Beth's shortcut: Instead of the canned pumpkin, you can bake a pumpkin yourself (look for baking pumpkins like the “sugar” variety) and scrape out the flesh. However, I’ve tried it and any advantage of taste is not worth the effort. I am a huge advocate for all-things-freshnot-canned, but honestly, with all the spices and the custardy texture of pumpkin pie, it’s almost impossible to taste the difference between fresh and canned.
Prepare the Crust: Crush the gingersnaps by placing them in a ziplock bag and grinding over them with a rolling pin until they are a fine, crumbly texture. (That’s how I do it, but if you must, use a blender or—I choke on the words—a food processor.) Mix cookie crumbs with melted butter.
Pat the mixture into your pie plate as evenly as possible, pressing the crumbs up onto the sides of the dish as well.
Prepare the Filling: Mix sugar and all the spices in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork or whisk. Add the pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture, then whisk in the milk. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, then turn temperature down to 375 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes or until done. Do the “jiggle test” to see if liquid filling has firmed. Sticking a knife in it also helps for determining doneness; knife should come out clean. If the custard cracks, it is done—though preferably get it out of the oven before cracks appear.
Not all ovens bake alike. Some bake hotter than others. If the crust edges are getting too brown, or the top of the pie gets too brown, there is a simple solution: Turn the oven temperature down!
Excerpted from Ms. American Pie by Beth Howard. Race Point Publishing, 2014.