Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving staple. Our version uses a secret ingredient to make it smooth and sliceable without baking it.
In medium microwave-safe bowl, whisk cream and gelatin until all gelatin looks wet (mixture will be slightly lumpy). Let mixture sit for 5 minutes.
Heat gelatin mixture in microwave for 1 minute. Use oven mitts to remove bowl from microwave and whisk until smooth and syrupy. Set aside.
In large microwave-safe bowl, whisk pumpkin, sugar, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger until combined. Heat pumpkin mixture in microwave until steaming, about 2 minutes.
Use oven mitts to remove bowl from microwave. Add gelatin mixture to pumpkin mixture and carefully whisk until well combined (ask an adult for help—bowl will be HOT).
Use rubber spatula to scrape filling into cooled pie crust. Gently shake pie so filling spreads evenly to edges. Let pie cool for 10 minutes.
Most pumpkin pies—like the ones on your Thanksgiving table every year—have fillings that contain pumpkin puree, cream, sugar, spices, and eggs. Because of the eggs, which make the filling nice and thick, these pies need to be baked, often for a long time. In our pumpkin pie, however, we don’t use eggs. Instead, we use gelatin—the same ingredient that is in Jell-O!
And instead of baking our pie, after heating up the gelatin and the pumpkin in the microwave, we chill it. (Well, we still bake the crust—called blind-baking—but we chill the baked crust and its nonbaked filling.)
What?! This is because gelatin is a kind of protein. It’s made up of long, thin molecules. When gelatin is mixed with a hot liquid, its molecules are loose and flexible and they move around a lot—the liquid stays liquid. But when the temperature gets colder, the gelatin molecules slow down and start to get tangled, kind of like earbuds when they’re in your pocket. Eventually, they get so tangled that they trap the liquid inside. The liquid can’t move around or flow: it becomes a solid—in this case, a smooth, sliceable, solid pumpkin pie filling!