I do realize that we are way past the winter holidays and headed into glorious spring and all the beautiful bounty that it brings; except, there’s not yet much spring fruit at the farmers’ market besides newly emerging, and not quite summer sweet, strawberries with white shoulders. There are still a ton of citrus to be had, but I’m kind of getting over citrus at this point and am ready for the stone fruits of spring, e.g., Cherries, and apricots, etc., to make their way into the markets. So, while I wait, what’s a girl to do? Well, even though sugar pie pumpkins are no longer at the farmers’ market, I ran across a ton of mini butternut squashes on sale at Happy Boy Farms‘ stand at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market.
So, I picked up about 4 of them. One for the munchkin since he’s a fan of squash and it makes for great baby food; and 3 others to make a butternut squash pie with. You might think that making a butternut squash pie is kind of weird. But, butternut squash makes a far superior pie than pumpkin ever could. Both are squashes, but butternut squash has subtle flavors that work really well with the warm spices that usually make up “pumpkin pie spice.” It also has a better texture than pumpkins, which makes for a silky and beautiful custard filling.
These particular butternut squashes come from, as mentioned above, Happy Boy Farms. Ok, with a name like “Happy Boy” I immediately break out into a grin. But, it is Happy Boy’s produce that makes me smile from ear to ear. The Happy Boy stand is truly one of my favorite stands at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market to pick up herbs, potatoes, baby spinach, heirloom tomatoes, and their salad mixes with edible flowers.
Happy Boy Farms is based near Watsonville and tends to multiple plots of lands located in neighboring counties. Each field that Happy Boy tends has a unique microclimate and soil structure, creating a multitude of growing conditions for their wide array of row crops chosen and are planted specifically for each region and the changing seasons. All of their crops are always harvested in the peak of freshness, washed and packed by hand, and then personally delivered to farmers’ markets, local restaurants and grocery locations throughout the greater bay area.
That hand above is my little one (7 months old) stealing my slice of pie while I was trying to take a picture of it, and hold onto him at the same time. I can’t be mad though, he’s got excellent taste already Try a butternut squash pie yourself and put it to the test. I think you’ll find that it truly is better than pumpkin pie.
Butternut Squash Pie
Slightly adapted from Anson Mills
Ingredients for the Filling
1 3-pound butternut squash, or 3 smallish ones (about 1lb each) like the ones I got from Happy Boy.
*You basically just want something that will yield about 11 oz of puree, or 1 1/2 cups of puree.
2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional — this provides a nice warming quality)
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
Pie dough for a 9″ pie shell. You can use your favorite recipe for this, or check out mine here.
1. To bake the squash, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 12 x 15-inch rimmed sheet pan with parchment. Using a chef’s knife with a nicely balanced and sturdy blade, slice off the stem end, then cut through the squash horizontally where the bulb begins. Cut each piece in half lengthwise. Working one length at a time, lay the neck pieces flat-side down on a cutting board and cut through the skin into inch-thick half moon slices. Arrange them close together on the sheet pan. Scrape the seeds and ‘cobwebs’ from the bulb ends and discard. Bake, checking occasionally, until the squash is tender, about an hour. Remove from the oven; cool slightly, then trim the skin away with a paring knife, or scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Process the flesh in a food processor until smooth. You need 1 ½ cups or 11 ounces of puree—packed. (If you’re making the puree in advance, refrigerate it in an airtight
container until needed.)
2. Take the filling, and puree the squash in a food processor until smooth. Then measure out 1 ½ cups or 11 ounces of puree. Reserve the rest for another use.
3. At this point you can put the puree into a container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days; or you can put the puree back in the food processor in preparation to add the other ingredients.
4. Preheat the oven to about 375′ F, and blind bake the piecrust for about 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and beans/or ceramic pie weights and continue to bake until the crust has dried out and the edges have colored, 5 to 10 minutes more. Then reduce the oven temperature down to 300′F.
5. While the crust is baking, finish preparing the filling. To the puree add the eggs, sugar, vanilla, spices and salt, and process until smooth. With the machine running, pour the heavy cream through the tube and process to combine. Pour the filling into the hot, pre-baked shell and bake in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes until the edges are firm and the middle is only slightly jiggly. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature on a cooling rack before cutting into the pie.