Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez
Staple spice-rack spices create all the depth of classic chai tea in this luscious, carrot-packed, whole-grain dessert. It’s a cross between a play on pumpkin pie and carrot cake: The texture and flavor are reminiscent of the former, and the layers—cream cheese mixture on the bottom, spiced carrot filling on top—are inspired by the latter. To get a big head start, you can make and freeze the crust up to a week ahead. A combination of butter and shortening in the crust is ideal—butter for its rich flavor, and shortening to create a flaky texture. We recommend Earth Balance shortening (found with the other shortenings in large supermarkets or health-focused stores) because, unlike most other shortenings, it contains no trans fats.
How to Make It
Prepare the crust: Whisk together flours, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add shortening and butter; combine, using your fingers, until shortening and butter are well distributed and small clumps begin to form. Stir in 2 tablespoons ice-cold water. Add up to 3 additional tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon at a time; combine, using your fingers, until dough begins to come together. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface; gently knead 1 to 2 times. Shape into a ball; flatten into a disk, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill 20 minutes.
Unwrap dough; transfer to lightly floured surface. Roll to a 10- to 11-inch circle; fit into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Fold edges under, and crimp. Freeze for 45 minutes (or up to 2 months).
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Prepare the filling: Beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 egg with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Chill until ready to use.
Bring carrots and 6 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil until carrots are tender, about 25 minutes; drain well. Place carrots, evaporated milk, brown sugar, orange juice, vinegar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel seeds, remaining 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure lid on blender, and place a clean towel over opening in lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Transfer carrot mixture to a bowl. Whisk in remaining 2 eggs.
Transfer chilled cream cheese mixture to prepared crust, smoothing with a rubber spatula. Carefully spoon carrot mixture over cream cheese mixture, making sure not to mix into the cream cheese; smooth into an even layer.
Bake at 375°F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F; sprinkle almonds over pie. Bake just until set, 40 to 45 more minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 45 minutes; chill 2 hours before serving.
Note: We recommend seeking out Earth Balance shortening because, unlike most other shortenings, it contains no trans fats.