Keep calm, and eat pie.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I could take or leave Thanksgiving dinner; I know, I know, I'm a weirdo.  I like the elements of a traditional Thanksgiving meal okay. I'm just not crazy about them.  But pie, well that's another story.  When I was little, we always had Thanksgiving at my grandparents.  New Hampshire in November is freezing and my grandmother would store all the pies on their covered back porch.  I loved going out there and just looking at all that baked goodness and planning what order I was going to eat them in.  It just doesn't feel like Thanksgiving if there aren't at least half a dozen pies to choose from. In case you're in the same boat, or just need some inspiration, here is a roundup of some of our favorite pies.  We'd love to hear some of your favorites too!

1. Apple Pie
There are so many great variations of this classic: dutch, deep dish, sour cream, salted caramel, pie with cheddar baked right into the crust (as my grandmother used to say, "A pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.").  They're all wonderful but you'll never go wrong sticking to the basics.

1/2 C. white sugar
2 Tbs. instant tapioca (this is just a thickening agent, not critical)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
6-7 thinly sliced apples (a mixture of tart and sweet)
Combine and let sit for about 10 minutes, then pour into pie shell.  

Mix until crumbly and sprinkle 1/2 on top of the filling (save the other half for another pie): 
1/4 C. unsalted butter
3/4 C. brown sugar
1/3 C. flour

Cover with top crust or lattice.  Bake at 400 oven for 50 or so minutes.

2. Pecan Pie
Cooks Illustrated probably has the most outstanding pecan pie I've ever had.  It's pretty straightforward, but you need to build in a fair amount of time for the filling to set after baking.  About 4 hours.  I also love adding a tablespoon or two of bourbon.

6 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 C. dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
3/4 C. light corn syrup
1 Tbs. vanilla
2 C. whole pecans, toasted and chopped

Melt butter in medium bowl set over simmering water. Remove bowl; mix in sugar and salt until butter is absorbed. Beat in eggs, then corn syrup and vanilla. Return bowl to hot water; stir until mixture is shiny and warm. Remove from heat; stir in pecans.

Pour into still warm, baked pie shell and bake at 275 for 50-60 minutes until the center feels gelatinous. 

(Recipe from Cooks Illustrated)

*Molly Wizenberg from Orangette wrote a memoir, A Homemade Life, and shared another delicious but unbelievably simple chocolate pecan pie that we make fairly often- Hoosier Pie.  Here's a link to that recipe.

3. Chocolate Cream Pie
I'm always looking for a reason to make this- it's like eating chocolate custard, on a cookie, slathered in whipped cream.

Cookie Crust:
Pulse together 16 Oreo cookies (with filling) in a food processor until finely ground.  Combine with 2 Tbs. melted butter and press into pie shell.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes then set aside to cool.

2 1/2 C. half and half
pinch of table salt
1/3 C. white sugar
2 Tbs. cornstarch
6 large egg yolks
6 Tbs. unsalted butter (cold), cut into 6 pieces
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (chopped or Ghiradelli chips work well)
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla

Bring half-and-half, salt, and about 3 tablespoons sugar to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Stir together remaining sugar and cornstarch in small bowl, then sprinkle over yolks and whisk until mixture is glossy and sugar has begun to dissolve and mixture begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. When half-and-half reaches full simmer, drizzle about 1/2 cup hot half-and-half over yolks, whisking constantly; then whisk egg yolk mixture into simmering half-and-half. Return to simmer, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on the surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 15 seconds longer.

Off heat, whisk in butter until incorporated; add chocolates and whisk until melted. Stir in vanilla, then immediately pour filling into baked and cooled crust. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of filling and refrigerate pie until filling is cold and firm, about 3 hours. Top with fresh whipped cream.

(Recipe from Cooks Illustrated)

*Another pie that both Sarah and I have made fairly often is this s'mores pie from Epicurious.  You're killing me smalls.

4. Berry Crumble Pie
Bursting with fruit and a great counterbalance to some of the heavier, traditional holiday pies.

36 ounces of mixed, fresh berries (raspberries and blackberries are great)
1/2 C. cornstarch
1 C. white sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
zest of one lemon

Gently combine ingredients and pour into fully baked pie crust.

Pulse in food processor and sprinkle over berry filling:
1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. butter
1/2 rolled oats

Bake at 375 for 1 hour.

(Recipe from The Italian Dish)

5.  Key Lime Pie
Smitten Kitchen is one of our favorite cooking blogs, I could give you a list of dozens of recipes from the blog that have made their way into rotation in our  home.  This key lime pie is one of them.

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (from about 10 crackers)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 pinches sea salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
3 large egg yolks 
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh lime juice (from about 1 dozen tiny key limes or 4 persian/regular limes)
To Finish
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 to 2 tablespoons powdered or granulated sugar, to taste
Make crust: Combine graham crumbs, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and stir until mixed. Add butter and stir until crumbs are evenly coated. Press crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of pie dish. Bake crust at 350 until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set on cooling rack while you prepare filling. Leave oven on.
Make filling: Zest limes into the bottom of a medium bowl until you have 1 1/2 tablespoons. Beat zest and egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until thickened again, about 3 minutes more. Squeeze zested limes until you have 2/3 cups juice. Whisk into yolk mixture until combined. Pour into graham crust and bake pie for another 10 minutes, until set but not browned on top at all. Let pie cool completely before adding topping.
Spread freshly whipped cream over chilled pie.
(Recipe from Smitten Kitchen)


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