I made pumpkin pie using 3 celebrity-chef recipes, and the worst was from a baking legend
A slice of pumpkin pie from every celebrity chef. Paige Bennett for insiders
I made pumpkin pie according to recipes by Dominique Ansel, Alton Brown and Bobby Flay.
My favorite recipe was Flays because it was easy to follow and the special whipped cream was delicious.
The cake I made according to the recipe of the pastry legend Ansel was a disaster and tasted pretty bland.
Brown's recipe was the easiest and had an excellent crust, but it didn't blow my mind.
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When it comes to fall foods, nothing takes the cake like a slice of homemade pumpkin pie.
Celebrity chefs certainly agree, which is why so many have their own unique pumpkin pie recipes.
To find out which ones are worth trying, I tested pumpkin pie recipes from Bobby Flay, Dominique Ansel, and Alton Brown.
Read on to see how the cakes turned out.
Flay's signature pumpkin pie takes many steps
The ingredients for Bobby Flays pumpkin pie. Paige Bennett for insiders
Despite being known as a grill master, Flay can certainly go wrong with cakes.
His recipe on the Food Network website has several steps, but it seemed very easy to organize and measure all of the ingredients in advance.
The recipe also called for homemade bourbon maple whipped cream, which sounded delicious. To make it I needed grade B syrup - but after looking for it I learned it no longer exists, so I stuck to grade A.
The cake came together easily and smelled delicious
Since I measured everything in advance, the process was as simple as pouring and wiping the restorative ingredients, then straining them for a super smooth center.
Mixing the ingredients was easy. Paige Bennett for insiders
The only problem I had was that I don't have a food processor. Instead I used a small blender / food chopper that didn't work quite as well.
This device made it difficult to incorporate the melted butter into the crushed graham cracker.
The graham cracker crust had to bake. Paige Bennett for insiders
Overall, the practical part was quick and easy. After 10 minutes of baking, my crust was firm and ready to be filled.
The recipe produced a lot more filling than I needed, so I froze the leftovers for a future cake.
The crust wasn't perfect, but it held the filling well. Paige Bennett for insiders
I then cooked the cake for about 90 minutes and it came out gold with a flawless top - no cracks here!
The whipped cream and cake went perfectly together
Bobby Flay's cake looked perfect after it cooled. Paige Bennett for insiders
I was impressed with how well the cake held its shape when I cut into it. Although the crust on the bottom was probably thicker than it should have been, I was glad it didn't crumble and fall apart.
The whipped cream alone was incredibly tasty. I could taste every element: the cream, the vanilla, the bourbon and the maple syrup.
The filling of the cake had a light pumpkin flavor with a nice balance of sweetness and flavor. Paired with the whipped cream, the dessert had the perfect balance of vanilla, maple syrup, warm pumpkin and spices.
Bobby Flay's cake looked smooth and tasty. Paige Bennett for insiders
The graham cracker crust was ok, but I wish it was crispier - I was disappointed with its slightly damp bottom.
The edges were crisp, but they weren't as flavorful as I would have liked.
Ansel's pumpkin pie recipe is heavy on the ginger and requires a batter crust
The ingredients for Dominique Ansel's pumpkin pie. Paige Bennett for insiders
I was following a recipe that the famous pastry chef and inventor of the cronut shared with InStyle, and my first concern was how much ginger, fresh and ground, it took. I like ginger, but I don't love it in large quantities.
I also expected the cake to have a pretty rich center as this recipe calls for a lot of egg yolks in the filling.
For the crust, I had to fight with the batter
Since this was a pastry crust making process, this recipe took many steps. Because of this, I recommend doing this the day before if you need it for a specific occasion.
At first it took me a long time to grate the fresh ginger for the crust, so I reduced the amount to about 1½ tablespoons instead of 2 tablespoons.
After I mixed the crust and let it cool it was time to roll. I cut the batter and set aside a half that I originally wanted to freeze for later.
The dough was incredibly difficult to roll out. Paige Bennett for insiders
But rolling the dough was an utter disaster. My first half of the dough kept sticking to the rolling pin and the surface, although I floured both this and my hands before starting.
I was frustrated and scrapped this half, thankful that I still have the second half. I wrapped this dough loosely in plastic wrap to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin.
This worked somewhat well until I had to peel the dough from the plastic wrap and it fell apart.
I wrestled the batter as best I could and draped it over my cake pan. It didn't quite fit so I did my best to put it together.
The batter did not fit well in the pan. Paige Bennett for insiders
Next came the blind baking - if you bake a cake crust before filling it - which made me nervous because the batter was so delicate. I used parchment paper and dry rice to weigh down the crust while baking.
When I pulled out the crust and tried to remove the rice, most of my batter came on top.
I scraped off some paper and repaired the crust as best I could, but this turned out to be a complete disaster.
Finally, I patched the dough together enough to create a crust. Paige Bennett for insiders
I kept pushing and adding the crust to the crust anyway. Then it was ready to be baked.
Fortunately, the filling looked pretty creamy. Paige Bennett for insiders
The cake took about 20 minutes longer to bake than the recipe's maximum estimated time of 35 minutes.
Despite all the difficulties, the cake was pretty bland
The cake I made using Dominique Ansel's recipe was ok. Paige Bennett for insiders
All in all, the cake looked fine when it came out of the oven. The crust didn't have a perfectly pinched edge, but at this point I was glad it came together at all.
The filling rose over the crust in the oven and fell off towards the end of the baking process, creating several cracks around the cake.
I thought this cake would hold its shape as the best of all three recipes because it had a batter crust, but unfortunately it fell apart when I cut a slice. The lower crust was thicker and slightly damp on one side.
The crust wasn't great. Paige Bennett for insiders
The pumpkin layer tasted a lot like pumpkin - I would have liked more sweetness and a little more spice for a better taste.
The texture was super smooth thanks to the egg yolk. Fortunately, all of the ginger didn't overwhelm the taste of the cake. I wish the crust had more flavor.
For the sake of simplicity, I've swapped fresh pumpkin for cans in Brown's recipe
The ingredients for Alton Brown's cake. Paige Bennett for insiders
Brown's recipe, which can be found on the Food Network website, requires baking a fresh pumpkin to make homemade pumpkin puree. I was short on time and wasn't a fan of pumpkin casings. I decided to skip this and swap it for canned pumpkin puree.
I was surprised to see that this recipe didn't call for cinnamon, unlike every pumpkin pie I've ever made (or eaten) before. I hoped the nutmeg would make up for that.
Of the three recipes, Browns was the easiest to follow
The cake's gingersnap crust was similar to Flay's graham cracker crust. It couldn't come together as well as it should without a food processor, but it still looked good and smelled even better.
For the crust, I used a small device to grind my cookies. Paige Bennett for insiders
I pressed it into a cake pan and baked it for about 10 minutes.
Without fresh pumpkin, the filling was easy. I warmed the pumpkin puree and half and half along with nutmeg and salt on the stove, then beat this mixture in brown sugar and eggs.
I let the filling and crust cool for 15 minutes, then combined them and baked my cake for 45 minutes.
The filling for Alton Brown's cake was light orange in color. Paige Bennett for insiders
There were no breakdowns here; The process was straightforward and quick. Of course, if I had made the pumpkin puree from scratch it would have taken a lot longer.
I liked the taste of the gingersnap crust
Alton Brown's cake looked pretty good. Paige Bennett for insiders
After baking, I noticed that some liquid was collecting on this surface. Otherwise the surface was flawless.
The sturdy crust held everything in place when I took a slice out of the pan.
I liked the clear definition between crust and pumpkin in each slice - it was a really nice presentation.
The filling could have used a little more seasoning - maybe cinnamon - but it was still tasty. The pumpkin flavor came through and was sweet.
Alton Brown's cake was cut pretty evenly. Paige Bennett for insiders
The ginger flavor in the crust came through with every bite. It was a little wetter than I had hoped, even around the edges, but I was afraid it would have left a burned crust in the oven for much longer.
Overall, I would definitely do Flay's recipe again, especially the whipped cream
All cakes together: Alton Browns (front), Bobby Flays (back), Dominique Ansel (right). Paige Bennett for insiders
I liked the filling and whipped cream from Flay's recipe, and overall the cake was pretty easy to put together. The only thing I would change is to make the crust more flavorful, maybe by adding seasoning.
Brown's crust was quite tasty and the texture of the filling was perfect. I could also use a food processor to get the crust to a better texture. This recipe resulted in a quaint cake that looked just as good on Instagram as it did in real life.
In all honesty, I'd love to try Flays Filling and Whipped Cream with Browns Gingersnap Crust for the ultimate pumpkin pie.
Unfortunately, I can't see myself trying Ansel's recipe again.
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