Pumpkin Pie

When making a pumpkin pie, the goal is to have a crunchy, flavorful crust that complements the velvety, smooth (but not mushy) filling. With a raw vegan pumpkin pie, the crust is accomplished using principally nuts and coconut oil. The former gives a crunch and serves as a flour; the latter binds it together, and hardens upon refrigeration. The filling is mainly pumpkin purée, milk and agar. The milk will give the filling a softer, smoother, lighter feel and flavor; and the agar will gave it firmness so it remains intact until melting in your mouth.

Raw Vegan Soy-Free Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Crust

Raw Walnuts1½ cupsI spread whole walnuts onto parchment paper, then crushed them with a rolling pin. In an effort to obliterate all the chunks into pieces no larger than a pea, I wound up with a very coarse walnut flour. It was surprising how much oil I pressed out of the walnuts: at several points, I could wipe several drops worth of fresh walnut oil from my rolling pin. Once the walnuts were all pulverized, I went ahead and transferred them to a bowl.
DatesAgave nectar adds lots of moisture and little nutritional value. When I made the crust a second time, I opted to use dates instead of agave nectar. It is possible to use substitute the coconut oil with soaked dates, at a 2:1 cups ratio of nuts:dates. Moreover, the dates are sweet enough that no sweetener is required for the modification. I'd love to try this next time.
Coconut Oil1 tbspCoconut oil aids in crust-making by solidifying upon refrigeration, giving the crust some firmness. The first time I made this, I did not use dates and simply kneaded coconut oil directly into the walnut meal until it was no longer crumbly (~4 tbsp). My goal was to get a ball of dough that would stay together, but was still dry enough that it would not stick to my hands. However, it melts quickly and reverts to a soft dough after, for example, an hour on the subway to a Thanksgiving dinner where you're bringing your pies. So the second time I added just a little bit of coconut oil for richness and smooth mouthfeel, letting the dates bind the nuts.
Agave Nectar3 tbspThe first time I tried this, I added three tablespoons of raw agave nectar. My dough went from firm to mushy and sticky -- but it tasted delicious, my goodness! Unfortunately the extreme moistness had to be dealt with, as otherwise the crust would not lift from the pie bowl. Dreading the prospect of crushing more nuts, I remembered some almond flour left over from some macarons I had made.
Almond Flour½ cupHonestly, I'm not exactly sure how much almond flour I added. Out of my 16 oz bag, there was maybe a quarter left -- and I used about a third of that. I kneaded in enough almond flour to give my pie crust a firm non-sticky feel -- I was really just going by feel. And boy did it turn out well! The full-flavored sweetness, the crushed walnuts, the rich coconut oil and the delicate almond flour were a perfect, sweet and outrageously delicious combination.
Refrigeration1 hourI spent a while spreading my pie crust into the bowl. I wanted to see light still penetrate the crust, but give it enough thickness so it could support and fully encapsulate the filling. Getting it just right took some time, but in the end I was delighted and stuck my pie crust into the refrigerator.

Raw Vegan Soy-Free Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Filling

I'd helped make a raw vegan pumpkin pie at Tuesday Night Dinners, but my duties were limited to assembling the crust and filling, which had been made by somebody else. This was my first time making a pie all on my own. Instinctively I grabbed some canned pumpkin puree when I was at the grocery store, knowing I could use it in a pinch if pumpkin I still had sitting around from Halloween did not work out well.
Recipes I'd read used dehydrated pumpkin, or even carrot juice instead of pumpkin. But I decided to just peel, dice and blend my pumpkin. I'd use it for one batch of pie at first, and my canned pumpkin puree was on hand if I decided it were needed for the other batches of pie. But despite a few challenges with the bulkiness of the pumpkin and the oldness of the blender, I wound up not needing my canned pumpkin.
Pumpkin Puree2 cupsI started by cutting off the top of the rinsed whole pumpkin, a leftover that hadn't been used for Halloween. From there I cut it into quarters downward, then cut each quarter in half across. From there came the cumbersome process of cutting off the peel, but even that became rhythmic after a while. I diced the pumpkin into little pieces and tossed them into the blender, adding a small splash of almond milk to help it start. It seized, it splattered, it broke a wooden spatula I used to keep things going -- but in several batches, eventually the blender managed to puree all the pumpkin. It seemed a little watery, but the texture was smooth and the flavor was light, vegetable, with a hint of sweetness.
The raw pumpkin puree was simply too watery on its own. My boyfriend's non-vegan pie suffered from this; and my competing, vegan pie had succumbed to this as well. Even with agar, my first pie did not set and remained a liquid mess.
I had to endure watching hapless guests spoon out the pie, rather than cutting out beautiful, firm slices. It is really essential, and indeed simpler and more raw-vegan, to forgo milks, agars, gels, avocados and simply add dates.
DatesMany recipes call for soaked dates (and some raisins, too). When I made the pie a second time, I learned from my misadventures with milk, agar and avocado and simply placed some dry pitted dates in the filling. After about twenty minutes, they had soaked up the excess moisture, and upon blending I had a perfect consistency, lovely sweetness and well-rounded flavor. I just needed to add a few spices and I'd be done -- no need to wait hours for the pie to set!
Milk + Agar¾ cup milk
1 tspn agar
A lot of recipes call for a cup of coconut milk, almond milk, hemp milk, just about every milk imaginable. They are invaluable to keep on hand when blending to keep the blade from seizing. However, their starring role is when they are heated and mixed with agar (1 teaspoon) or gelatin (1 packet, but not vegan). The agar gels the pie filling. I tried one pie with milk and agar and was very displeased. Not only did I dislike having to heat (cook) the milk to get the agar to dissolve, but the pumpkin puree was already very watery and this just aggravated the problem.
Avocado½ fruitThe first time I made this, the filling was so watery that I was desperate. Then I saw a pile of ripe avocados that my family had picked off our tree, and I remembered making an avocado mousse at Tuesday Night Dinner. I threw in half an avocado and blended it all together: it added a wonderful flavor, and helped add some firmness, but the effect was negligible.
NutsSome recipes call for 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter, or finely ground flax, or even a ½ cup of pureed soaked cashews. But I didn't use this, though the pureed soaked cashews would surely help give the pumpkin some firmness. Personally I think that some almond flour would have been nice, though, if I'd had any left after making the crust.
Agave Nectar½ cupThis seems like an awful lot of sweetener, and you likely won't need any at all if you use dates. I'd suggest adding a little bit at a time until it tastes just right.
Spices½ tsp salt 1 tsp cinnamon 2 tsp ginger ½ tsp cloves ½ tsp allspice ½ tsp nutmeg 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon cloves 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
Vanilla1 vanilla bean seeds (or 3 tsp vanilla extract) or 1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla
Starch2 tbspSome recipes call for arrowroot, tapioca or other starches. These help address the liquid nature of the filling, but really are not at all necessary (or even all that effective) if you simply use dates to soak up the moisture and firm the pie.
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