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An Unlikely Connubial of Pumpkin and Tofu

11/15/2012 10:08 am ET | Updated Jan 15, 2013
Flickr: Muffet

This healthful pumpkin pie recipe maintains the signature traits of Thanksgiving's beloved dessert -- subtly spiced pumpkin and velvety smooth filling -- while nipping saturated fat in the bud. What's the secret? Tofu, front and center... and I'm not talking about the turkey!

OK, let's get all of tofu's negative connotations out of the way now. Tasteless; bland; watery; weird texture. Upon tasting, this pumpkin pie should quash those stereotypes once and for all.

Utilized correctly, tofu is a superb cooking medium. That "tasteless" quality allows it to soak up surrounding flavors like a sponge, and its stereotyped "weird" texture? From extra firm to silken soft, a range of consistencies grants tofu permission to sneak into many a dish. Silken tofu -- also known as Japanese-style -- is the softest of them all, showcasing a thick, creamy texture. It is the perfect ingredient to achieve the signature, velvety feel of pumpkin pie.

But tofu contributes more to this pie than spot-on texture. In one fell swoop, it eliminates all the cholesterol hotbeds of a classic pumpkin pie, replacing eggs, heavy cream, half & half and butter. Soy-based and slightly sweet, it still retains that dairy-like taste, so much so that your guests will be surprised to learn that this recipe is vegan -- if you choose to tell them, that is.

One thing not to keep quiet: This pumpkin-tofu coupling packs a serious nutritional punch! Both ingredients are low in fat and calories, plus tofu boasts high protein and iron; pumpkin, vitamin A and fiber. Be careful that your prepared crust doesn't compromise the pie's healthfulness though -- most contain palm oil, which can cost you a quarter of your daily recommended fat intake in one slice. To avoid this, I used a palm-oil free graham-cracker crust.

Canned pumpkin puree can be found in most supermarkets, but for the freshest pie possible I recommend roasting and pureeing your own! Sugar pumpkins -- the smaller, sweeter version of the well-known carving pumpkin -- are in abundance at farmers markets this time of year, and generally run about $2 a pound.

Tofu Pumpkin Pie
Makes 2 pies

Ingredients:
10 ounces silken tofu, blended until smooth
16 ounces homemade* or canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 unbaked pie shells
Optional toppings: whipped cream, chopped crystalized ginger

*To roast a sugar pumpkin, (I recommend roasting two at a time at around two lbs each, which should yield about 4 cups of puree) preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With a sharp knife, cut off the stem of each pumpkin, and then slice in half, right down the middle. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and pulpy flesh. Place halves cut side down on a baking sheet lined with tin foil or parchment paper. Roast for 45-50 minutes, until a fork pokes easily through the skin. Let pumpkin cool for 10 minutes, and then peel off the skin. "Puree" by mashing with a fork, until desired consistency is reached.

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, cream together pumpkin and sugar. Add vanilla, salt, spices, and tofu, and mix thoroughly. Pour filling into the pie shells, distributing evenly between them.
3. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees, and bake for 45 more minutes.
4. Remove from oven and let pie cool. Serve with whipped cream and sprinkle with crystalized ginger, if desired.