Why It Works
- Letting the cream cheese soften at room temperature prior to mixing keeps the texture of the pumpkin mousse smooth and free of lumps.
- Whipping the spiced chocolate cream just shy of the stiff-peak stage ensures the pie will hold its shape when sliced.
In my house, it was never a question of "Will there be pie on the turkey table?", it was more a question of "Should that side table be for the kids, or the 12 pies?"
When I moved to tropical Singapore—about as far away from cornucopias and pilgrim hats as you can get, my routine radically changed. Without a gourd in sight, I sulked for a week from having missed a proper Halloween pumpkin carving, so I've been determined to not let pumpkin pie season pass me by too. After locating a grocery store that specializes in ingredients for displaced expats such as myself, I snatched up the last few cans of pumpkin purée and got to work.
Living near the equator forces you to do a reality check when it comes to the whole pie-baking thing. It's hot. Really hot. You have to stop and ask yourself a few questions. Do you really want to turn on the oven for an hour or more? Can you really be bothered with the stove? Nope.
So I realized this could be no ordinary pumpkin pie. In addition to adding some chocolate (because chocolate makes everything better), this pie would grace neither an oven nor a stove. To start, that meant forgetting about any kind of pie dough or cookie dough crust. A graham cracker-style pie shell was the only option—I used chocolate wafers. The crumbs are moistened with melted butter and then pressed into the pie plate. Easy as, well, you know.
For the filling, I skipped over the classic baked custard, as well as a stove top pudding. Instead, this pie is filled with a creamy pumpkin mousse that's happy to chill out in the fridge until you're ready to serve it. Flavored with a generous sprinkling of spices, it also has rich cream cheese (pumpkin's best friend), to help thicken and bind the mousse. Billowed on top is a light but flavorful cocoa whipped cream.
I could have ended it there with a final dusting of cocoa, but I decided that for real holiday showstopper appeal, a dramatic scattering of chocolate shavings would be the perfect final touch. In every cool, luscious bite you get a melange of buttery chocolate cookie, satiny spiced pumpkin, and feathery cocoa cream. The pumpkin may have cost me three times as much as back in the States, but this pie was worth every penny.
- For the Chocolate Cookie Crust:
- 6 ounces chocolate wafer cookies (about 27 wafers; see notes)
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- For the Pumpkin Mousse:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 1/4 cups pumpkin purée
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy cream
- For the Spiced Cocoa Whipped Cream:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- Pinch ground cinnamon
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- Pinch ground cloves
- For the Garnish:
- 3-ounce bar bittersweet chocolate
In a food processor, process chocolate wafers and sugar until finely ground (see notes). Add melted butter and pulse to moisten. (If mixture seems too dry, add more melted butter.) Transfer mixture to a pie plate and firmly press into bottom and up sides. Set in the fridge to chill while you make the pumpkin mousse.
In a large bowl, stir cream cheese, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves until completely incorporated. Stir in pumpkin and vanilla until smooth and incorporated.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream on medium-high speed until cream holds soft peaks that slowly dip down when whisk is pulled out of cream. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour mousse into pie shell and chill in fridge while you prepare the cocoa whipped cream.
Into unwashed mixer bowl, add all ingredients for the spiced cocoa whipped cream and chill in fridge for 30 minutes. Place bowl in standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment and whip on medium-high speed to almost stiff peak. Spread over top of pumpkin mousse. Chill pie until set, about 3 hours.
Place chocolate bar on work surface (see notes). Using a paring knife, scrape chocolate shavings from bar and use to garnish top of pie.
9-inch pie plate, food processor (optional), stand mixer, paring knife
I like to use Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers in the cookie crust. You can substitute chocolate graham crackers, just decrease the sugar by half.
If you don't have a food processor, place the cookies in a zip-lock bag and mash with a rolling pin.
When making the chocolate shavings, it helps to have the chocolate at room temperature.
Make-Ahead and Storage
This pie can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.