4 New Ways to Look at Thanksgiving Pies
Pie oh my!
By Cathy Barrow
In the last three years, I've made more than 800 pies. I don't work in a restaurant, own a bakery, or have a pie factory. I write cookbooks.
The pie obsession isn't a new thing. I've been making pies for as long as I can remember. I won a blue ribbon for a sour cherry pie that launched my writing career. At Thanksgiving, I serve five or six different pies — pecan and pumpkin, cherry and cranberry, maybe buttermilk, often apple, occasionally mincemeat.
Simply put, I love pie: the buttery flavor and all the flaky layers of the crust, the tartness of a fruit filling, the cool lusciousness of a creamy custard. Pie is a generous food, easily shared, a welcome addition to any get-together. I even like it for breakfast the morning after Thanksgiving. When no one's looking, I like to slice a sliver from the pie pan and maneuver it to my mouth without a plate or fork — just a little bite o' pie.
Recently, I've been up to my eyeballs in all kinds of pie with "Pie Squared," my 2019 cookbook devoted to slab pies (pies made in rectangular baking sheet), and "When Pies Fly," which was published in September and focuses on hand pies, pie poppers, galettes, and tarts.
Through it all, I've learned that pies don't have to be fussily fitted into a pie plate (as evidenced by the Bumbleberry Galette). They don't need to have a rolled-out crust (see Pumpkin Chiffon Slab Pie). And they work as either a snack for one or a feast for a crowd (see Brandied Pear Pie Poppers).
Even better, you don't need to make 800 pies to learn to make a great one. Once you've wrangled a good dough recipe (I'm sharing three with you here), the world fills with pie possibilities. And when you make a pie — whether round, rectangular, or bite-size — you make everyone smile.
These charming skillet-fried apple pies feature a buttermilk pie dough stuffed with a mixture of fresh and dried apples simmered with brown sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon.
Why funnel cake? From the moment these pies hit the hot oil, you'll be thinking "funnel cakes!" Not only will it smell like a carnival stand, the easy-to-make dough produces a light, flaky, crispy crust that reminds you of fairground delights.
Why dried apples? Fresh fruit is too juicy to handle hot oil and will bust through the seams of a hand pie if left to its own devices. But if you add some dried fruit to the mixture, it'll absorb some of the fresh fruit's juices, plump up, and keep the whole thing from bursting.
Why use a baking stone? Heating the baking pan from the bottom makes for crispier, flakier bottom crusts.
Mixed berries are heaped upon crispy, flaky all-butter pie dough for this colorful, rustic pie.
Foil hack: When you want to slide something off a rimless baking sheet after baking but don't want it to bubble over in the oven while it bakes, line the baking sheet with foil and fold up all four edges to contain any leaks during baking. When it's time to slide, just flatten one edge of the foil, and voilà!
A light and fluffy pumpkin mousse sits atop an amaretti cookie crust and is topped with dollops of whipped cream.
About those eggs: The whites are only whipped, not cooked, in this fluffy chiffon. If you can't find pasteurized eggs, you can use regular egg yolks, substitute 1 cup whipping cream for the whites, and omit the cream of tartar.
Bite-size desserts are more popular than ever. For these adorable pie poppers, you'll fill cream cheese pie dough with pears poached in brandy.
Cathy's Dough Tips
- Wrap it right: Spend time wrapping your pie dough. The more compact and precise the dough, the easier it will be to roll to the correct size and thickness. Compact the dough first with plastic wrap and a bench scraper, then by knocking the edge on the counter, and finally by using the rolling pin to press gently across the top and bottom of the wrapped disk or block. It should be very tidy and firm when it goes into the refrigerator to chill.
- Chill out: Chilling firms up the butter and allows the flour to absorb all the liquid, which ups the flakiness factor. It also allows the dough to recover from any overworking.
- Water works: The less water, the better. But if it just won't hang together, dribble in a teensy smidge more, drop by drop.
Check out our collection of Pie Recipes.
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This article originally appeared in October/November 2019 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.