Clear Pumpkin Pie Gives New Meaning To Food Transparency

It may not feel like it just yet, but autumn is fast-approaching. And we all know what that means — the season of pumpkin everything is on the horizon. As pumpkin spice has become the most beloved flavor of fall, more and more foods are available in the sweet and spicy flavor. Nevertheless, we can all agree that no matter how many pumpkin-flavored items are on the market, one quintessential autumnal baked good remains the most classic. 

While the bakery item itself is an old standby, there are more than a few ways to make a pumpkin pie. However, this season, pumpkin pie is getting a makeover. Don't worry. This new twist on the old staple won't change the taste much. Instead, this variant is more about the look. Sure, the classic holiday flavors may be familiar, but you may not recognize this pie. In fact, you may not see it at all. Get ready for some pumpkin pie that's a bit more on the transparent side. 

How can pumpkin pie be clear?

If you've never once wondered, "Why doesn't my pumpkin pie look more like glass?" don't worry. You're not alone. Luckily, we have innovative minds like Chef Simon Davies of the Alinea restaurant in Chicago, who think outside the box when it comes to what and how we eat. Plenty of chefs mostly think about how things are going to taste. And, make no mistake. Davies' unique pumpkin pie definitely tastes good. What it's known for, however, is how it looks. This pumpkin pie is entirely see-through. 

To achieve the feat of baking a perfectly clear pumpkin pie, Davies looks to science. One device, in particular, helps him to achieve this unusual look. A rotary evaporator is typically used in molecular gastronomy, which uses chemistry to create reactions that change the makeup and look of foods. The rotary evaporator allows Davies to distill the ingredients of the pumpkin pie. This maintains the flavor while totally changing the appearance. And you may be surprised to discover that this recipe isn't that different than that of your grandma's go-to Thanksgiving dessert.

Clear pumpkin pie is very similar to regular pumpkin pie

To make a clear pumpkin pie, you'll need your own rotary evaporator, which is pretty pricey and also has some very niche purposes that won't be useful to most at-home bakers. That said, the rest of the method to making a clear pumpkin pie isn't so different from whipping up a classic, opaque pumpkin pie. Chef Simon Davies uses some standard ingredients like pumpkin, condensed milk, ginger, and cinnamon. He then purees the ingredients before distilling the filling with the rotary evaporator. Finally, he then sets the filling in gelatin. 

It's easy to see, then, why this pumpkin pie looks suspiciously like unflavored Jell-O. It's also easy to understand why this pie tastes just like regular pumpkin pie. For all intents and purposes, it is regular pumpkin pie. However, what's not easy to see is the pie itself. It looks a bit like glass resting on a pie crust. If you'd want to taste clear pumpkin pie and some other very experimental foods, you may want to make a reservation for Alinea on your next Chicago trip.