Pie is the perfect ending for holiday meals

But pumpkin isn’t the only flavor to pick when deciding how to complete your Thanksgiving dinner

    When you think of Thanksgiving, several images come to mind — among them a golden roast turkey surrounded by stuffing, cranberries and other traditional fixings.
    And at the end of the meal, pie — especially pumpkin pie — is usually the image that comes to the forefront.
    After all, there’s nothing better than a warm, fresh pie.
    But there are more pies than pumpkin that could grace your holiday table. Think pecan or apple, even sweet potato pie or try something different this year.
    The sweet filling of a pie is offset by the flaky goodness of the crust, and there are plenty of ways to make a flaky pie crust. Some people swear by lard, others by shortening. Some people believe that substituting vodka for a portion of the liquid is the way to go, while others say cold water is the only option.    
    Although many people consider it difficult to create a tender crust, there are two simple rules to remember — handle the dough as little as possible and keep the ingredients cool.
    All the ingredients, including the flour and especially the fat, should be ice cold before mixing. If making the dough in a food processor, you can freeze the fat before using it.
    Chill the dough for about an hour before rolling to help prevent sticking.
    Some recipes call for blind baking the crust, while others don’t require the crust to be pre-baked.
    Always make deep slits in the top crust of a fruit pie or the crust will end up soft and soggy.
    Cool baked pies on a wire rack on a counter. This allows air to circulate under the pie, preventing it from becoming soggy.
    While you have many options for the crust — from the traditional pastry crust to a cookie crumb version — the filling is easily the most versatile part of the pie.
    Don’t forget to finish off the dessert with a dollop of whipped cream or a bit of ice cream.
    Following are some pie recipes from www.allrecipes.com.



Mini Sweet Potato Pumpkin Pies

1 egg, separated
1 egg
6 mini-graham cracker pie crusts
1/2 of a 16-ounce can sweet potatoes, drained and mashed
1/2 of a 17-ounce can pumpkin pie filling
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons whipped cream
6 walnut halves

    Place the white of the separated egg in a small bowl and the yolk in a large bowl. Beat the white, then brush the edges of each pie crust with it.
    Add the whole egg to the egg yolk and whisk together.    Stir sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie filling, sugar, butter, milk, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract into the egg and yolk. Spoon mixture evenly into the pie crusts and place pies on a baking sheet.
    Bake in a 350-degree oven about 15 minutes, until middle of each pie is set. Cool pies for 15 minutes.
    Top each pie with one tablespoon whipped cream, then gently press a walnut half into the whipped cream.


Toffee Cherry Butter Tarts

1 15-ounce package refrigerated pie crust
2 eggs
2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup melted butter
3/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup toffee baking bits, optional

    Roll out pie crust on a lightly floured surface and cut 12 four-inch circles with a cookie cutter, rerolling scraps if necessary. Place circles in 12 three-inch tart tins that have been coated with cooking spray.
    Beat eggs, brown sugar, vinegar and vanilla in a bowl until smooth, then stir in melted butter, cherries and walnuts. Fill tart shells two-thirds full with butter mixture.
    Bake in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking about 20 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling.
    Remove tarts from oven and sprinkle evenly with toffee bits. Return tarts to the oven and bake about five minutes, until toffee bits are just melted. Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Gently remove tarts from tins.


Chocolate Chip Walnut Pie

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 9-inch pie shell, baked
For spiced cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg

    In a bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Add eggs and stir until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour into pie crust.
    Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned and set.         Make spiced cream by mixing whipping cream, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg.
    Serve pie slightly warm or at room temperature with spiced cream.


Turtles Pumpkin Pie

1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
1 6-ounce graham cracker crumb crust
1/2 cup pecan pieces
2 3.4-ounce packages vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup cold milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 8-ounce tub whipped topping, thawed
2 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping
2 tablespoons pecan pieces

    Pour 1/4 cup caramel topping onto bottom of pie crust, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup nuts.
    Beat pudding mix, milk, canned pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg in large bowl until blended. Stir in 1-1/2 cups whipped topping, then spoon into crust. Refrigerate one hour.
    Top pie with remaining whipped topping, caramel topping and nuts just before serving.
    Instead of caramel ice cream topping, place 16 caramels and one tablespoon water in microwaveable bowl and microwave on high for 1-1/2 minutes, until caramels are completely melted, stirring every 30 seconds.


Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup evaporated milk
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup hazelnut liqueur
1/4 cup pecan halves

    Blend together butter, sweet potatoes, eggs, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, salt, corn syrup and evaporated milk. Pour mixture into crust and sprinkle with chopped pecans.
    Bake in a 375-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
    Beat together whipping cream, sugar and liqueur until soft peaks form. Top pie with whipped cream and pecan halves.



Cranberry Streusel Pie

1 pound fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon shortening
Pastry for a 9-inch single crust pie

    Crush berries. Stir in sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Pour into pie crust.
    Smash walnuts into small pieces. Stir in brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour and shortening with a pastry blender until crumbly. Sprinkle streusel over pie.
    Place pie on a baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven about 45 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.


Caramel Apple Pie

Pastry for a 9-inch double crust, deep dish pie
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup flour
5 cups thinly sliced apples
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
20 caramels, halved
2 tablespoons milk

    In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, melted butter or margarine and 1/3 cup flour. Mix well and set aside.
    Place apples in a large bowl. Add sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, cinnamon and lemon juice. Toss until mixed well and apples are thoroughly coated.
    Spoon half the apple filling into pastry-lined deep-dish pan. Top with half the caramels and half the taffy mixture. Repeat process with remaining apple filling, caramels and taffy mixture. Place top pastry over filling and seal well. Cut steam vents and brush top crust with milk or light cream.
    Cover pie with foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake in 375-degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil from pie and bake another 20 to 25 minutes, until crust is golden. Serve warm.


Honey Crunch Pecan Pie

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening
6 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon bourbon, optional
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons honey
1-1/2 cups pecan halves

    To make crust, mix flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly. Gradually add water and vinegar. Cut in until mixture holds together. Press dough into a ball and flour each side lightly. Wrap in plastic and chill 20 minutes. Place dough between pieces of waxed paper and roll into a circle 1/8-inch thick, then press crust into a 9-inch pie pan.
    In a large bowl, combine eggs, 1/4 cup brown sugar, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla extract and chopped pecans. Add bourbon if desired. Mix well. Spoon into unbaked pie shell.
    Bake in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove, cover edges of pastry with aluminum foil and return to oven for 20 minutes.
    Combine 1/3 cup brown sugar, butter or margarine and honey in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat about two minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Add pecans and stir just until coated. Spoon topping evenly over pie.
    Keep foil on edges of pastry and return pie to oven for an additional 10 to 20 minutes, until topping is bubbly and golden brown. Cool to room temperature before serving.


Chef John’s Pumpkin Pie

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
3 egg yolks
1 large egg
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust

    Whisk pumpkin puree, egg yolks and egg in a large bowl until smooth. Add sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg and Chinese 5-spice powder and whisk until thoroughly combined.
    Fit pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate and crimp edges.
    Pour filling into the pie shell. Lightly tap pan on the work surface to release any air bubbles.
    Bake in a 425-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 to 40 minutes, until just set in the middle. A paring knife inserted into the filling, one inch from the crust, should come out clean. Allow to cool completely before serving.




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