Things with feathers: Making pumpkin pie

Rebekah Tuchscherer

Aside from a 12-pound turkey, there’s really only one Thanksgiving table requirement: a pumpkin pie.

Whether bought from a local bakery or made from scratch, those who celebrate the November holiday in the United States eat a collective 50 million pumpkin pies, according to the American Pie Council. (And believe it or not, pumpkin is only the second favorite pie in the U.S. - apple comes in first.)

Personally, I think I’m pretty okay when it comes to baking. I regularly won purple ribbons at the county fair for my mom’s banana bread recipe as a kid, and I still keep “baking lemon bars” tucked into a “Skills & Interests” section on my resume. While I’ve never baked a pumpkin pie from scratch, I thought “how hard could it be?”

And so I started planning.

I began searching for sugar, or “pie,” pumpkins at my local farmer’s market in mid-October. While there were pumpkins suitable for jack-o’-lanterns and front porches at almost every stand, I knew better than to try roasting one. While these pumpkins are good for carving, they’re typically too tough and not sweet enough for baking.

Luckily, I found one stand with a small stack of sugar pumpkins. Each was labeled $1. I bought two.

Yesterday, with my mom’s pie crust recipe in hand, all I thought I had left to do was check my baking box for flour, sugar and spices after work. But then, I realized something that would, inevitably, change my course of action.

As a first-time adult, I don’t own a pie plate. Or a rolling pin, for that matter. Both of which, you could argue, are essential to pie making.

And so instead of baking a lovely, homemade pumpkin pie, I decided to make pumpkin cupcakes from scratch.

I started by washing one of the small, two-pound pumpkins and cutting it into four quarters before scooping out all the pulp and seeds. I then placed the pumpkins on a baking sheet and brushed them with a little olive oil before popping them in the oven for a 50 minute roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, much like you’d do with any squash.

When I could easily pierce the pumpkin with a fork, I took the pumpkin out of the oven and let it cool for a bit before scooping the cooked pumpkin into a blender with a bit of water.

With all my pumpkin puréed, the rest of the cupcake-making went smoothly. Now, all that’s left is to to share the cream cheese frosting-covered desserts with my roommates, friends and coworkers.

My baking didn’t turn out quite the way I’d hoped, and I think that can be said for many Thanksgiving staples this year — small gatherings might mean roast chicken instead of turkey, family you’d expect to see during the holidays might be opting to stay home and some plans might be altogether cancelled at the last minute.

Wherever you are for the holidays, things are bound to look and feel different due to COVID-19. But, that doesn’t mean they have to be spent alone. Call your friends, join a Zoom call with your family and maybe, leave some cupcakes on your neighbors’ front porch.

Even if you intended to make a pie.

A homemade pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting and turmeric sits near a window in Rebekah Tuchscherer’s home.