This recipe begins by browning sugar over medium-high heat until melted. I stopped short of cooking as long as the directions suggested. Heavy cream is then added to the hot syrup and stirred until smooth to make caramel. I did have a piece that did not melt back and I just lifted it out before proceeding.
1-9 inch single crust made with Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough partially baked and cooled
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 T dark rum, cognac or apple cider
2 T unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup cunned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 1/4 t ground cinnamon
3/4 t ground ginger
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Tiny pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving
Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the sugar evenly over the bottom of a large nonstick skillet.
Place the skillet over medium-high heat and, staying close by, cook until the sugar melts and starts to color. Once you see a little color, gently swirl the skillet so that the sugar colors evenly. Cook the sugar, without stirring, until it turns deep amber–almost mahogany. The sugar will bubble up and foam and soon it will start to smoke. It is very dramatic, and it might make you think you’ve gone too far, but you want a dark (though not burned black) color; the darker the sugar, the fuller the flavor.
When the bubbles have gone from foamy to big and fat, you will probably have reached the right color. To check the color, drop a bit of the caramelized sugar on a white plate.
Lower the heat to medium, stand back and pour the cream into the skillet. The sugar will bubble and hiss and, if the cream was cold, it may even clump. Just continue to cook, stirring and it will even out. Add the cider and butter and cook just until the caramel is smooth. pour the caramel into a heatproof pitcher or bowl and cool it for about 15 minutes.
Working with a whisk in a large bowl, beat the pumpkin to break it up and smooth it. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat to blend. Whisk in the spices, salt vanilla and eggs, beating until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the caramel. Rap the bowl against the counter a few times to de-bubble the filling, then pour the filling into the crust.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and set–tap the pan gently and the filling won’t jiggle. A thin knife inserted into the center of the pie will come out clean. it will also leave a gash in the filling, but you’ll be covering it with whipped cream.
Transfer the pie to a rack and cool to room temperature, or cool and refrigerate (see Serving). When you are ready to serve, spread the lightly whipped cream over the top of the pie. If you’d like a dressier look, whip the cream until it is firm, put it into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe rosettes over the surface of the pie. Alternatively, you can pipe the cream in a lattice pattern.