cookie dough scoop ~ optional
  • wire rack
For the chocolate frosting:
(makes about 2 cups of frosting)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup natural unsweetened Cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For Valentine’s day special decoration:
  • 2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
  • tea strainer
  • 3/4″ paper or cardboard heart cutout
  • ziploc bag for frosting decoration
How it’s done:

To bake the strawberry muffins:
  • Taste the strawberries first. If the strawberries are not that sweet, macerate the strawberries in a clean non-reactive bowl by sprinkling 1/2 to 1 tbsp of sugar and let sit for the fruit to soak in for at least 15 mins. Skip this step if you think the strawberries are sweet by themselves.
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  • Line the muffin sheet with paper cups or grease with oil or butter.
  • Mean while, in a mixing bowl, combine whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and whisk/sift for thorough mixing.
  • To bring butter to room temperature, either let sit on the counter for 15-30 mins or just microwave for 10-12 secs until just soft. In another bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until well combined and creamy. To this add the greek yogurt and 2/3 cup milk and whisk together. Finally whisk in the vanilla extract.
  • Now, add in the dry flour mix and whisk in slowly until it comes together. Add more milk as necessary a tbsp or two at a time as you go. Do not over mix. Fold in the chopped (macerated) strawberries and chocolate chips.
  • Scoop the dough into lined muffin cups only upto 3/4 th full to give enough room for the muffin to rise or else the dough will rise and spill out during baking . Place the muffin pans on a baking tray with at least 2-3 inches between them as well as with the inside of the oven for even hot air circulation. Bake for 25-30 mins or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check around 25 mins for done-ness check. Do not overbake.
  • Remove the baked muffins from the tin and let cool immediately on a wire rack.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature as is or decorated with confectioner’s sugar heart impressions or chocolate drizzlings for the valentine’s day! (continue reading for recipe and how to)
  • Do not open the oven door during the first 15 mins as it causes the rising muffin dough to collapse.
  • Do not forget or delay cooling the muffins on a wire rack right after pulling out of the oven. Otherwise, due to the retained heat, muffins start to sweat inside and end up soggy instead of fluffy.
How to make chocolate frosting:
recipe for Hersey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” chocolate Frosting from the back of Hershey’s Cocoa-Natural Unsweetened box
  • Melt butter in a saucepan until just soft or microwave for about 12-15 seconds. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered (confectioner’s) sugar and milk, beating to “spreading” consistency. If you take a dollop out of a spoon it should fall but not flow freely. Add small amount of additional milk (a tsp or so) if needed. Stir in vanilla extract. Do not overmix.
Note: The ingredients listed (are) from the original recipe make a huge quantity of chocolate frosting.
I had leftover chocolate frosting from the chocolate almond cake I baked a month back and used the same. If you do not wish to make so much of the frosting, just halve the frosting recipe and store the leftovers in a plastic bag or airtight container in the refrigerator. Does not spoil for 3-4 weeks.
For the Valentine’s Day special muffins:
To make the heart impressions:
Place the paper heart cut-out on the muffin at the centre. Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar through a dry tea strainer until the top surface is covered. Remove the heart cut-out with a fork.
For the muffins with chocolate frosting:
Fill a ziploc bag with chocolate frosting, twist it tight and zip shut. Snip the tip of the ziplock bag just a tiny bit. Holding the other end of the bag secure, press and drizzle the chocolate frosting in a zig zag manner.

Note on Substitutions:
  • Baking Flour – I have always used regular whole wheat flour for baking cakes and love the ‘healthy’ taste of it. However, if you are not up for it, whole wheat flour can be substituted with whole wheat pastry flour or all purpose flour or a combination of both. The amount of milk required reduces considerably in which case, just start with 1/4 cup milk and add a tbsp at a time as you go as needed. Here’s a useful link that explains the difference between different baking flours.
  • Yogurt makes this muffin fluffy and airy. Regular yogurt may be used in place of greek yogurt (which is thicker and contains more protein than regular yogurt). Reduce the amount of milk accordingly as mentioned in flour substitution.
  • Blueberries should also work perfectly in place of strawberries.
  • Chocolate chips can be substituted with dry fruits like raisins or chopped pitted dates.
  • Single use aluminium muffin pans work very well and last for much more than a couple of uses. If you are not a frequent baker, feel free to buy them (costs <$3 for a set of 3 pans) in place of a more expensive regular/non-stick muffin pan.

Sending this Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffin as my entry to these events:
The weekly Bake-Off event – Feb 18th Roundup hosted by Champa of Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen

Cooking with Fruit event hosted by Smita of Taste Buds

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Pumpkin Pie

Pecans topped Eggless Pumpkin Pie…from scratch

My baking experiments thus far have been ‘belated’ so to speak – Peach Cobbler long after summer, Roasted butternut squash way past fall and this Pumpkin pie – month after Thanksgiving or rather week after Christmas!
“Better late than never” sounds like a tiny consolation and so, it is finally time to give it its due as this post languished in the drafts folder while I happily vacationed in South Padre Island this Christmas. Well, my earnest efforts to get it out published before I left didn’t quite suffice.
Pumpkin Pie as I have come to learn, is a near-sacred dish on the table, especially on Thanksgiving. And for quite the same freakish reason, as a Thanksgiving hostess, I couldn’t dare think of it, for it was my maiden attempt with a pie – any sort of, for that matter.
Much later on this particularly bright sunny day, almost a month after the feast, I felt a sense of conviction to take up this audacious task. Contrary to that, I hit upon a serious number of consecutive [alt+f4]s on my browsing excursion of a million pumpkin pie recipes (hyperbolical of course!). Most recipes had egg in them, many started with a store-bought pie crust and/or canned pumpkin purée while a whole bunch of others employed egg substitutes that were absent in my pantry. Sometimes, doesn’t it feel like even a sea of recipes at your fingertips is just not enough? For, you are in search of  ‘the’ one elusive recipe that perfectly fits the bill and your idiosyncrasies, at that moment or for another day.

Just when I was fiddling with deliberation to call it quits, Anushruti’s Eggless Pumpkin Pie recipe on clicked like a flashbulb for, she baked it from scratch – just what I wanted! And, was I super glad to have stumbled upon such a fine use for a can of condensed milk waiting to be opened?

Or…You know, personally, when it comes to cooking and food, I don’t quite take offense if someone calls me a little conservative (read – a lot). While it may not hold true always, to the extent possible, I like to avoid canned goods and pre-processed items. Besides, I have a thing or two for doing stuff from scratch. Like I went through two days of intense labour devoid of pain killers ‘just’ to have a natural birth (not the best analogy, I know) – but that’s just me.
In hindsight, I might say, baking Pumpkin pie from scratch is quite laborious costing almost half my day. What makes it worth the while is, in spite of the endless list of my ‘shouldn’t haves’, the pie turned out silken solid, just the way it was meant to be. Boy, was it my ‘Martha moment’ at its first sight out of the oven or even as I jumped with joy after my first bite!
{pumpkin pie amidst fall colors}
To sum it up, through this pie-(ad)venture, I came a long way from my initial prejudice – from pie can be intimidating for, pie is what only seasoned bakers bake to anyone can bake, a pie!
Then, bottom line – Don’t bake this!
Wait a minute! I wasn’t done yet…
What I really meant is – Don’t take it up when you have too many things going on. P in Pie is definitely not for procrastination, it is a delicate product of all your attention.
A small note before you rush to the store: Don’t go hunting for those huge jack-o-lantern pumpkins. Leave them for carving on Halloween. Pumpkin pie calls for a much smaller ‘sugar’ pumpkin, the size of your spread palms held together. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are supposedly raised more for durability than for their taste.
On that tiny note,
Here’s to my last post of 2010 and wish you a fulfilling, joyous and tasteful New Year 2011!

Packing off this Eggless Pumpkin Pie as my entry to:
The weekly “Bake-Off” event hosted by Champa of Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen at
“Celebrating Regional Cuisine” (Nov 5th to Dec 31st) event hosted by Sujana of Sujana’s World at
Things you’ll need:
Though most of the ingredients remain the same, there are a few subtle differences from the original
recipe. And, since we th are nuts about nuts, I couldn’t resist sprinkling some chopped pecans on top.

For the pastry pie crust:
  • 1 cup 100% whole wheat flour
  • 5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes – frozen for 30 – 45 mins
  • 1/2 tsp natural sea salt
  • 1/3 cup (about 5 tbsp) ice-cold water
  • Additional whole wheat flour for dusting/rolling
For the pumpkin purée filling:
  • 2 cups pumpkin purée (from a small sugar pumpkin about 2-3 lbs)
  • 1 can (400 g) fat-free sweetened condensed milk (I used eagle brand)
  • 2 tbsp corn flour (corn starch)
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (jaai kai)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground dry ginger
  • 1/2 tsp natural sea salt
  • 1 tbsp non fat milk
  • 2 tbsp chopped pecans for topping
Other kitchen supplies:
  • 9″ pie pan (single use cake pans will do)
  • rolling-pin
  • plastic cling wrap
  • whisk
  • silicone spatula
  • measuring cup and spoons
How it’s done:
As a first timer, I had felt the need to understand the recipe at a high level first so I knew exactly what to do next (like a roadmap), before following the step by step instructions in detail. Here are the main steps for baking a pumpkin pie from scratch: (If you happen to know it well, please bear with me!)
  • step 1 – Prepare dough for the pie crust
  • step 2 – Oven-roast the pumpkin
  • step 3 – Pumpkin purée
  • step 4 – Pastry Pie crust
  • step 5 – Pumpkin Pie filling
  • step 6 – Prepare the pie
  • step 7 – Bake the Pie

{Above, Pumpkin Pie in the making}
Here’s a quick overview of the steps as a little strategy for time management for that perfect pumpkin pie:
As the dough for the pie crust needs to rest in the fridge for an hour, first prepare the dough for the pie crust and stash it in the fridge. While the dough rests in the fridge, put the pumpkin to oven-roast as it needs almost an hour too. When the pumpkin has roasted well, let it cool off for a bit and then purée the cooked pumpkin. While the pumpkin cools off, roll out the pie crust and stash it back in the fridge for a quick much-needed “pie-crust-siesta”. While the crust chills, prepare the pie filling combined with the pumpkin pie spices. When the pie filling is ready, it’s time to preheat the oven to 425ºF and bring out the pie crust from the fridge. Then, just pour the pie filling into the pie crust and bake for a gorgeous pumpkin pie!
And, now for the details:
step 1 – prepare dough for the pie crust
Whisk together whole wheat flour and salt to mix well in a large mixing bowl. Alternately, sift the flour and salt to aerate and mix uniformly.
If you have a food processor, add frozen butter cubes to the flour and pulse few times until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, with many solid butter lumps here and there. Alternatively, a handheld pastry mixer does the job well too. As I had neither, I simply mixed with my hand. Just be careful enough to not over mix, as the body heat from your hand will melt the butter. Need to keep the butter solids intact for a flaky crust as opposed to a hard one.

Adding a spoon of ice-cold water as you go, mix the flour until barely mixed or just holds together when cupped in your palm. I did not have cold water in my fridge, so I added some ice cubes to the regular water and used instead. Do not over handle or knead the dough. Gather the dough into a ball, firmly cover this dough in a sheet of plastic cling wrap and store in the fridge for 30 mins to an hour – longer the better.

step 2 – Oven-roast the pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350ºF

Wash the pumpkin. Using a chef’s knife, split it in half and remove the seeds and stringy fibre with a fork. Store the seeds aside for roasting at a later time or just discard. Then with a curved metal spoon, scoop out the remaining pith for a smooth inner surface.

To oven-roast, you can either choose to cut each half of the pumpkin further into four pieces or just let them be in two halves. In the first case, be very vigilant while baking as the pieces dry out when overdone.

Line a large baking tray with aluminium foil and place the pumpkin pieces face up or pumpkin halves face down and bake for about 45 mins or until fork tender. Many suggest lightly greasing the pumpkin pieces with a little oil, but I liked the idea of baking it by itself to preserve its natural taste and mild aroma.

step 3 – Pumpkin purée

Let the roasted pumpkin cool off a bit for handling and blending. Then, hold down one end with a fork and with a curved metal spoon, scoop out the orangey good pulp into a bowl.

Throw the pulp chunks into a blender and pulse pulp into a smooth purée. Don’t worry if the roasted pumpkin is a little dry. Just add a tbsp or two of water while blending.

step 4 – Pie crust
Pull out the pie dough chilling in the fridge. Dust the working space with enough flour for rolling and pat out the dough on it. Using a rolling-pin, roll from the center and outwards (always) into 12″ (diameter) circle. If the edges break, just stick them back with your fingers.
For a  uniform thickness, lift and move the rolled dough about a quarter turn as you roll. Do not press hard with your palm, instead work with your wrist to bring in the rotary movement.
To transfer the rolled pie crust onto the pie pan, dust off the extra flour, fold it in half and sliding your palms underneath, lift and gently place on the pie pan and then unfold over to the other side. Work with your fingers to give the crust a pan fit and tuck the overhanging dough onto itself making a decorative ruffle pattern for the pie crust border. Gently cover the pie crust with cling wrap and chill for about 30 mins or until pie filling is ready.
step 5 – Pie filling
Preheat the oven to 425ºF (so the oven is ready when the pie crust and filling are ready)
To the bowl with the pumpkin purée prepared earlier, pour in the condensed milk and add salt as well as all the spices listed under “for the pie filling”. Fresh spices make a whole world of difference in the taste and aroma of the pie, so use as fresh as possible. Stir corn flour well in 1 tbsp of milk until fully blended and add to the purée. Whisk all the ingredients together until smooth.
step 6 – Prepare the pie
Even though I sprinkled chopped pecans as-is for topping, in hindsight I wish I had them toasted beforehand. So, if you have chosen to add the pecan topping, toss the chopped pecans onto a microwave safe plate and microwave for about 2 mins in 30 sec intervals shuffling in-between or until slightly browned, aromatic and snap-cut when broken. Alternatively, you can even toast the pecans in the conventional oven at 350ºF for about 8 mins. I just found the microwave method convenient.
Now that the pie filling and pecans are ready, pull out the chilled pie crust from the fridge and pour pie filling into it. To not waste a single drop of this yummy purée, use a silicone spatula – it is more efficient than your own hands to get every drop of the purée out of the bowl. Finally, sprinkle toasted pecans on top.
step 7 – Bake the Pie
Place the pie pan on a large baking tray (to catch any spills) and bake the pie for the first 15 mins at 425ºF.
After 15 mins, cover the exposed pie with aluminium foil (to avoid a burnt crust) and bake for 45 mins at 350ºF or until a tooth pick inserted at 1″ from side of the pie crust comes out clean. Do not check in the center as a little jiggle in the center even after baking is supposed to be fine. It will set fine once the pie cools on the rack.
While baking, the pie filling might seem to puffingly rise a bit higher than the crust. Do not panic, it will settle down as it cools on the rack.
Let the baked pie cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature all by itself or with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Whipped cream is not my kind of ending to the pumpkin pie fairy tale.

Note – A few suggestions to make life easier:
Prepare the pumpkin purée and the pie dough the day before and store it in the refrigerator. That way, not everything is crowded on one day and also saves you precious time and racing heart on the busy festive day.
However, if you neither have the time nor the patience for a completely homemade pie, don’t smother yourself with guilt. To simplify drastically,
  • Use canned purée – if so, choose organic pumpkin purée. Farmer’s market is a brand I found frequently recommended on many food blogs. They vouch for the quality, color, taste and consistency of their canned pumpkin purée.
  • Use store-bought puffed pastry dough for the pie crust – my buck stops here.
If all else fails, I suggest you find the driving directions to a nearby Kroger/Costco!

Lessons from my maiden pie venture:
I goofed up on a few things and sat there with fingers crossed so my very first pie turns out perfect. Some lessons I learnt and not ashamed to share:
  • Read the recipe and re-read to understand if needed. In the few baking episodes that I successfully attempted as a novice baker, I was so habituated to baking at 350ºF that I assumed the same for this pie too. Almost at the end of 45 mins when I just happened to check the recipe, I realized it should have been 400ºF instead. I tried setting right by extending the bake time twice by another 15 mins and toyed with a couple of different temperatures too. This temperature experiment, I felt left the pie crust a little tougher, albeit not burnt.
So, either put it for first 15 mins at  425ºF and then 45 mins for 350ºF or just do 45 mins at 400ºF. For more details on the pie baking temperature, dig here.
I found this article particularly helpful as it cracks the various “Whys of the Pies” while offering fine tips for baking pumpkin pie:
  • I let the pumpkin wedges sit way too long in the oven instead of until fork-tender. As they turned out quite dry and I did not have any more pumpkins or canned pumpkin purée to fall back on, I quickly substituted with my toddler’s apple sauce (I know how that sounds, but I had to quickly salvage my maiden pie). Since I added 3 baby containers of pure applesauce, I added 1 tbsp cane sugar as well.
Do not cut into thin pieces as they dry out faster while roasting or just cut the pumpkin in half and roast in the oven cut face down. If you do not want to use the oven, microwave the pumpkin halves dunked in water.
  • Do not roll out the pie dough way too big. Just roll out 12″ in diameter and be precise, almost atleast. 9″ for the pie pan base and 3″ for the curves and sides. As I had bought a 10″ aluminium dish instead of 9″, my pie was less than 2″ deep after the pie filling – so, I had to tuck the dough in to level the pie crust with the filling.
  • Don’t forget to give the rolled pie crust some rest in the fridge before pouring in the pie filling. I took my own sweet time filling the pie, taking pictures for the blog and in all this, I forgot to stash the rolled pie crust to chill in the fridge.
  • To get the best pie crust, mix the dough with very little water as needed. Use ice-cold water and frozen butter. From what I’ve read, some even go to the extent of chilling the flour and salt too, in search of that perfect pie crust.
Kneading is a strict no-no. Do not thoroughly blend the butter into the flour. It is perfect if you can see bits and pieces of butter solids – for a flaky crust, not all the butter should melt. If you handle the butter a lot more, it will only end in a crumbly crust.