The frost isn’t quite on the pumpkin here in the piedmont of North Carolina but I’ve certainly felt its breath whispering across my nape lately. Early mornings aren’t yet brisk, but they’ve sent me in search of a pair of socks to warm against my kitchen floor’s chill. Autumn’s brilliance shows up in varying degrees depending on the type of tree I’m contemplating. Inducing one reverie after another, careening flocks of migrating birds distract me from a pale daily routine, taking me with them in my imagination. The pace of my days has changed from a flamenco staccato to a slow and soulfully stroked 12-string guitar’s cadence. Time moves along just as it should and beautifully at that.
Unlike other seasons, autumn lends itself especially well to dwelling on what passes us by. This week I talked with a young mother and was delighted to learn that her children would attend their grammar school’s Halloween Carnival later this month. I immediately recalled the smell of my own childhood’s sweaty gymnasium carnival where the locker room had been decorated to pose as a Haunted House (I still jump out of my skin when anyone jumps at me from around a corner). Someone’s mother dressed as a fortune teller and mused to us in an oddly convincing mix of a southern drawl and a bad composite of southern European accents as she peered into each child’s palm, predicting the great lives we would lead. Children raced around that gym fueled by overdoses of sugar and their wildly vivid imaginations. It was All Hallow’s Eve! How fun that this mother’s children would get to enjoy the same experience I so fondly remembered from my own childhood! But my trip down memory lane came to an abrupt halt when she told me that bobbing for apples was no longer allowed due to health concerns. Oh, my. I understand worries over communicable diseases as well as the next parent, but the death of the apple barrel has hit me surprisingly hard.
I’ll let the bandwagon of dissent roll right past me without leaving my footprints in its bed. I’ll spare you the spiel I feel brewing over the apple barrel’s demise, of all those things we’ll miss when we’ve allowed, moreover, asked them to leave us. How much further will we isolate ourselves until we realize our bubbles are so heavy they can’t catch a breeze?
autumn flannel -
of my father’s shirt
Here’s to timely, nostalgic comfort food!
For Crust: (best to work with very cold ingredients!)
1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
½ c. (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter
½ c. powdered confectioner’s sugar
3 tbsp. whipping cream
¾ c. granulated sugar
¼ tsp (generous) salt
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar
16 oz. pumpkin
1 tbsp. cornstarch
¾ c. whipping cream
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ c. sour cream
¾ tsp. ground ginger
3 large eggs, beaten
¼ c. apricot preserves
For Crust: Preheat oven to 350. Blend flour and powdered sugar. Add cold butter which has been cut into small pieces and working quickly so your hands will not melt the small pieces of butter. Blend with pastry cutter or food processor until flour mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cold whipping cream until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 15-30 minutes. Roll dough on floured surface to 14-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch pie plate. Trim overhang to 1 inch and fold overhang under. Make cut in edge of crust at ½-inch intervals, bending alternate edge pieces inward. Freeze for 15 minutes. Line crust with foil, pressing firmly. Bake until sides are set, about 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake until pale brown, about 10 minutes more. Remove pie from oven and reduce temperature to 325.
Spread preserves over crust.
For Filling: Using a whisk, mix sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and salt until no lumps remain. Add pumpkin, whipping cream, sour cream and eggs. Pour filling on top of preserves. Bake until filling puffs at edges and center is almost set, about 55 minutes. Cool on wire rack; cover and chill.