Thanksgiving might be a little while off yet, but, in a few select places, Pumpkin Pie is already on the scene.
One of these places is London’s Konditor & Cook, home to those extraordinary Brownies I raved about back in June. There, for less than £3 a slice, you can nab yourselves a taste of the American institution: a Pastry crust filled with soft-set Pumpkin Custard.
In the States, of course, you can buy Pumpkin Pie all over the place. In England, however, they are sadly few and far between.
Indeed, despite hearing its praises for yonks (mainly through the medium of imported U.S. TV shows), my first opportunity for a taste of Pumpkin Pie was only a couple of years ago – at an annual market in Oxford, no less.
Alas, it didn’t live up to the hype: the Pastry was stale, and the filling almost flavourless.
Still, convinced I’d got a dud, I tried it again the next time I saw it – while on holiday to the States last November.
I was sure this one would be so much better: not only was it American-made, but it had also come from Whole Foods, the rather upmarket chain that supplied those nice vegetarian Toaster Pastries.
But, once more, I was to be disappointed.
Again, the Pie wasn’t unpleasant – it just wasn’t at all that exciting.
I’d expected unusual flavours and textures; spices flitting across my palate; a taste that epitomised Autumn. Instead, it was fairly bland – nowhere near as delicious as the homemade Pumpkin and Chocolate Cheesecake that was served on the table beside it.
At that point, I started to think I might not be a Pumpkin Pie person – that no Pumpkin Pie could come close to the one I’d been imagining for the last ten years.
So when I heard that Konditor & Cook were selling them I was intrigued, but not sure I wanted to risk further disappointment.
After some deliberation, I decided that, if I came close to one of their shops, I would probably take a look but stick with the tried and tested: a Boston Brownie or a slice of Curly Whirly Cake.
Sorted, then – until the Man bought one in his lunch break and surprised me with it at home.
I wasn’t thrilled to see it, I admit. At first glance, I was hesitant: it didn’t look spectacular. In fact, it looked a lot like the Pie from Whole Foods.
As I leaned in closer I smelt Nutmeg – a promising sign, I thought – but was reluctant to let down my guard until it was safely in my mouth.
After one bite, I was a convert.
The Pastry was soft and buttery; the filling moist and beautifully spiced. The taste of Pumpkin was in there too – though slightly obscured by the Nutmeg.
More of the pulp was detectable in the texture, which was smooth and ever so slightly fibrous.
In short, it was how I’d imagined Pumpkin Pie ought to taste: like an Egg Custard Tart, only better. Not bland, but full and aromatic.
At last I could see what the fuss was about – I just got there via a couple of wrong ‘uns.
Of course, in hindsight, it was foolish of me to write off Pumpkin Pie after only two small samples – especially when one was stale and the other shop-bought.
As all respectable Pud-Hogs know, almost nothing tastes good stale. And even the finest Cream Teas are dull when they come from a supermarket shelf.
I should not have been surprised when, as usual, fresh and handmade came up trumps.
If, like me, you’re intrigued by the concept of Pumpkin Pie, be sure to learn from my mistakes: none of that staleness or mass-market nonsense.
Head for Konditor & Cook if you’re near one – you can even buy Pumpkin Cheesecake while you’re there. All I ask is you save me a slice as a finder’s fee…
You see, I think I’m a Pumpkin Cheesecake fan, but I’ve only ever had the one.
Two more and I’ll be certain.