Pumpkin Bee Sting Pie is not a Mexican dessert, but the baker in me, with memories of past yuletide dinners, wants a traditional table for the holidays that includes a pumpkin pie. Mexico has all the ingredients: over-sized squash that stand in for canned pumpkin, dark honey, and coconut. This pie variation of Bienenstich, the German Bee Sting Cake, will be our dessert for Christmas dinner, when memories of snowy Christmases and holiday dinners from the past make me nostalgic for a Christmas where the waves don’t lap on the beach, where the palms don’t rustle in the breeze, where the only white I see is snow, not sand. With this recipe, my holiday baking and cooking has commenced. The twinkling stars next to a recipe designate dishes for the holidays.
What is special about the Bee Sting Cake is its crunchy topping of honey and almond slices. The Pumpkin Bee Sting Pie recipe that was in U.S. newspapers across the country just before Thanksgiving adds coconut to the topping. This final addition proved irresistible to me, coconut lover that I am.
If you live north of the border, make it easy on yourself and buy a can of Libby’s pumpkin. Their canned pumpkin is so consistently good, that it is not worth the effort to steam, scrape and purée your own. But if you are south of the border, buy a Mexican squash, the kind that are so huge and oddly shaped, they look prehistoric.
Cut it into manageable pieces, scrape out the seeds, steam or roast the squash until tender, scrape the flesh from the skin, purée, then freeze. See what I mean about it being easier to buy a can of pumpkin? The only time I would advocate cooking it yourself is if you have an organic pumpkin. Or if you live in Mexico and can’t find canned pumpkin or can’t bring yourself to pay $8 for it when you do. Otherwise, go with Libby.
The flaky cream cheese pie crust recipe is in The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum and found on Epicurious, the wonderful recipe compendium for Bon Appetit and the late, lamented Gourmet magazine. I used fifty percent whole wheat flour, and did not have the usual problem of a whole wheat crust being difficult to handle. The vinegar and baking powder ensure a tender pastry, while the cream cheese adds enough structure to prevent shrinking and cracking. Take it from me, someone who has struggled with pie pastry, this recipe is fail-proof.
The pie filling follows the standard recipe in the newspapers, but my method differs, following Rose’s instructions for cooking the pumpkin with spices, then pureeing in the food processor for maximum smoothness. As always, I reduced the sweetness, decreasing the honey in the filling by half, since to my taste most desserts are much too sweet.
Pumpkin Bee Sting Pie
- 1 9″ pie shell
- 1 15-oz. can pumpkin (or 2 cups pumpkin puree, less 2 tablespoons)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup organic heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 eggs
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1 cup dried unsweetened organic coconut
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons organic butter, melted
- Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.)
- In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, stir together the pumpkin, honey, spices and salt. Stirring constantly, cook for 5 minutes after the mixture starts to bubble.
- Spoon the mixture into a food processor and blend for one minute.
- With the motor running, add the cream and vanilla, processing until incorporated.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, processing for a few seconds with each addition.
- Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell, and bake for 45-50 minutes, until almost completely set, and the center still jelly like.
- In a small bowl, combine almonds, coconut, honey and butter.
- Spread almond mixture evenly over pie and return to oven for 10-15 minutes, or until topping has lightly browned. Cool on rack before serving.
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