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Pumpkin glows in pie, cheesecake

Thursday, November 07, 2002

OK, readers, here's a trivia question. What was the largest pumpkin pie ever made?

The largest pumpkin pie ever made weighed in at 350 pounds. We're not featuring that recipe, but we do have a pumpkin pie with a twist -- Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. The word chiffon means the pie filling is made with stiffly beaten egg whites (this makes it fluffy) and unflavored gelatin (the gelatin is used to thicken the filling).

We received more than 30 recipes, and the fillings were generally the same. The difference was in the pie crusts, and they all sounded delicious. Some of the crusts were walnut, gingersnap, pecan and chocolate. Yes, there were traditional pie crusts as well. And as difficult as it was to decide, we went with the recipe sent in by Bess Churchfield of North Versailles, Walnut Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. This pie has a walnut and butter crust that reminded us of the filling for nut roll. The filling calls for 1/4 cup water (to dissolve the gelatin) and 1/2 cup milk. But Bess replaces the water and milk with eggnog. The pie turned out great! The walnut pie crust worked well with the creamy but light filling. We topped each slice with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

After we sampled the Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, it was back to the kitchen to test our second recipe -- Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake sent by Dorothy Schessler of Carrick. Dorothy writes: "I have made this cheesecake for many years. It was and still is a family favorite."

All we can say about this cheesecake is wow! The cheesecake sits atop a pecan, graham cracker and butter crust. The filling, made with cream cheese, whipping cream, pumpkin and spices, is luscious. To complete this dessert, we spread a combination of sour cream, vanilla and sugar over the filling. The cake was returned to the oven to bake for another 10 minutes.

More pumpkin trivia: Pumpkins are a fruit and belong to the gourd family, which include watermelon, squash and muskmelon. They're loaded with vitamin A. The word pumpkin originates from the Greek word pepon, meaning large melon. When the Colonists landed in North America, they found the Indians growing and using pumpkins.

The Colonists quickly adopted the Indians' taste for pumpkins. They would slice off the stem end of the pumpkin, remove the seeds and then fill the pumpkin with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes. This, you might say, was the first pumpkin pie.

Susan Sookoor of Colorado Springs, Colo., requested a recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie.


  • 1 1/2 cups chopped or ground walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 3 eggs, separated, see note
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Whipped cream and walnut halves, for garnish

Combine chopped or ground walnuts with 3 tablespoons of sugar and the butter; mix well. Spray the pie pan with nonstick cooking spray. (We skipped the spray because our pans are nonstick.) Pat mixture over bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake in 350-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely on rack, then chill.

Soften gelatin in water or 1/4 cup eggnog. Beat egg yolks with the 1/2 cup of milk or eggnog. Beat in brown sugar, salt and spice. Add gelatin and pumpkin.

Cook, stirring, over moderate heat (or in double boiler) until filling thickens and gelatin dissolves, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool until mixture begins to gel.

Beat egg whites (see note) with cream of tartar to soft peaks. Beat in 1/3 cup sugar gradually, until egg whites are stiff and glossy and sugar is dissolved. Fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour filling over baked and cooled crust. Chill 3 to 4 hours or overnight (we chilled overnight) or until firm. Decorate with whipped cream and walnut halves to serve.

Note: We used powdered egg whites (the product name is Just Whites), prepared according to package directions.

Evelyn Costella of Mt. Lebanon requested a recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake.


  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 pint (1 cup) dairy sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves

In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, 1 tablespoon sugar, butter and chopped pecans. Press over bottom and about 1 1/2 inches up sides of an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and whipping cream. Stir in pumpkin, maple syrup and spices. Pour into chilled crust. Bake in preheated oven 55 to 60 minutes. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, 3 tablespoons sugar and vanilla. Stir until blended. Spread over hot cheesecake. Arrange pecan halves over top. Bake 10 minutes. Let stand until cool.

Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.


Here's an egg peeling tip from Evelyn Stewart of Rostraver: "To peel hard-cooked eggs easily, add about an ounce of vinegar to the water before cooking. It almost always works."

From Donna J. Bernazzoli of Verona: "Another way to get rid of the onion smell on your hands after cutting onions: simply wet your hands and rub along the sides of a chrome or stainless steel sink. The smell disappears."


Brent Ruka of Churchill would like the recipe for deviled short ribs. Brent believes this recipe was featured in The Pittsburgh Press. The recipe belonged to I.W. Abel and had many ingredients.

Loretta Carl of Scenery Hill, Washington County, is looking for a recipe called frikadelle. Frikadelle is a German meat patty or meatball.

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com . Please include a name, neighborhood/city-/borough/township and state and a daytime phone number on all correspondence.

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