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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pie in the Sky

So, we've talked about all the big entree items.  The turkey,  the stuffing, the yams, and the cranberries.  I haven't really gotten into the whole vegetable thing because, frankly, no one in my house even glances at them on the buffet table.  (Tomorrow I'll include a vegetable that I like because some of you might actually want to eat veggies along with your dinner.)  But now we're on to the star of the show, as far as I'm concerned.  We're on to dessert and the pie.

I have saved the best for last.   I love pie and I especially love the pies that are traditional at Thanksgiving.  I mean, what better way to cap off a completely gluttonous meal than with a dessert filled with more calories and then topped off with whipped cream.  Perfection.  Even though I am usually absolutely ill by the time the dessert rolls around, I can always find more room for, as my Grandma Mary would have said,  "a little something sweet".  Ted has always said that no matter how good the turkey is, everyone always oohs and aahs about the dessert.  He's right.  Dessert is the show stopper in a way that nothing else can be.

First a word about pie crust.  Don't let it intimidate you.  You're bigger and stronger that it is and you can do it.  You just have to own it and put yourself in charge.  Use your food processor to mix it and then roll it out on a heavily floured surface.  A pie crust that sticks to the counter is useless.  Make sure when you're rolling the crust out that you keep moving it around to prevent sticking.  And follow the instructions to keep it cold.  The refrigerator is your friend!

My favorite is pumpkin pie.  I never feel quite as bad about eating it as I would something like chocolate cake.  I mean, pumpkin's a vegetable, isn't it?  I'll admit, pie isn't a traditional serving of vegetables, but it's a veggie nonetheless.  And the great thing about pumpkin pie is that it's easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time since it needs to hang out in the refrigerator to firm up.  I also love pumpkin cheesecake, and it's the same deal as the pie.  Make it ahead and then just look forward to it.

Apple pie is another sure winner at Thanksgiving.  And here's the thing.  Everybody should be able to make an apple pie.  After all, it's about the most American dessert going.  If you can make a good apple pie, you're set not only for Thanksgiving but for Fourth of July and just about any other big bang up holiday.  There's no event where an apple pie wouldn't work.

Here are a couple of my favorite Thanksgiving pies.  Make one or make them all.  I promise you and your pies will be the star of the show.

*  Note:  I've been making these recipes for years and I've changed them up from the originals.  In some cases, I don't even remember where I got the original recipe so I'm going to claim them as my own.  I think that by now I get to.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
(Originally from Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger but I've tinkered.  A lot.)



1/2 cup pecans
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup gingersnap crumbs (from about 20 cookies)
5 tablespoons butter, melted


2 pounds cream cheese. softened
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 large eggs, room temperature


Preheat the oven to 325.  Place the pecans and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped, about 20 seconds.  Pour into a large bowl, add the gingersnap crumbs and mix.  Pour in the melted butter and stir to combine.  Turn mixture in to a 9-inch spring form pan.  Bake for 10 minutes and then set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer at low speed until soft and smooth, about 1 minute.  In another bowl, combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and ginger.  Again with the electric mixer, mix together well, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the pumpkin mixture to the softened cream cheese and mix thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl, but do not over mix.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan, tapping the bottom gently on the courter to eliminate air packets.  Place the cake inside a large roasting pan and pour in very hot tap water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan.

Bake for 1 hour, or until the center feels firm when pressed. Immediately remove the cake pan from the water bath and set aside to cool on a rack.  Refrigerate at least four hours but overnight is better.

Remove from spring form pan to serve.

Pumpkin Pie

(Martha Stewart)


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 - 1/2 ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8-10 seconds.

With the machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube.  Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than about 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together.  If it is crumbly, add a little more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide dough into two equal balls.  Flatten each ball into a disk, and wrap in plastic.  Transfer to the refrigerator, and chill at least 1 hour.  Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.


1 can (16 ounces) unsweeted solid pack pumpkin puree
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375.

Roll one pastry disk into a 12-inch round.  Transfer to a 9 -10-inch pie pan.  Trim dough evenly along edge, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang.  Pinch to form a decorative edge.  Chill for 15 minutes.

To make the filling, in a large bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, cream, milk, molasses and vanilla.  Pour into prepared pie crust.  Bake 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 and bake until the filling no longer jiggles when pan is shaken, about 30 minutes longer.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight.

Double Crust Apple Cranberry Pie
(Food & Wine)


Use Pastry recipe above.


1 1/2 pounds tart apples
1 cup fresh cranberries
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

On a floured surface, roll out one disk of pastry into an 11-inch round.  Transfer the round to a 9-inch pie pan and fit it against the bottom and sides without stretching.  Using a small sharp knife, trim the pastry flush with the rim.  Refrigerate the pie shell for 30 minutes.

Using a small sharp knife, peel, quarter and core the apples.  Slice them lengthwise 1/4 inch thick.   In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the cranberries, 3/4 cup of sugar, flour, orange zest, cinnamon and salt.  Mix well.  Pour the filling into the pie shell.  Dot with the butter.

Preheat the oven to 400.  Lightly moisten the edge of the pie shell with cold water.  Roll out the other disk of pastry into a 12-inch round and drape it over the pie. Trim the overhang to 1.2 inch. Tuck the excess dough under the rim of the bottom pie shell and press to seal.  Crimp decoratively.  Cut 3 or 4 steam vents in the top.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes.  Cover the rim with foil to prevent over browning.  Bake for 30 minutes more, or until the apples feel tender when a cake tester is inserted into the center of the pie.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

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