23 September 2011

Maida Heatter - Dessert Goddess

What rock have I been under, that I have never heard of Maida Heatter? Though her education was in the art and fashion design and merchandising arena, she settled on a career as a pastry chef and cooking instructor. The quality of her recipes and finished products endeared her to Craig Claiborne and various celebrity media personalities and brought her into the realm of cookbook publishing. She has been awarded the James Beard Foundation Award on three separate occasions, had her recipes published in such places as Food & Wine Magazine, the New York Times, Women's Day, and Chocolatier. Her desserts have graced tables at Spago, The Four Seasons, and various Presidential luncheons ... high praise, indeed! Who knew? Not me!

I decided to create Maida Heatter's Pumpkin Pie With Pepper for this week's tribute to Number 16 on the Gourmet Live List of 50 Women Game-Changers. I have been excited about the coming of Fall and the cooler weather. I have some pumpkin stockpiled in my cupboard and I have a dinner party to go to this weekend. This pie will be perfect! This recipe was published in a New York Times article in 1993 that highlighted different uses for pumpkin ... a November article. You can guess what everyone's mind is on come November in the USA. The Thanksgiving feast cries out for different pumpkin treatments - pies, cheesecakes, roasted pumpkin cream soups ... I liked the look and spiciness of Heatter's pie recipe.

So, here goes!

Maida Heatter’s Pumpkin Pie with Pepper


1 ¾ c. chilled light cream
3 large eggs
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¾ c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. finely ground black pepper
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. mace
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 c. solidly packed canned pumpkin

Pastry for a 10-inch one crust pie – blind baked
Whipped cream for serving atop the pie slices

Making the Pie:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 425°F. Roll the pastry out and line a pie pan, making the edges high and fluted. Prick the lower surface of the crust.

2. Line with foil and pie weights and bake for 13 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 °F, remove the pie weights and foil, and continue baking for 7 more minutes. Remove crust from oven and reset the oven temperature to 450°F.

3. Place the light cream in a saucepan and heat just until little bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Set aside.

4. Beat the eggs lightly in a deep bowl. Add and mix in the vanilla extract, sugar, salt, black pepper, ginger, mace, and nutmeg.

5. Stir in the pumpkin and mix well to incorporate and take out any lumps in the pumpkin.

6. Gradually, beat in the hot cream. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 10 minutes at 450°F.

7. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking for about 40 minutes – until the center no longer seems liquid when gently shaken.

8. Remove from the oven and cool gently to serving temperature.

So... a pie is special, but so are so many other recipes by this lady! You can see what all my blogging cohorts have chosen to bake in tribute to Maida Heatter by clicking this link to Mary's blog, One Perfect Bite. See Mary's tribute and her links to all the other food bloggers that have joined this weekly tribute to the many women who have become real influences in the food industry. Enjoy the reading (and drooling!). Next week, we will be honoring Dorothy Hamilton, a famous and influential culinary educator ... join us!

Post Recipe Note:

As you can see, I've taste-tested this recipe and the only thing I'll change is too NOT blindbake for so long. Ten minutes should be long enough to firm up the crust and seal the bottom  bit so the pumpkin custard doesn't make things soggy. I used the excess pie crust to make little cinnamon sugared acorns as a pretty seasonal garnish ... possibilities there are endless, depending on your celebration.

The smell of this pie baking is incredible ... the mace really changes things up from my traditional pumpkin pie filling. As for the pepper ... I might change things up next time and add a generous pinch of ground cayenne to really 'pepper things up', as the combination of the pepper and ginger is a good one ... just sayin', Maida!


  1. It just might be time to try something new. I love your review.

  2. Oh, fantastic idea to add a pinch of cayenne...I think my next pumpkin pie will have to be this one, it sounds awesome...and looks beautiful :D

  3. All this talk about pumpkin and spices is really getting me in the mood for the season. I don't have any mace, and I can't remember the last time I needed it, but I'm now curious.
    Love your dough acorns!

  4. This looks like a great pie...and I love the pepper addition!

  5. That's a nice looking pumpkin pie - so interesting to add black pepper to it. Maida Heatter is indeed the Dessert Goddess!

  6. @Sue - Yeah! Mace! I think she liked the spice as I've seen it in the ingredients list of a few other of her recipes! Go figure! It's not so commonly used these days, but hey, what a great smell and discreet flavour addition!

  7. Your pie looks scrumptious...pepper is an interesting addition. Bet it was delicious!

  8. Oh, I've never heard of adding in pepper to pumpkin pie before. What a fun addition. I'll definitely have to try this around Thanksgiving time!

  9. What a good looking pie. You always do such a nice job with your baking. Mace is not something I have hanging around my house. I was perusing recipes on line and mace is the outer casing of nutmeg. Go figure, two spices in one.

  10. i have never heard of her either, but everyone is blogging about her this week. That pie looks wonderful.

  11. I love the idea of pepper in this!

  12. Would one put the cayenne in, instead of the black pepper? or WITH?? I don't want to OVERDO...anyone try this?

    1. I intended to add to the pepperiness by adding a pinch of cayenne in addition to the black pepper ... I would advise, though, that you make the recipe as Maida Heatter suggests first and see if the level of pepperiness works for you. Then, go from there in future pies ...

  13. Maida Heatter's original recipe did NOT blind bake this crust. Instead, she said to first freeze the crust in the pie plate for at least an hour before baking. This ensures that the bottom crust will NOT be soggy. I've been making THIS pie for 30 years. Geez. I think it must mean that you got it from someone who already changed it and didn't acknowledge that?

    1. Hmmm... here's the recipe that I followed. I think. This has been so long ago. And yes, it says in the end notes that it was adapted from her recipe. I wonder if there is a problem with blind baking? Does the frozen crust component create a superior crust ?


  14. I would love to know how your pie came out so pumpkin-ish looking. I have Maida's book, I followed the recipe to the letter (used canned pumpkin from Trader Joes), and it came out very pale orange looking and the flavor barely tasted of pumpkin, all I could taste was the spices. (OTOH, I *loved* her date pecan pie, to die for).

    1. Ana, I suspect that the differences in color are because pumpkin and winter squash is considered interchangeable by some producers. I use One Pie label pumpkin when I make my pumpkin pies. Trader Joe's may have a different type of pumpkin, or squash in their canned product. I too, felt her spices needed some perking up ... hence my critique of the recipe. Thanks for your comment!


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