This is one of my holiday favorites and graces our dinner table many times during the Fall and Winter months, and especially for Thanksgiving dinner. It's a family tradition to go pumpkin picking early in October, and I always manage to come home with some extra sugar pumpkins to roast. This time my sister-in-law surprised me by stuffing a bunch of them in my trunk. Do you think she wants some pie? 😋
Thanksgiving is usually a very busy time so I will indicate what steps can be done ahead of time. You can even make and finish this the day before you plan to serve it - it's just as delicious the next day. In addition, the way I prepare the tart here, by blind-baking the tart shell and protecting it with a layer of egg white, ensures that you will get a crisp cookie crust to go with the creamy custard.
Orange-Vanilla Sweet Tart Crust
1 - FOR THE TART DOUGH:. Cut your butter into cubes. To a stand mixer, add the butter, orange zest powdered sugar, and salt. Mix on medium-low speed until completely combined. Scrape down the sides.
2. Add the flour mixture and turn the mixer on low. Watch and mix until the dough resembles very coarse breadcrumbs. You want to evenly incorporate the butter into the flour.
3. Use a fork to mix the egg yolk, vanilla extract, and milk in a small bowl. Add the bowl of the mixer, and turn to low. Mix just until the liquid is absorbed and the dough comes together. Don't overmix at this point - you will form gluten strands in the dough, which will yield a tough tart crust when baked.
4. Plop the dough onto some plastic wrap, and form it into a ball, and then flatten into a disc. Wrap it tightly and let it rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.
1 - FOR THE PUMPKIN FILLING. Mix all the filling ingredients in a medium mixing bowl with a whisk until thoroughly combined. Make sure there are no lumps of brown sugar remaining.
2. Set aside to use immediately, or store the filling in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple days. (I've frozen this filling in my freezer for months.)
1 - ASSEMBLE AND BAKE. Adjust your oven rack to the lowest position with a baking stone if you have it. Preheat to 425.
2. Roll out your tart dough, saving the overhanging scraps for decorative cutouts, if desired. Place your dough in a 9-inch tart pan. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights.
3. Bake at 425 for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 and bake for 15-20 more minutes until it is 75% done. Remove the pie weights and bake for 5 minutes more until it is just starting to turn golden brown. Immediately brush the hot tart crust with a bit of lightly beaten egg white. (This can be done ahead of time - just wrap your blind-baked tart crust and keep at room temperature for a couple days until you're ready to fill it for the remainder of the recipe.)
4. If you're making decorative shapes for the top, bake them for 5-7 minutes at 400.
5. Line your tart perimeter with foil to protect any further browning.
6. Pour the pumpkin filling from the recipe above into your blind baked tart shell. (If you've refrigerated your filling, warm in up gently in a small saucepan. You're not trying to cook it, but rather warm it up so it's not going into the oven completely cold.)
7. Bake your filled tart for about 30-35 minutes, until the center is still pretty jiggly, or until the internal temp is 200. The custard will look undone in the middle and you will question your worth as a baker. Don't worry; the custard will set some more out of the oven. Over-baking will cause the custard to crack, but don't worry, it will still be delicious.
8. When the tart is still warm, lightly press in your baked cutouts, if using.
9. Cool completely, about 2-3 hours, before removing it from the tart pan.