More or less. Here you see them. A little over three, but probably not 3.14159… pies, exactly.
I posted this photo of our Thanksgiving pies to Facebook, and several friends wrote to me to ask for the recipes. So to the best of my ability, here it goes.
The recipes for the chocolate pecan and pumpkin are pretty exact. The apple-orange pie is more of a method description. All pies here were prepared with extensive help of Younger Daughter, who was responsible for most assembly, and all crust styling. The apple-orange and pecan pies used a home-made traditional lard crust (recipe at the end of this post), but you may sub in any crust you prefer. The pumpkin has its own very temperamental butter crust. Others may also be used, but the feisty butter crust is well worth the effort to attempt.
All of these pies were made in 9-inch glass pie plates, set on heavy, rimmed baking sheets. They were baked on the lowest rack of a convection oven, and baking times are set for that. If you use a metal pan all of these may take less time to bake. If you use a pre-made shell in a disposable aluminum pan, it may take even less time. Watch your pies carefully to forestall burning.
Chocolate Pecan Pie
This recipe is a smash-up among several, including a yummy brown butter pecan pie posted at Cookie Madness, the chocolate pecan pie recipe from The New York Times, and various other pecan pies/chocolate pies clawed from my collection of recipe books. While the Cookie Madness pie was luscious, it tended to not set firmly, even when overbaked. And the NYT pie worked well enough, but was rather under-nutted and a bit short on depth of flavor. The others were variants on a light corn syrup/dark corn syrup combo, and were often much sweeter than I prefer.
- One 9-inch open face pie crust (no top crust), unbaked.
- About 2 cups of pecans, sorted into beautiful whole halves, and the broken bits. There should be at least 1.5 cups of broken bits. The rest are decorative, so the exact quantity is up to you. If frugality requires, just use the 1.5 cups and decorate with pastry scrap cutouts instead.
- 6 Tbs unsalted butter (NOT margarine)
- 2 oz bittersweet chocolate (about 56 grams)
- 3/4 cup dark brown corn syrup
- 4 extra-large eggs
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 1/4 Tbs cocoa (actual cocoa, not hot chocolate mix)
- OPTIONAL – 2 Tbs bourbon
- OPTIONAL – Handful of chopped bittersweet chocolate, or chocolate chips
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Ready your chosen pie shell. It does NOT need to be pre-baked.
- Preheat oven to 350-deg F.
- Place pecans on a baking tray in a single layer and toast until fragrant. This will take only a couple of minutes, and they burn easily, so watch them carefully.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Let it brown slightly, the color should be like light oak – not pretzels. Remove from heat and let rest for a couple of minutes until the pan cools off a bit but is still warm.
- Put chocolate into the pan with the hot, browned butter. Stir until melted and combined. Set aside on the counter to cool a bit more. 15 min is plenty. The butter/chocolate mixture should still be liquid and warm to the touch, but not hot.
- Whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, vanilla, bourbon, sugar, and salt.
- Whisk in the cocoa powder, make sure there are no lumps.
- Add the melted butter/chocolate, and stir until uniform in color.
- Place the unbaked pie shell on a rimmed cookie sheet or baking tray. Lining it with parchment or a silicon sheet will make cleanup later easier, and spare your oven if the filling splashes or bubbles over.
- Scatter the broken pecans evenly in the pie shell. If using the optional handful of chips or chopped chocolate, sprinkle that over the nuts.
- Slowly and carefully, pour your filling mix over the pecans and optional chips. You want to fill carefully so you don’t move the nuts around as you do so.
- Arrange the reserved whole half nuts over the top in any decorative manner you desire. It can be full coverage like ours, a ring around the rim, stripes, or anything you want given the quantity of nice pieces to hand. If you are pecan-challenged, you can use dough scraps cut into fancy shapes to decorate. Or just let it be plain.
- Bake at 350-degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes, until the center is just set and the pastry is nicely colored.
- Cool before serving, preferably on a wire rack. Whipped cream is the expected accompaniment.
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
I originally got this pie recipe from the Washington Post, 23 November 1986. I do not see it in their on line archives.
The original called for one standard 16 oz can of pumpkin. Since it was written, standard cans of pumpkin have shrunken to 14 or 15 oz. depending on the maker. Scaling back the recipe to account for less pumpkin hasn’t worked for me, nor has buying two cans and having most of the second one left over. Instead we roast small sugar pumpkins in the oven until they are soft, then scrape out the flesh and freeze it in plastic bags, of 16 oz (weighed on a kitchen scale). One thawed out bag = one pie. And the roasted sugar pumpkins have a better flavor than the tinned stuff.
The butter crust is extremely fussy to make, and even harder to transfer into the pie plate. It MUST be done the night before and fridged prior to use, and it has an alarming tendency to slump during blind baking. But it is especially tender and delicious, and really puts this pie over the top.
The recipe always makes MORE filling than fits in a standard 9-inch pie plate or a 10-inch quiche pan. I always have a “sidecar” – leftovers baked either in a mini crust (if I have extra crust left over from another recipe – the butter crust is JUST enough for one open face pie); or poured without a crust into an oven-safe ramekin and baked as a mini pumpkin “custard.”
For the butter crust
- 1 1/2 cups unsifted flour, preferably refrigerated
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 stick of butter, very cold (NOT margarine)
- 1 Tbs white granulated sugar
- 1 yolk from extra-large size egg, very cold (save the white for the filling, below)
- 2 Tbs ice water
For the filling
- 3 extra-large eggs plus the white left over from the crust
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar plus 1 Tbs flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
- 1/3 tsp allspice
- 1 Tbs molasses
- 1 Tbs vanilla
- 16 oz. pureed pumpkin (canned or home-made)
- 1 3/4 cup light cream at room temperature
For the crust
- Preheat oven to 425-degrees F.
- Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or two knives, until the butter lumps are about lentil size. Blend butter and flour bits with fingertips to flake.
- Sprinkle with sugar and stir in.
- Combine yolk and 2 Tbs ice water. Mix this quickly into the dough.
- Press dough into a round cake, cover, and chill. The original recipe said for a half hour. I’ve found overnight is better.
- Roll out dough and fill deep dish pie pan or quiche pan. Dough will be very poorly behaved. It will require a lot of flour as you roll, and you’ll probably end up piecing it in the pan instead of transferring it as one unbroken sheet. Try to have enough overlap on the top edge of the pie plate to prevent sagging.
- Layer with a sheet of aluminum foil and fill with pie weights, beans, or pennies. (Fill to the top because the thing has a nasty habit of sagging if baked unsupported).
- Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for 12 minutes. Turn down the oven to 375-degrees, remove foil and pie weights, and bake for another 12 minutes. Shell will be very blonde, but will have lost the “raw” look. Set aside to cool for at least an hour before filling.
For the filling, and final baking
Note that you will probably have more filling than fits in one pie. If you have extra crust, make a “sidecar” in a ramekin or small oven proof dish. Or just pour the extra into a ramekin, small glass or other ceramic oven-safe dessert-size dish and bake as directed below.
- Preheat oven to 425-degrees F.
- Using a very large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until frothy.
- Beat in the sugars.
- Blend in spices.
- Stir in molasses and vanilla.
- Beat in the pumpkin.
- Whisk in the cream.
- Stir very slowly for a minute or two to dissipate bubbles.
- Place the pre-baked pie shell on a rimmed cookie sheet. Lining it first with baking parchment or a silicon sheet will simplify cleanup later.
- Slowly pour the filling mix into the pie pan, until it fills the shell to about 1/2 to 1/4 inch from the top. You will have leftover as mentioned above. Pour that into your sidecar container (with crust or without)
- Poke any bubbles on the surface of the pie/sidecar with a toothpick to burst.
- Bake pie and sidecar in lower third of a preheated 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325-degrees and bake for another 25 minutes. The sidecar should be done, with a set center, and should be removed now. Leave the main pie in the oven for another 15 minutes until the center is set.
- Let the pie cool for at least an hour before serving. Can be served warm, but it’s better if the pie sets up a bit more. A splat of real whipped cream on top is a family must-do.
Apple-Orange Pie aka “Son of Anonymous Apple Pie*”
This pie is a tribute to two friends of ours. both excellent cooks. One taught us basic apple pie procedures, and would host an annual pie-fest where she made them by the dozens, to freeze and bake throughout the year. The other was a keen researcher, and avid baker who dabbled in commercial cooking ventures. She redacted a historical recipe for an apple pie that was punched up with thin slices of candied bitter orange. I blend their two techniques together, but take the easy way out by using marmalade.
You can make this as a traditional full double-crust covered pie, but this year Younger Daughter hit upon using a lattice. I think the extra venting of the lattice yielded a firmer, less soupy, better textured filling, and minimized the boil-over that often happens with juicy apple pies.
- Enough pie crust for a 9-inch covered pie, or a lattice pie, as you prefer
- Six to seven firm baking apples. Cortland, Empire, Granny Smith or other tart varieties that hold shape are preferred. Avoid Delicious, Gala, Macoun and other sweet, softer eating apples.
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2-3 Tablespoons of cinnamon (to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- About 6 oz orange marmalade. Use only a kind made with sugar, not fructose. I recommend Bon Mamman Orange Marmalade (this is a little bit less than half a jar).
- 3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter (not margarine)
- Juice from one small lemon.
- Preheat oven to 375-degrees F
- Roll out your bottom crust and place it in a 9-inch glass pie plate. Prepare your chosen top crust (full closed pie, or lattice). Place both in the fridge while you prep the pie filling.
- Peel, core and slice the apples. To keep them from browning, as you work place the apple slices in a big bowl of cold water along with half of the lemon juice.
- Mix the cinnamon with the granulated sugar and kosher salt.
- Take the bottom crust out of the fridge, and liberally spread its inside and walls with marmalade.
- Take the apple slices out of the lemon water and toss them in a large bowl lined with a clean kitchen towel, to remove most of the wetness. They don’t need to be bone dry, but they should not be dripping.
- Tightly layer about a third of the apples in the bottom crust. Sprinkle them with about a third of the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Dot with chunks of about a third of the butter, and with scattered dollups of marmalade. Repeat twice more until all of the filling ingredients have been used up.
- Optional – if you like a tart pie, sprinkle about a tablespoon or two of lemon juice over the filling.
- Assemble your pie, using either a whole top crust or a lattice. If you are using a top crust, make sure to create at least three large vent holes for steam to escape. Decorate at will if you desire (but don’t clog the vent holes).
- Put the ready-to-bake pie on a rimmed baking sheet (preferably on baking parchment or a silicon mat for ease of clean-up). This pie WILL bubble over and make a mess of your oven otherwise. Guaranteed.
- Bake in the bottom third of your oven at 375-degrees for about 45 minutes, until the top and bottom are nicely colored, and juices have bubbled for at least 10 minutes. Glass pie plates make it easy to see if the bottom has browned. In all cases, and especially if you are using metal pie pans or pre-made crusts in aluminum pans, begin hovering and watching for done-ness at the 35 min mark. The pie is ready when a skewer inserted into it reveals that the apples inside are soft and easily pierced and the pastry is a pale gold.
- Cool before slicing. May be served warm, room temperature, or chilled. Whipped cream, ice cream, or other extras are always appreciated.
* If you are very good, I’ll explain “Anonymous Apple Pie.”
But that veers off into local SCA folklore.
Lard Pie Crust
This is the crust recipe I used for the apple-orange and pecan pies. It makes a very generous double-crust pie with lots left over for decoration, or enough for one less generous double-crust pie shell, plus one single crust shell. I double the recipe below when I bake pies, and use the extra for the sidecar, plus I have enough left over for a half-dozen pastries.
This recipe is closely adapted from several sources, including Sylvia’s Perfect Pie Crust, from the Tasty Kitchen blog.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 extra-large egg
- 1 1/2 cups lard, well chilled from the fridge.
- 5 Tbs ice water
- 1 Tbs white vinegar
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt. 1 tsp if using regular table salt
- Place the flour in a very large mixing bowl. Sprinkle it with all the salt. Cut the cold lard into cubes roughly an inch square and place them on top of the flour. With a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut the lard into the flour until the mix is uniform and the crumbs are about the size of raw oatmeal. Do not use your fingertips or the lard will warm up and the pastry will get sticky.
- In a separate small bowl, beat the egg, then pour it over the flour-lard-salt mix. Sprinkle with the vinegar, then with the icewater.
- Stir the mix until the dough comes together. Divide the resulting ball in thirds, and form into three flat disks. Wrap each one in plastic wrap or put it in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least an hour, better overnight. If desired, you can freeze the disks to use later, letting them thaw for an hour before rolling out.
- When ready to shape for your pie, sprinkle your VERY CLEAN countertop with flour and roll out with a rolling pin, starting at the center and working out, rotating the dough to maintain as circular a shape as possible. You may need to flour the top of the dough and your rolling pin, and use a bench scraper or spatula to free the dough from the counter as you go, especially in warmer weather or a hot kitchen. Continue until your circle is about a half-inch wider than the top of your pie plate, then transfer it to the pie pan and pat it into shape, fluting or pinching the top or otherwise decorating as desired.
- If you need to prebake/blind bake your shell, do so in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, until it just colors and no longer looks raw. Lining the empty shell with aluminum foil and using pie weights/beans/pennies for pre-baking will help keep it from slumping or bubbling up.
Yes! Blintzes! Bharat being the name of this land to those who live here. Perhaps missing comfort foods just a tad, I had a Stranger in a Strange Land kitchen interlude today, and share my results.
Long time readers here may remember that I shared my grandmother’s blintz recipe a while back. Making them even in the US can be problematic because workable cheeses can be hard to find. I’ve experimented with lots of different cheese mixes over the years, because the ones my grandmother used were not always available where I was living. But inspired by paneer, which is like a super-dry farmer cheese, I was determined to make them here in India. And make them, I did, with excellent success!
Here’s a modified blintz recipe, adapted to local ingredients and availability, and halved in quantity from my for-freezer storage original. For the record, the paneer, dahi (an unsweetened thick yogurt) can be found in every market in India. Mascarpone (a soft, spreadable cheese in the cream cheese family) was found in Auchan Hypermarket – the supermarket a couple of blocks from my apartment. I’ve also seen it in Dorabjee’s.
Please note that blintzes are dairy, but not totally vegetarian, because both the crepes and the filling contain eggs. For equipment you’ll need a grinder/blender, although a hand-held electric mixer would work even better, also a non-stick slope-sided omelet or crepe pan, a paper towel or basting brush, a couple of clean non-fuzzy/non-terry kitchen towels, and a ladle or scoop of some type.
Makes about 28-30 or so
For the crepes:
10 enormous heaping table tablespoons (as opposed to measuring spoons) of all-purpose flour (pile these so high that more can’t balance on the spoon)
3 pints of water
2 tsp salt
Vegetable oil for frying
For the filling:
200g mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup dahi
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Making the crepes
Using the grinder/blender, and working with only HALF of each quantity above at a time (due to small blender carafe capacity), Combine water and flour until completely smooth with no lumps. Blend in the eggs. Repeat with the other half of the ingredients, and mix the results of the two batches together. This should give you a very runny vaguely yellowish batter. It will be a bit frothy at first – let it sit for about 15 min to disperse some of the foam.
Spread out one clean kitchen towel in a safe spot near the stove. Pour a VERY SMALL quantity of oil into your omelet pan, wiping most of it out with the paper towel. Reserve the towel because you’ll use it again between crepes. Set the pan to heat. When the pan is hot, take it off the heat and ladle just enough batter into it that when the pan is swirled, the bottom is covered. Set the pan back on the flame. The edges of the crepe will release from the side of the pan and curl in, and the top of the crepe will eventually look dry and less shiny. When that has happened, take the pan over to the towel and inverting the pan and rapping it on the towel, turn out the cooked crepe. If it landed folded, spread it out to cool, with the cooked side up. Wipe the pan with the oily paper towel.
Keep making crepes until you run out of batter. It should take only a minute or two for each new crepe to cool. As they cool, stack them in a pile with the cooked side up. The crepes should be thin enough that any pattern or printing on the kitchen towel should show through. If they crack or are totally opaque, they are too thick. You won’t get 28-30 from the recipe. The crepes can be made ahead and left to sit, covered with another kitchen towel, but they should be filled on the same day as they are made. If they are fridged between making and filling, let them come up to room temperature before you attempt to separate them.
Making the filling:
I made the filling in three batches, again because of the limited capacity of my blender/grinder. If you are using an hand-held electric mixer, there’s no reason not to do it all at once.
Using a third of the filling ingredients at a time, blend all together until smooth. Combine the three batches and stir them together, just in case the division was less than perfect.
Filling and cooking the blintzes:
Place a crepe in front of you, cooked side up (you want the cooked side of the crepe to be in contact with the filling, and the uncooked side to be on the outside of the blintz) . Spoon one or two tablespoons of filling onto the bottom third of one side. Fold the bottom edge up over the filling. Fold in the left and right sides. Roll the crepe away from you to make a cylinder roughly the size of a Chinese eggroll. The filling should be entirely encased.
These may be frozen or refrigerated at this point – both of these processes work best if the blintzes are not touching each other. Otherwise they might stick and the outsides might tear.
Saute lightly in vegetable oil starting with the “flap” side down. Blinzes are done when the skin is golden and the filling is firm. Serve with dahi, sour cream, or with applesauce or another sweet condiment. This being India of course, any manner of savory, hot and sweet chutney might be used.
Moral of the story: where there is a will (and cheeses) there is a way!