No-Bake Pumpkin Pie with Brown Butter Graham Cracker Crust

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and though I like turkey and stuffing, it’s pumpkin pie I crave. The classic baked burnt-orange pumpkin pie isn’t what I grew up eating. No, the pie I crave is a modestly spiced, creamy, no-bake, marshmallow pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust. My mom made this every year and I always loved it but for some reason hadn’t made it myself. I decided to give it a try (with my own spin of course!) and was not disappointed.

No-bake pumpkin pie recipes are prolific on the internet and for good reason. First off, because they aren’t baked, there isn’t any worry about unseemly cracks on the top of the pie. Another plus? The no-bake version leaves my oven free to use for other Thanksgiving dishes.

The original version uses a premade graham cracker crust and Cool Whip. I wanted to up the flavor in the crust by making a homemade version with brown butter. For the pumpkin filling, I replaced the Cool Whip with freshly whipped cream. These simply changes amped up the flavor without over complicating an easy-as-can-be pie. 

There are a few tips to note regarding this pie: be sure to chill for at least four hours or overnight before serving. You’ll be able to tell that the pie is set by pressing on the center. It should be firm to the touch. Another tip for this pie is to make sure to choose the right size pie plate. The crust recipe makes enough for a 9-inch pie with 1-inch sides. A taller sided or larger pie pan will need extra crust and filling. I would 1.5x the recipe for a different sized pie.

The end result is a perfectly creamy pumpkin pie to remember for years to come.

What is Brown Butter?

Brown butter is when the butter solids are browned, usually in a saucepan over low heat.(surprising, I know! It imparts a nutty flavor that compliments the warm spices in the pumpkin filling.

Tips for Making a Graham Cracker Crust

I’ve made my share of crumbly graham cracker crusts and have learned a thing or two along the way. The main mistake is to not add enough butter. It should pack like wet sand and not be crumbly when pressing into the pan. Thankfully it’s an easy fix. Just add more butter! The other tip is to spray the pie tin to help the crust not stick. Lastly, I like to bake my graham crusts, though you don’t have to, I like how it ensues a firm crust and helps fend off moisture.

I used these adorable dish covers throughout the whole process (thanks Halo!) 

No-Bake Pumpkin Pie

Graham Crust:

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 190g Graham cracker crumbs (12 sheets)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Pumpkin Filling

  • 1 cup (244g) pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch cloves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 ounces marshmallows
  • 1½ cup (4 ounces) heavy whipping cream, divided

Whipped Cream Topping

  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Brown butter: Melt butter in a small saucepan set on medium heat and stir often. Once melted, simmer the butter until the butter solids are brown on the bottom of the pan. The butter foams and then the butter solids will brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small glass measuring cup to cool.

Crust directions: Heat oven to 350℉. Break graham crackers into the bowl of the food processor and process until fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Add sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Drizzle most of the brown butter into the food processor while it’s running and thoroughly mix. Stop the processor and use a flexible spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and then squeeze the mixture and see if it holds together. If not, then add another tablespoon or two of the brown butter and pulse again. The graham mixture should look like wet sand.

Spray a 9 inch pie tin with cooking spray. Remove the blade from the food processor and take handfuls of graham mixture and press it into the pie pan. I find it helpful to start with the sides and work my way around the pan and then finish with the bottom. Press using steady, gentle pressure until the pan is covered evenly. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until it is golden brown throughout and firm to the touch. Let cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

Pumpkin filling directions: In a medium saucepan, whisk the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Add marshmallows and cook, stirring often, on low until the marshmallows are melted. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, use a hand mixer to whip ½ cup heavy cream to stiff peaks, about one minute.

Assemble pie: Fold whipped cream into cooled pumpkin mixture. Fold until the mixture is homogeneous. Scrape filling into the cooled graham crust and spread evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours. Press the center of the pie to make sure it is firm to the touch before removing from the refrigerator and serving. 


Finish and serve: Use a hand mixer and whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla extract to stiff peaks.

Cut pie into 8 slices. For the cleanest cuts, cut while the pie is cold and wipe off knife in-between each cut. Serve pie either at room temperature or chilled alongside a spoonful of whipped cream. Leftovers will keep for 3 days if well-wrapped and stored in the refrigerator.

Mini Apple Pie(s)

How is it November already? Last I checked it was June and I was making mini cakes for two sweet little boys. Now it’s November and I’m making mini pies for Thanksgiving. Maybe I should change the title of this blog to Mini Baking with Rachel!

Yet, here we are, still at home and trying to make sense of a family holiday that requires social distancing. Hence the mini pies.

Are you spending Thanksgiving by yourself or know someone that is? Bake mini pies and take one to a loved one. Little acts of kindness go a long way during these trying times. By making four mini pies, you will have plenty for everyone!

If you are wondering what apples to use for pie, have no fear! I wrote a guide for Simply Recipes to help you decide. I prefer Honeycrisp or Pink Lady, but feel free to use whatever apples you have on hand. Ideally, you are looking for apples that hold their shape when baked and have a balanced flavor.

The apple pies can be wrapped and frozen unbaked or baked. Your choice! If unbaked, add 7 minutes to the baking time. If baked, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and warm in the oven at 350℉ for 10 minutes, until crisp and warmed all the way through.

Store baked pies at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for 4 days. Serve warm apple pie with a scoop of ice cream for a classic combination.

Directions:

Yield: 4 mini 5 inch double crust apple pies

Active time: 30 minutes

Chilling time: 2 hours & 20 minutes

Bake time: 25-30 minutes

Double All-Butter Pie Crust:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt (1 ¾  if using Morton)
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks butter), cold and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • ½ cup cold water

Apple Filling:

  • 4 tart medium apples, such as Honeycrisp or Pink Lady
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

To Finish:

  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Sparkling sugar or raw sugar

Supplies:

Directions:

Add flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough blade. Add cubed butter and pulse 5-8 times, until butter is the size of small peas. Drizzle in water and cider vinegar and pulse for a few seconds until the mixture starts to clump around the sides of the bowl. Dump onto a floured counter and knead for a few times to shape into a ball. The ball should be firm with butter visible. Divide dough into two equal pieces. Shape into balls and saran wrap. Press slightly to form disks and put in the refrigerator. It is usable after two hours. If frozen, pull and put in the refrigerator the night before making pie.

Peel, core, and slice apples. Cut the slices in half for shorter pieces. Put all the apples in a large bowl. Gently mix in sugar, flour, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon and cloves.

Take 1 pie dough disk out of the fridge and cut into 4 equal pieces. Sprinkle the counter with flour. Roll out one piece of dough into a 7 inch circle. Flour the dough and rolling pin as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Place the dough into one of the pie pans and press gently to form the dough to the bottom of the pan and allowing the excess to drape over the edge. Repeat with remaining 3 pieces of dough.

Heap equal amounts of filling into each pie, creating a slight dome shape.

Take the remaining disk out of the refrigerator. Flour the counter again and divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll one piece at a time into a 7 inch circle. Choose your own adventure for the top crust! It’s important to work quickly so that the dough stays cold. Feel free to keep the other pieces of dough in the refrigerator if you need more time to allow your creative, perfectionist self shine.

  • To make the lattice top crust, cut the circle into equal strips about ¼ inch thick. Place the center strip horizontally in the middle of the pie. Space the next strips to the left and right of the middle strip  ½ an inch apart. Continue adding horizontal strips until you reach the end of the crust (usually 5 strips total). Weave the remaining strips laterally, alternating to create a basket weave.
  • Alternately, use a small cookie cutter or donut hole cutter to cut circles out of the rolled out top crust. Shingle the circles around the top of the pie.
  • For a third option, place the rolled out dough on top of the apple filling and cut steam slits in the top.

Once the top crust is on the pie, use scissors to trim the excess dough to 1 inch overhang. Roll the excess up onto itself so that the dough is at the edge of the pan. Flute or crimp edges to secure the top crust to the bottom crust.

Refrigerate pies for 20 minutes, or until the dough is cold. Heat the oven to 375℉. In a small bowl, use a fork to mix the egg yolk and cream. Use a pastry brush to brush on to the top crust. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar or raw sugar, if desired.

Place pies on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes . Check at 15 minutes and rotate pan for even browning. The pies are done when the crust is deeply golden brown and the filling is slightly bubbling.

Serve warm or at room temperature for best flavor.

Tips for Baking with Kids

It’s the holiday season and the good vibes are flowing. Family time is supposed to be magical, especially baking in the kitchen together. I really want this to be true, don’t you? Yet, often the magical memory- making feels lost under frustration and extra spills to clean up.

How can we make this fun for them and us? Well, I have some tricks for you that I’ve picked up while teaching a kids class called Little Chefs.

The key to success? Planning ahead:

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Allow for extra time.

The extra “helping” hands are not the fastest way to bake, so pick a time to bake together when both you and your child have time to spare. Another option is to break the project into multiple days. Such as making the dough one day and baking and decorating another day.

Be choosy with the recipe.

Pick a familiar recipe. Your attention is on helping your child so it’s not a good time to try something new. Also, pick a recipe that both you and your child enjoy eating. Looking forward to the finished product is half the fun and can work as good motivation.

Do the prep work.

Get all the ingredients out and organized. Read through the recipe and have each ingredient matched up with the measuring spoon needed. Get bowls, whisks and spatulas, and any other tools out and ready to use.

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Enjoy the process.

Like most aspects of parenthood, baking with kids is a balancing act of letting go of perfection. Yes, the cookies may not be perfect and the floor will have more flour on it than when you started, but that wasn’t the point anyway. The more I cook with my kids, the more I enjoy it for what it is: time spent together.