requires using the perfect spice blend, which typically contains allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and ... black pepper? No, that's not an error; black pepper isn't just for savory applications, such as seasoning meats and side dishes, or adding depth and a little kick to soups and stews. Much like salt, this ingredient also works as a way to enhance other flavors in a dish, as well as provide a unique flavor all its own that works surprisingly well in sweet, sugary baked goods.
Black pepper deserves a place at the pumpkin pie ingredient table, and here's why. Freshly ground black peppercorns impart a spicy, slightly citrusy note that, when mixed with the medley of warm seasonings that go into a spiced pumpkin pie, beautifully balances those deep flavors. As little as a pinch of ground black pepper into the spice mix will impart a subtle hint of heat that won't overpower the rich, sweet flavors of the rest of the pie. Try it and you'll be sure to have guests asking what your secret is.
You can use as little as a pinch of black pepper up to about ⅛ teaspoon to elevate the flavors and spice of the other ingredients in your pumpkin pie spice mix, depending on the freshness of the black pepper you're using. Typically, the fresher the black pepper, the less you need to use, and as with any ingredient, the fresher, the better.
The grind of the pepper is also important; using a finely ground black pepper is recommended over a coarser grind like what's preferred in savory dishes or ground tableside. A finely ground pepper will impart a sharper taste and be less visible than flecks of coarsely ground black peppercorns.
Although you could use freshly ground white pepper in your pumpkin pie spice mix, it doesn't have the same undertones of citrus and floral that work so well with the spices in pumpkin pie. Rather white pepper will add more of an umami-type richness to your pumpkin pie.
Since freshly ground black pepper fits in beautifully with warm, autumnal spices like cinnamon and clove, consider adding it to any dish that might feature a similar flavor profile, from creamy sweet potato pies to pumpkin-spiced lattes with extra zing.
Pumpkin pie is a somewhat neutral canvas for building flavor, and its smooth, silky filling can be jazzed up with any number of unexpected ingredients, both sweet and savory. If black pepper isn't your preference, but you're still looking for a kick to your pie, a touch of cayenne powder can give it a chile-forward heat that builds as you eat it. Try adding ½ teaspoon if you're ready for a heat-forward pie, or ¼ teaspoon if you just want a hint of spice.
For a different sort of spice in your pumpkin pie, try adding 2 or 3 teaspoons of garam masala. This curry spice is common in Indian cooking and used as a base for many popular dishes, including in and lamb biryani. The flavor profile of this spice blend mixes beautifully with the flavor of the pumpkin; this is because garam masala shares many ingredients with pumpkin pie spice, including cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. And, yes, it also contains a touch of black pepper.
Pumpkin pie is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to baked goods that blend well with black pepper. From peppery pound cake to lemon tarts with a kick, the punch of black pepper elevates any number of desserts from bland to brimming with flavor.