Julia Child's Trick For Achieving The Creamiest Pumpkin Pie

Julia Child is one of the most famous figures in the history of American cooking, so it is only natural that she had her own take on how to bake one of America's most famous culinary traditions: pumpkin pie. Inspired by her Aunt Helen, Child developed a recipe for a super creamy pie with a light texture more like a mousse than the classic custardy dessert that appears on dinner tables across the U.S. around the holidays. Think of it as a cross between traditional pumpkin pie and a chiffon version.

There's nothing expensive, exotic, or excessively complicated about the secret ingredient to Child's pie — all you need are a few eggs, which you probably already have on hand. Rather, it is how she prepares them that transforms this simple ingredient from ordinary to extraordinary. The first step to making the filling is to separate the egg yolks and whites. While many pumpkin pie recipes call for the whole egg to be cracked into the bowl as is, this additional step allows the unique characteristics of each part to shine — by whipping the whites and folding them in.

How bake a pie like Julia Child

The brilliance of Julia Child's pumpkin pie comes primarily from her method of separating the eggs. Her recipe calls for blending the yolks with the pumpkin puree, sugar, spices, molasses, heavy cream, and milk, so that it becomes a rich custard. The egg whites are kept apart and whipped until fabulously fluffy. Salt and sugar are added to the whites to form shiny soft peaks, which are then folded into the pumpkin mixture. Be sure to do this gently to avoid losing the air trapped within the egg whites, which is key to the final creamy consistency. You'll want to be careful when transferring the filling into the pie crust, too.

In addition to her approach to eggs, Child's use of the oven is also unique. She recommends beginning to bake the pie at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. She then suggests reducing the temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit after about ten minutes and baking the pie for another half hour. At that point, the oven should be turned off, the door opened, and the pie left where it is for another half hour so that it sets without deflating.

Tips, tricks, and temperature

One of the most important steps in the process of recreating Julia Child's pumpkin pie depends on successfully separating eggs and whipping the whites. To transform your transparent, gooey egg whites into white, fluffy clouds, your eggs should be at room temperature. Set them out on the counter in your kitchen at least a half hour before beginning to make your pie so that they can become as airy as possible.

What makes Julia Child's pumpkin pie recipe so special is the filling, but if you want to honor her memory and her passion for French cooking, there should be plenty of butter in the crust. You can buy a premade crust from a local bakery or grocery store, or prepare a basic flaky, buttery pie crust at home. If you opt for homemade, take your butter's temperature before mixing the dough. Either way, your crust should be chilled and ready to bake before you prepare the filling.