So you forgot to make (or buy) pie crust. Never mind—you don’t really need one when you have a fantastic filling. (And anyway, the crust is often soggy on a moist pie like pumpkin.) Angela Pinkerton, pastry chef at San Francisco’s Theorita, gave us this delicate dessert—with toasted pecans for crunch, instead of a crust. Use the maximum sugar and spices if you like a bolder, sweeter pie.
Preheat oven to 425°. Whisk spices and salt in a small bowl. Slit vanilla bean lengthwise, then scrape out seeds; add them to a large bowl. (Bury vanilla pod in sugar for future baking, if you like.) To seeds, add pumpkin, eggs, and sugar and whisk to blend, using a sideways stirring motion so as not to beat in air (pie will be smoother). Whisk in spice mix, then whisk in cream and crème fraîche. Strain into another bowl.
Pour custard into a 10-in. quiche pan or a 9-in. pie pan. Bake 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350° (325° if pan is glass) and bake until center is almost set, 15 to 20 minutes.
Cool on a rack 2 hours, then sprinkle with pecans. Serve with a spoon and dollop with whipped cream if you like.
MAKE AHEAD: Up to 2 days, chilled.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.