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Parsnip Buttermilk Pie

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Serves eight to ten.

  • by David Tanis from Fine Cooking
    Issue 102

This may look like pumpkin pie, but it tastes nothing like it—it’s sweet and tangy, with a delicate mousse-like texture. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

For the crust
  • 6 oz. (1-1/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
For the filling
  • 2 lb. medium parsnips, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
Make the crust

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, butter, sugar, and salt and mix on medium speed until the butter blends into the flour and the mixture resembles a coarse meal, about 2 minutes. Mix 2 Tbs. ice-cold water with the egg yolk in a small bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the yolk mixture and mix until just combined. Transfer the dough to a work surface and bring it together with your hands. Shape it into a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Set the dough on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle a little flour over it, and roll it out into a 1/8-inch-thick circle that’s about 12 inches in diameter, reflouring the dough and work surface as necessary.

Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate and gently fit it into the pan, lifting the edges and pressing the dough into the corners with your fingers. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold the overhanging dough underneath itself and crimp the edges. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.

Line the dough with foil or parchment, fill with dried beans or pie weights, and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Carefully remove the foil and weights and continue to bake until the bottom looks dry and the edges are light golden, an additional 5 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before filling (leave the oven at 350°F).

Make the filling

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the parsnips and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the parsnips in a colander and let them steam under a clean kitchen towel for about 5 minutes. Return the parsnips to the pot and mash them with a potato masher, keeping the mixture rather rough. Measure 2 cups of the parsnip mash; save any extra for another use.

Purée the 2 cups of mashed parsnips and the buttermilk in a blender until smooth. Transfer the purée to a mixing bowl. With a whisk, beat in the sugar, eggs, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, whisking until the sugar dissolves.

Bake the pie

Pour the filling into the piecrust and bake until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of the filling comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour. Serve at room temperature.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 310; Fat (g): 11; Fat Calories (kcal): 100; Saturated Fat (g): 7; Protein (g): 6; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 3; Carbohydrates (g): 47; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0.5; Sodium (mg): 300; Cholesterol (mg): 90; Fiber (g): 5;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This recipe is OK, but needs an update. There is no temperature setting indicated for baking, which is a pretty major miss. I ran into the recipe in the Winter 2013 issue of Cook Fresh, but it looks like it was first published at least five years before that, so theoretically there has been a lot of time to retest the recipe and make corrections. Editors, you need to do this recipe justice by making the temperature correction! I ended up starting at 350 then upping it to 375 about 20 minutes in. I'd guess 375 is closer to what was intended. The crust is also problematic. Another reviewer mentioned the same problem I had -- the dough is incredibly crumbly and unrollable. I ended up treating it like a crumb crust and pressing it into my pie dish. To my surprise, that worked, and saved me from wasting a half cup of Plugra, but there was no crimping possible. If I make this again, I would bring down the flour to 1 1/4 cups rather than 1 1/3, and I'd allow for the possibility of more water. The egg yolk plus 2 Tbsp should theoretically be enough liquid with the smaller proportion of flour, but it would need to be tested. On the plus side, blending the mashed parsnips with the buttermilk was a "cooking magic" moment for me -- it makes a gorgeous custard! -- and the final result was as delicious as I expect from Fine Cooking. The recipe needs tweaking, but it's worth making.

Out of 7 people, only 1 really liked it. I think it could have used a bit more sugar to seem more pie like. Being familiar with parsnips, we were easily able to identify the flavour, but no one minded having it for dessert.

This was my first time making a pie and it was super easy (mostly). I served this for Thanksgiving and it was huge hit! The filling is silky, the crust is very crisp and flaky. Most people were skeptical about parsnips and buttermilk in a dessert but they all loved this pie. They commented that it reminded them of pumpkin or sweet potato, but with a little different flavor that made it obvious it wasn't either of those. Nobody would have picked the ingredients, though. I would have given this 5 stars, but there were two serious omissions. First, there is no way the crust will come together with only 2T water. I tried it the first time and had a crumbly mess so I assumed I had skipped something. I did it a second time with the same failed results. I checked the Internet and most pie crust recipes call for 3 - 4T water, so the third time I slowly added more water until the dough came together and I used 3T total: 2T with the egg yolk, 1T added in 1/2t increments. As I said, this was my first time ever making a pie so this may be known to every one else. Now I know, too. Second, the recipe doesn't say what temperature to bake the pie. Again, maybe there is a universally known temperature but I had no clue. I ended up baking it at 325 and it took 90 minutes for a toothpick to come out clean. It cracked and wasn't pretty, but it was very tasty. Next time I'll try it at 350 and see what happens.

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