Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pichet Ong's Kabocha Squash Pie with Ginger Butterscotch Sauce

Kabocha Squash

Time flies, doesn’t it? It’s hard to believe that it’s been 8 years since I clipped this recipe from the NYT's one Wednesday before Thanksgiving (remember when you got the ‘paper’ everyday and clipped recipes?). I made the pie for a huge Thanksgiving bash for a bunch of orphan film folks and fell in love with the recipe, Kabocha squash and pastry chef, Pichet Ong. He’s a genius. The guests at the party were swooning. You know that eyes closed, reverent slow tasting response you always hope your food will elicit? Yep, it happened. Everyone asked for the recipe.

Until I found Kabocha squash pie, I made my old Gourmet Magazine classic pumpkin/pecan pie nearly every Thanksgiving and loved it. I always used those little sweet pumpkins that I split in half, baked and pureed.

Pichet Ong’s recipe called for a new technique and a new squash, steaming a little kabocha––the squash that I only knew as the delicious orange-red slice on a vegetable tempura plate. I’d never used it to make a dessert. Mr. Ong said I was missing out on something. He was so right.

Kabocha squash is a Japanese variety of winter squash. It has a dense, sweet flesh with a hint of chestnut to the texture and flavor. Although all squash are from the new world (they probably arrived in Japan with Portuguese in the 16th c via Cambodia), they have taken their place in Japanese cuisine. They should get a better food hold in the American pantry if you ask me.

This kabocha pie is one of the best desserts in my repertory. I have a cook crush on Pichet Ong.

Ong didn’t start out as a pastry chef. He started out with a degree in English and Mathematics and got a masters in architecture (you can see that influence in the construction of his desserts) –– a similar trajectory to my own, sans the math and the end result of his becoming a great pastry chef!!

His work with Jean George Vongerichten is what propelled him into the upper atmosphere of the NY restaurant scene. Vongerichten knows pastry talent –– Johnny Iuzzini hit his stride as pastry chef at Jean George .

After I made this recipe I visited Spice Market with new eyes and tasted some of his work instead of skipping dessert. I got his cookbook when it came out.

Pichet Ong's The Sweet Spot: Asian-Inspired Desserts is hands down one of the best dessert books around. You will drool over his dragon devil’s food cupcakes (frosting made with Lapsang Souchang tea, star anise and bourbon) or the coconut cream pie with a toasted jasmine rice crust, best tofu cheesecake ever, green tea ice cream, mango pudding –– well you get the idea.

When my 5-Star Makeover group’s monthly topic was squash, this was the dish I wanted to make –– I didn’t have to think about it. This is the recipe that was in the NYT in 2004. The only thing I have added is the lime cream. I like the tangy contrast with the sweet dessert. His original recommendation is for plain Crème fraîche. Don’t add sugar. The dessert needs this addition so don’t skip it.

I bet you will make this your favorite squash/pumpkin pie recipe too. I actually buy a few of these Kabocha in season and freeze the puree.

If you can't find kabocha, you can use a small pumpkin but you may have to drain it after pureeing.

Kabocha Squash Pie, Adapted from Pichet Ong and NYT (serves 10-12)

For the filling:

1 medium kabocha squash or small pumpkin, about 3 pounds

10 ounces (1 1/3 cups) cream cheese, at room temperature
 (the original NYT recipe calls for 10oz, his cookbook calls for 8 oz cream cheese, I only bought an 8oz package and added 2 oz of cream and the texture was lovely.
1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (about 1/4 of a nutmeg)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons brandy

2 eggs at room temperature

For the crust:

3/8 cup (2 ounces) walnuts

1/2 cup, packed, light brown sugar

3/8 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 7 crackers)

Grated zest of 1 lime

3/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
 3/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

 Lime cream or Crème fraîche, for serving
Ginger butterscotch sauce, for serving (see recipe).

1. For pie filling, bring an inch of water to a boil in a large covered pot fitted with a steamer basket or rack. Put in squash, cover and steam, replenishing water as needed, until fork tender, about 1 hour. Turn squash over halfway through steaming. Set squash aside until cool enough to handle.

2. Heat oven to 325 degrees. For crust, place walnuts on a baking tray, and toast in oven, stirring once or twice, until fragrant, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

3. In a food processor, combine walnuts with a few tablespoons brown sugar and pulse a few times, until nuts are coarsely ground. In a large bowl, whisk nuts with graham cracker crumbs, remaining brown sugar, lime zest, spices and salt. Pour melted butter over this mixture, and mix with your fingers until butter is distributed. Press evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 12 minutes, then set aside. Keep oven at 300 degrees.

4. When squash is cool, cut it in half and scoop out seeds and pulp. Scoop squash flesh into a measuring cup until you have 2 1/2 cups.

5. In a food processor, process cream cheese with sugar, spices and salt until light and smooth. Scrape down bowl, add squash and process until smooth. Mix in brandy and then eggs, one at a time. Finish mixing with a rubber spatula.

6. Place pie plate on a baking sheet and scrape filling into crust. Bake until just set in center, about 1 hour. Let cool before serving, topped with crème fraîche and drizzled with butterscotch sauce.

Yield: 8 servings.

Lime Cream

1 c cream or crème fraiche
Juice of 1or 2 limes depending on size, juice and your taste... I like it tangy~

Combine cream and lime juice and set aside. Serve on the Pie with the butterscotch sauce.

Adapted from Pichet Ong 


1 pound dark brown sugar 

2 1/2 ounces (about 4 inches) fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced into coins 
*** or use 2 or 3 drops of Aftelier Ginger essence and skip the ginger root
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, pulp scraped 
(or 1 t vanilla extract)
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed 

2 cups heavy cream 
3/4 teaspoon salt. 

1. Place sugar, ginger and vanilla pod and pulp in a heavy pot set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is molten and fragrant with ginger and vanilla, about 8 minutes (if using vanilla extract put it in at the end). (It won't melt entirely but will be somewhat crumbly.) Add butter (stand back, it will foam up), and stir until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes. 

2. Pour cream and salt into pot, stirring, and bring to a simmer. Let sauce bubble until thickened, about 8 minutes. Let cool for at least 1/2 hour, then strain out ginger and vanilla pod.

Warm sauce before serving.

*** if you use Aftelier Ginger Essence, add to taste after you make the sauce.

* this makes an enormous amount of sauce. You can freeze it. I use about half of it for the recipe.

This sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks in refrigerator. 
Yield: 3 1/2 cups.

Stop by the 5 Star roundup on Friday and you will see a great group of cooks being creative with squash.


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Deana:
We love the idea of being trained in English, Mathematics and Architecture and then emerging from it all as a wonderful pastry chef. It sounds the perfect plot for a novel!

What perfect timing for a pumpkin pie. Just when everyone else is gouging eyes out and lighting it from within, you delight us with this most delicious sounding pudding. And, surely in the spirit of the great pastry architect, Pichet Ong,you present it so beautifully. No wonder the dinner guests were swooning!

pam said...

I tried that squash last year and loved it!

Marjie said...

They don't really print recipes in the paper any more, do they? (Don't tell anyone that I'm still a dinosaur and still read both my local paper and the WSJ in paper form every day!) I've made squash pies as well as pumpkin pies, so I don't see why this wouldn't be great, as well! Enjoy your time off "at the movies"!

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous pie slice! I have yet to try kabocha squash. Loving the ginger butterscotch sauce, sounds sooo good!

Joan Nova said...

Very nice! There's a couple of things I find particularly interesting the recipe -- brandy in the puree, walnuts in the crust and lime cream -- which make it not your typical 'pumpkin' pie.

Joan Nova said...

Very nice! There's a couple of things I find particularly interesting the recipe -- brandy in the puree, walnuts in the crust and lime cream -- which make it not your typical 'pumpkin' pie.

Faith said...

This is truly lovely, Deana. I always have so much trouble finding kabocha in my area...not sure why it hasn't taken hold here yet! I'm hoping that changes soon. I will continue to be on the lookout for it - I would love to make this stunning pie!

And that Ginger Butterscotch Sauce sounds amazing!

Diane said...

It is odd that we have never had pumpkin pie, we always have it just as a vegetable. Maybe it is time I change things on this side of the world. Have a good weekend Diane said...

Absolutely exquisite...want a piece right now...

Sarah said...

Have fun on your movie. I just have not been blogging as much as I had hoped. Perhaps that can change soon. Looks like a lovely tarte. Love all the uses for your essences.

Julia | said...

Lovely looking pie! Love the story behind it, too!

Gomo | cHowDivine said...

I love Kabocha. I use it in place of pumpkins for baking and cooking if they are available. This pie looks fabulous! I need to try this as soon as I get my hands on some kabocha squashes!

Bren @ Flanboyant Eats™ said...

Thanks for the story on the chef. I love historical references. I remember back in 1998-2000 and how I'd print recipes from Epicurious, whole punch them and put them in a black binder. It was like my black book of goodness! Great recipe!

Unknown said...

oh my gosh, what a lovely dessert! kabocha is definitely something special, and i love that ginger butterscotch sauce :)

Lori Lynn said...

Hi Deana ~ "a cook crush" so cute, love that!
I just ordered the book on your recommendation, I'm sure I will love it, don't have many dessert cookbooks but this calls to me.
Seriously fabulous addition to the October makeover.
I hope you like the idea of green bean casserole, can't wait to read about the history and your perspective on the connection to the past...

Linda said...

Deana this looks spectacular...
Hope you and yours weathered the storm unscathed...
L xo

Diane said...

You know I have never had a pumpkin pie! We always eat it as a vegetable.
Have a good weekend Diane

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Blogger has been wonky lately! I've lost blogger email subscriptions. I've never tasted a Kabocha squash but I have never met a squash I haven't loved. Delightful recipe - ginger butterscotch sauce...oh my!

Laura@Silkroadgourmet said...

Wonderful recipe - will try without the ginger-butterscotch, tho I like the idea of the lime cream.

Perhaps for Thanksgiving?

Experimenting around with D'Artagnan's Scottish wild hares for a holiday main dish . . .

El said...

The recipe is beautiful I love that you added nuts to the crust.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing..

Tasty Trix said...

Okay, you are on a movie - I was worried that you were affected by Sandy. Whew. Well, your plating is stunning on this and I am very intrigued to try it!!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

My dear one, you have not posted in a while! I had to come to see what you were up to for this day of feasts! I hope you are well and are preparing or attending a banquet of love and thanksgiving. MY BEST WISHES FOR A LOVELY HOLIDAY! Anita

Not Quite Nigella said...

I've never tried one of Pichet's desserts but I'm sure his influence has been felt far and wide and has popped up on menus here too :D This looks gorgeous Deana!

tasteofbeirut said...

This sounds heavenly! Love kabocha squash and have only used it for savory things; what a grand idea!

Karina A. Fogliani-Ahmed said...

We miss you.

Emily said...

Hello Deana,

I'm sorry for not stopping by here for so long but it's good to be back. You have a lovely banner and yet another wonderful recipe. I had never imagined the squash could be so versatile - there are still a few kabocha squash in my local supermarket so I'll snap one up before it's too late. Hope you're well.

mandy said...

This recipe is exquisite as usual Deana – very grateful to have my Ginger Chef’s Essence included!
xo Mandy

La Table De Nana said...

I hope you are well~

Unknown said...

I've made this pie for every special winter occasion for the last 2 years, thanks to this post! My family is now obsessed. My dad thinks it's the best pie ever created, so thank you!

Deana Sidney said...

Unknown, you are most kind. It is one of my favs too!