Kabocha Crème Fraîche Pie with Candied Pecans

Source: Ze Lin Xiao, Pie Contest Winner

Recipe Type: | Seasons:

This pie won first prize in CUESA’s Pie Contest on October 25, 2015.


All-Butter Pie Crust (makes 1 pie crust shell)
1 ⅛ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, popped in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes as you assemble the rest of ingredients
2 ½ to 3 tablespoons ice water

Candied Pecan Topping
Adapted from Sunset Magazine
4 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoon dark corn syrup
2 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Kabocha Squash Filling
Adapted from Sunset Magazine
1 medium kabocha squash (2 pounds)
20 hard (1.5-inch) gingersnap cookies
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ heaping cup of granulated sugar
½ heaping cup of light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 ½ cup cups creme fraiche
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 large eggs, at room temperature


To make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl.

Remove the stick of butter from the freezer. Cube the butter and quickly drop into the flour mixture.

With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until they resemble frozen peas (bigger is OK). A tablespoon at a time, combine cold water into the flour mixture with the pastry cutter. Bring the loose grains of flour from the bottom of the bowl over to the top and repeat with the next tablespoon of water. For the last tablespoon, combine it ½ tablespoon at a time. If the flour mixture begins to lump in the pastry cutter, you are done. If not, add the final ½ tablespoon of water until it does.

With your hands, combine the dough very quickly into a mound in the bowl. Turn the  mound onto a well-floured surface and shape the dough into a disk. With the heel of your palm, push the dough down 5 or 6 times. You should see pockets of butter. Gather the mixture back together into a flattened disk and wrap with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate crust for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out pie dough onto a 9-inch deep-dish ceramic pie pan. Cover the dough in foil and apply pie weights. Blind bake the dough for 30 minutes.

Remove the pie weights and foil from the pan and lower the temperature of the oven to 375°F. Bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool before adding the filing.

To make the topping: In a small bowl, combine together topping ingredients except pecans until smooth. Stir in pecans.

In a  375° degree oven, bake for 15 minutes. Let cool and then crumble the pecan mixture into individual candied pecans. Set aside.

To make the filling: Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out seeds with a large spoon. Set squash cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until very soft when pierced, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool.

Meanwhile, finely grind gingersnaps in a food processor. Add melted butter and a pinch of salt and pulse until evenly moistened. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Scoop flesh of squash into food processor or Vitamix and puree until very smooth. Measure 1 ½ cups squash; save the rest for soup or another use.

Firmly and evenly press gingersnap mixture over bottom of pastry. Chill while you prepare the squash filling.

In a small bowl, rub sugar and cornstarch with your fingers until no lumps remain. Add to food processor or Vitamix the 1 ½ cup squash, the creme fraiche, vanilla, ½ tsp. salt, the nutmeg, and eggs. Whirl until well combined, scraping inside of bowl. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Wrap pie rim with 4 strips of foil or with a pie shield.

Bake pie for 35 minutes in a ceramic pie dish; remove foil. Continue baking until center jiggles only slightly when shaken, 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Top the pie with the candied pecans and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the filling is set. Let the pie cool on a rack for at least 3 to 4 hours. Flavors develop overnight in the fridge. Perfect for serving the next day if made in advance.

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