Sunday, December 8, 2019

Pumpkin Pie with a Swiss Accent -- Ellen Crosby -- giveaway

LESLIE:  Our guests are not just some of the best mystery writers working today; they are some of the most interesting people! I think you'll agree when you meet Ellen Crosby.

Ellen is giving away a copy of THE ANGELS' SHARE, her tenth Wine Country mystery. Leave a comment below for a chance to win. 

ELLEN: I lived overseas for nearly fifteen years, first as a student in Madrid and Bologna, later because my husband’s job as a journalist took us to Geneva, Moscow, and London. The experiences and memories of those years are some of the happiest of my life except for two days every year when I was always terribly homesick: the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving.

Especially Thanksgiving.

Not long after we moved to Geneva in the fall of 1984 and I was at loose ends after quitting my job on Capitol Hill, a friend got me involved in a British musical theater group. The Geneva Amateur Operatic Society, or GAOS, was rehearsing its Christmas show, a traditional English production called a pantomime, which is always based on a fairy tale. That year it was Sinbad the Sailor. Before long I was singing in the chorus, sewing costumes, and one-half of an octopus. (Don’t ask about the octopus.)

Our rehearsals fell on Tuesdays and Thursdays; by late November the cast and crew had moved from a borrowed church hall in the French village of Ferney-Voltaire where I lived, across the border to Geneva, into the theater where we would be performing. Since most of the group was British, we rehearsed on Thanksgiving. But the three Americans in the company—two other women and me—decided we still needed to celebrate our Thanksgiving. So we baked pumpkins pies and brought them to the theater, serving them at the end of rehearsal. I remember everyone eating pie while sitting in the last rows of the semi-dark theater. Invariably we ended up singing.

My favorite pumpkin pie was the one my good friend Carolyn Hornfeld brought, so I asked her for the recipe. l make it every year for Thanksgiving, but also because it reminds me of those rehearsals in Switzerland and some of our dearest friends. I hope you enjoy it! 

Pumpkin Pie  

*Unbaked 9-inch pie shell (See below for recipe for pie dough if you don’t want to use a prepared pie shell)
2 large or 3 small eggs
½ cup sugar
2 T molasses
½ t salt
1 t ginger
½  t cinnamon
¼ t cloves or allspice
2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin, strained
1 ½ cups milk, light cream or evaporated milk

1. Prepare the pie shell with a fluted standing rim. Brush lightly with egg white or shortening.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

3. Beat the eggs with the sugar, molasses, salt and spices until well blended. Add the pumpkin and milk and mi well. Adjust the seasonings.

4. Turn the mixture into the prepared crust and bake on the lower shelf of the oven ten minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, or about thirty minutes longer.

*I used a 9-1/2 inch pie plate and my own dough because I don't want to risk overfilling the pie plate.  

Serves 6


Pépin’s Pie Dough (or Pâte Brisée)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/1/2 sticks (6 ounces) sweet butter, very cold and cut into ¼-inch
¼ t salt
½ t sugar
1/3 cup cold water (approximately)

Jacques Pépin makes his dough by hand but I used a KitchenAid mixer, so I’m amending his recipe.

1. Place the flour, butter, salt, and sugar in the mixing bowl. Mix (or pulse) the ingredients well enough so that all the butter pieces are coated with flour. My dough (see photo) looked crumbly with the butter broken up more or less uniformly.

2. Add water SLOWLY as the crumbly dough gradually becomes a ball. Do not worry if there are little pieces of plain butter here and there. This will give flakiness to the dough, making it slightly similar to a puff paste. Remove from the mixing bowl and form into a ball taking care not to overwork the dough, which should be malleable and usable right away. N.B. My dough would have fallen apart if I used it right away so I let it rest in the refrigerator.

3. Place dough on a floured board and roll uniformly, turning it a quarter of a turn as you are rolling so that it forms a nice “wheel.” Be sure the board is well floured underneath. The dough should be approximately 1/8 inch thick, although many cooks like it thicker.

4. Roll the dough back on the rolling pin, lift and unroll onto the pie pan.

5. With the tips of your fingers push in the corners so that the dough does not get stretched, which would cause it to shrink during the baking.

6. Squeeze a lip around the inside of the pie plate working the dough between your thumb and forefinger.

7. Mark the edges with a dough crimper or the tines of a fork or by squeezing it between your fingers and it’s ready to be used.

The New York Times’ pumpkin pie recipe—via Carolyn Hornfeld
Pie crust from Jacques Pépin’s Complete Techniques  
Notes on How to Keep a Pumpkin Pie from Cracking via KingArthur Flour 

Check the King Arthur flour website if you have trouble with your pumpkin pie cracking. Two things I learned: Bake your pie on on a lower oven rack so the crust gets cooked but the filling isn’t overcooked. Second, take it out of the oven when it doesn’t look done because it’s going to continue cooking afterwards because of the eggs, which are what causes cracking as they shrink. The result, according to the website, is a creamier filling—which is how my pie turned out.

Quoting from the website:
"The fully baked pumpkin pie will look slightly domed and solid around the edges; and a bit sunken and soft in the center: not sloshing like liquid, but jiggling like Jell-O. And I don't mean just a nickel-sized area in the very center; I mean a good 4" center ring of what looks like not-quite-baked filling." 

Talk to us about pie, wine, the theater, living and working abroad, or anything else that Ellen's books and stories bring to mind! One lucky reader will win a copy of THE ANGELS' SHARE! (U.S. addresses only, please. Winner to be announced Tues, Dec. 10.)  

When Lucie Montgomery attends a Thanksgiving weekend party for friends and neighbors at Hawthorne Castle, an honest-to-goodness castle owned by the Avery family, America's last great newspaper dynasty and owners of the Washington Tribune, she doesn't expect the festive occasion to end in death.
During the party, Prescott Avery, the 95-year old family patriarch, invites Lucie to his fabulous wine cellar where he offers to pay any price for a cache of 200-year-old Madeira that her great-great-uncle, a Prohibition bootlegger, discovered hidden in the US Capitol in the 1920s. Lucie knows nothing about the valuable wine, believing her late father, a notorious gambler and spendthrift, probably sold or drank it. By the end of the party Lucie and her fiancé, winemaker Quinn Santori, discover Prescott's body lying in his wine cellar. Is one of the guests a murderer?
As Lucie searches for the lost Madeira, which she believes links Prescott's death to a cryptic letter her father owned, she learns about Prescott's affiliation with the Freemasons. More investigating hints at a mysterious vault supposedly containing documents hidden by the Founding Fathers and a possible tie to William Shakespeare. If Lucie finds the long-lost documents, the explosive revelations could change history. But will she uncover a three hundred-year-old secret before a determined killer finds her?

ELLEN CROSBY is the author of the Virginia wine country mysteries, including THE ANGELS’ SHARE, featuring vineyard owner Lucie Montgomery, released by Minotaur Books on November 5, 2019. Her books have been nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award; THE RIESLING RETRIBUTION won the 2009 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best US Wine Literature Book. Crosby has also written two mysteries featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina and MOSCOW NIGHTS, a standalone mystery. Previously she worked as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post, Moscow correspondent for ABC Radio News, and as an economist at the U.S. Senate. Learn more at 


  1. Hi Ellen,
    Congratulations on your recent book release !
    I hadn't heard of Wine country mystery series before.
    Lucie sounds very intriguing. I will definitely look up your books at my local library.I love a good mystery!
    You're pie looks delicious, I hadn't seen a pumpkin pie recipe that contains molasses.
    I'm huge pie and molasses fan,so I will be baking it soon.

    1. Mindy, this is a rather old recipe dating from (at least) the mid80s, which is perhaps why molasses is one of the ingredients. I am often surprised when I pull out a recipe that belonged to my grandmother or even my mother and find it calls for Crisco, for example. I think we cook/bake differently nowadays.

  2. I haven't read this series before, I'll have to look into it. Sounds like a good one. I love pie, what can I say- I am my father's daughter.

    1. I hope you enjoy the books, Alicia! You could always read with a glass of wine. :)

  3. Sounds like a fantastic read. Thanks for the giveaway. doward1952(at)yahoo(dot)com

  4. I lived for two months in London while I was in college. Loved it.
    turtle6422 at gmail dot com

    1. Lucky you! Both my husband and my brother lived abroad as young men and it really did change their lives.

    2. We were in London for nearly 5 years--my kids loved it and so did my husband and I. It's a fabulous city.

  5. Congratulations on the new book, Ellen. What I really love is how you integrate history with a mystery in the present day. Those are my favorite kinds of books to read.

  6. You are a new to me author. Adding you to TBR list. Not a big pumpkin pie eater as I prefer pumpkin bread. schmokercarol(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. I hope you enjoy the books, Carol . . . and I think pumpkin is an acquired taste!

  7. Your new book sounds intriguing and unique. Mixing history with a mystery creates a fascinating story. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Thank you--there is so much wonderful history in Virginia that I'm never at a loss for something to write about!

  8. Thanks for this very interesting post. What a captivating story which I would enjoy. Your treat is lovely. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

    1. Thank you! We have not quite hung up our traveling shoes yet and are still trying to see places we haven't yet visited. But this time we always come home to America!

  9. I love pie. And I have alot of your books from this series. They always keep me wanting more. And now I cant wait to make a homemade pie. bnharris6218(at)outlook(dot)com

  10. BTW, Ellen is off at a library event this afternoon, but she'll be along shortly to respond to your comments!

    1. Thanks for inviting me, Leslie! I had fun putting this blog post together. (Plus we ended up with pie!)

  11. I love pie—pumpkin and pecan are pretty much my favorite.

    1. My husband made the most amazing key lime and cranberry tart for Thanksgiving this year. Seriously delicious.

  12. I forgot—

  13. Sounds interesting and fun to read. I like how history and mystery in the present day is in the story. The pie looks amazing and delicious. My favorite pie. Mine have cracked now I can try to make the perfect pie. I do want to read your book soon! Thank you for the chance

    1. Donamae, I took the pie out when I was sure it was too early--plus I didn't want to stick a knife in to test doneness because then I'd have a knife slit. But, to my surprise, it was baked and I only had a very small amount of cracking.

  14. My favorite pie is an English Apple Pie that my Mom used to make. It had a crumb topping and is so good. This is a new series to me, adding to my TBR list.

    1. I hope you enjoy the books--and I love apple pie, too!

  15. I love pumpkin pie. It's probably my favorite pie, and this one looks delicious! mbradeen [at] yahoo [dot] com

    1. It's a good recipe and has held up for the last 35 years! Enjoy!