Time for pie! A collection of pies for Thanksgiving.

img_7235Each holiday seems to have a specific dessert associated with it.  For me, Easter always brings visions of coconut cakes smothered in shredded coconut, Christmas calls out for cookies of all kinds and Thanksgiving is the day that pies are front and center of the dessert table.  No pie is more synonymous with Thanksgiving than Pumpkin Pie and with the current proliferation of all things pumpkin spice, I have decided not to include it in this small collection of recipes and instead, focus on a few others that are guaranteed crowd pleasers!

Right about the time of the onslaught of pumpkin spice laden goods, apples come into season.  While just about every pumpkin pie is based on a creamy, custard based filling recipe, apple pies are much more flexible.  Pumpkin is pumpkin but each variety of apple has its own characteristics and by simply switching out varieties, you can completely change the flavor of the filling.  Personally, I prefer to blend apple varieties to create a full flavored pie that has plenty of juice to keep the pie from being dry and enough heft in the slices to prevent them all from falling apart while they bake.

img_7243The skins of an apple contain pectin, which will make wonderful sauce or jelly, but is tough and chewy once baked, so be sure to peel and slice the apples as you make the filling.  Do not worry about the browning that might occur because the sugar and spice will camouflage the color.

img_7244For this pie, I chose Rome, Cortland and Golden Delicious.  Each one had flesh of a slightly different color.  The yellow hue of the Golden Delicious apples made the slices resemble rutabegas!  The Cortlands were a bit green and the Romes were bright white.  The texture and flavor of each was also different and ranged from crispy and tart to soft and sweet with a lovely scent.  If you aren’t sure of what varieties are suitable for pie, this comprehensive chart from Pick Your Own will be very helpful.

img_7250With my kitchen packed up for the move, my options were limited and I decided to skip the top crust and just go with a streusel topping.  That dome of apples looks a bit ridiculous but the truth is that the apples used for pies always juice out and collapse a bit in the baking.  For this monster, I had two and a half pounds of apple slices in the fillings-something I do not recommend for a 9″ crust!  For a pie that size, don’t go over two pounds.

One other thing I would like to mention, if you are intimidated by the idea of making your own crust or simply do not have the time or desire, don’t make one-buy one!  Usually, I mix up a large batch of dough divide it into the portion, roll out what I need for the pie I am baking and then freeze the leftovers.  This way, I always have a stash of dough to pull from the freezer any time I want to bake a pie.  Because we are in the process of a long distance move, I have run through my stash and had to purchase a crust for this pie.

img_7258A spicy crumb topping is a quick way to dress up a pie and to add a little crunch to the texture along with flavor.  It is also a lot easier to handle than a top crust which makes it the perfect solution if you are not keen on working with pie dough.  The recipe included  with this post is one of my favorite crumb toppings and it works just as well on cobblers, crisps, muffins and coffee cakes as it does on this pie so be sure to keep it handy!

img_7257Crumb Topped Apple Pie

makes one 9 inch pie, serving 8-10

2 pounds fresh apple slices-any variety suitable for baking

8 ounces brown sugar

2 tablespoons of apple (or pumpkin) pie spice or you can blend your own spices by combining 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom and 1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/4 cup all purpose flour or 2 tablespoons corn starch if you prefer starch to flour

Preheat the oven to 350.  On a sturdy baking sheet that will not warp and buckle in the oven, place a sheet of parchment paper and give it a spritz of grease.  Toss the apple slices with the sugar, spices and flour and pour it into the crust.  Cover it with the crumb topping, pressing it down lightly to pack it and to prevent it from falling off.  Put the pie onto the prepared baking pan and bake the pie until the juices are bubbling and have thickened, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Allow the pie to cool until room temp so that the juices set and it will be much easier to slice.

My Favorite Crumb Topping

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup dark brown sugar (honestly, can be light or white, I just prefer dark)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or apple/pumpkin pie spice blend

1/8 teaspoon baking soda, optional-using it will make the crumbs lighter, omitting it will keep them crunchy


To call this a collection, I must include other recipes and these are two of my absolute favorite pies!  Rather than print the recipes here, I am including the links to my food52.com page;  Masala Spiced Pear Pie with a lattice top and Roasted Butternut-Maple Pie with Smoked Pecans

img_4740For the adventurous bakers, this gem from my days as the pastry chef of the Loveless Cafe, a Goo Goo Cluster Marshmallow pie is an unbaked pie but it does require making the crust, a ganache and a cooked marshmallow filling.  While a little time consuming, it is well worth the effort if you are a marshmallow fan, the recipe is also posted on my food52.com page and can be found here.  If you can’t find Goo Goo Clusters, visit the website and stock up or search for a store that sells them near you!

peach and blueberry deep-dish galette

IMG_6497Summer fruit pies are one of my favorite things.  When the fruit season is at its peak, freshly picked, ripe and juicy, fruits just about beg to be baked into a pie.   With a dozen peaches and a basket of blueberries in the house, I couldn’t resist the temptation and I baked a pie, a whole 9″ pie just for the two of us!

IMG_6494Of course, I also used homemade pie dough.  Before you start panicking, before you go on about how you just cannot roll out pie dough, let me tell you that you can, you absolutely can!!!  First, make the dough ahead of time and chill it for at least an hour.  Take it out of the fridge and let it soften until it is pliable but not sticky or squishy.  Now do you see all of the flour on my table?  That’s the secret, cool dough, lots of flour and short strokes with the rolling pin.  Lift the dough and turn it as you go, spread out more flour on the table if it sticks, don’t worry you can brush it off before you put it into a greased dish.  Make sure the circle of dough has an overhang of at least 2 inches to make the pleats like I have in the photo.  Start by taking one small section and folding it in over the fruit but leave the center open.  Section by section, fold the dough in towards the middle of the dish, creating the pleats until you get to the last section.  Lift the first pleat up and carefully tuck the last one into place and lay the first one back down.  Then brush it with some egg wash and sprinkle on some sugar before baking.

IMG_6507To get a deep, even color, just use one temperature in the oven.  Many recipes tell you to start high and drop it down low but I think one temperature is better.  It prevents that “OH I FORGOT TO TURN DOWN THE OVEN” disaster and also prevents uneven coloring.  My pies only bake at 350F.

IMG_6523For this pie, I chose peaches and blueberries but you could easily switch out the blueberries for raspberries or blackberries and if you are lucky to have rhubarb on hand, it would be lovely too!  Sweeten the pie according to taste but you will want at least half a cup of sugar, and if you use rhubarb, you will have to increase the sugar.


IMG_6531Peach-Blueberry Deep Dish Galette

1-1/4 pounds fresh peaches, 5-6 medium sized peaches

1 basket of blueberries

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 vanilla bean, scraped-seeds only

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

zest of 1 small lemon and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

pie dough for a two crust pie

1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water

cinnamon sugar


IMG_6537 (1)Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and spices into a bowl and rub them together.  Peel and slice the peaches, you need a pound of them-the extra weight is for the skin and pits you remove.  Add the peaches and blueberries to the sugar with the lemon juice and toss them to coat them.  Place the rolled out pie dough into a greased 9″ pie plate.  Scrape the mixture into the pie crust and fold as directed above.  Place the pie plate on a sheet pan and bake until the juices are bubbling in the center and the crust is a deep caramel color, about 1 hour.  Allow it to cool for a few hours before cutting so the fruit can set up a bit.  We enjoyed it like this but a generous scoop of ice cream would also be nice!

apple pielets; a tuesdays with dorie post


The weather has changed; suddenly, it is fall.  The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are cooler.  It is also apple season, one of my favorite things of fall.  Fresh, crispy, crunchy, juicy… apples with skin of every shade from red and green to yellow and pink.  Sliced, or whole; I’ll eat them either way.  Baked into pies and cakes, cooked into sauce or spicy butter, layered on peanut butter sandwiches or dipped in thick, creamy caramel; I love all of them.

If you haven’t visited my blog before, then you may not be familiar with Tuesdays with Dorie.  We are a large group of bakers who are baking our way through two books written by Dorie Greenspan.  We alternate books each week and this week the group chose to make the Apple Pielets from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi which was also the perfect way to add more apples to my diet.  To keep up with our baking adventure, visit the website and consider joining us each week.

The recipe calls for using a muffin tin and lining the cups with a galette dough.  If only I could find my muffin tin.  Perhaps if I finished unpacking…Rather than searching for the pan or buying a new one, I chose to use my mini brioche tins.  They were the perfect size and gave them a cute fluted shape.  To make the filling, I chose Granny Smith and Sweet Tango apples, diced them, sweetened with dark brown sugar and spiced them with some garam masala.  The directions called for rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment or plastic.  Can I just say that is my least favorite method to roll out dough?  If you ask me, I think that rolling slightly chilled dough out with large amounts of flour is always the way to go.  Chilling reduces the stickiness and the flour makes it so much easier to roll out.  If you truly go crazy with the flour, you can always brush it away with a soft brush.

After heavily greasing the pans, I lined them with circles of dough and filled the pielets with the apples.  A smaller round of dough was laid over the top of the filling and the two pieces of dough were sealed together.  To allow the steam to vent, a few small slits were cut into the top crust and the pielets were baked to a lovely, golden brown.  It was hard to wait but it was easier to remove them when they had mostly cooled.  After pulling the pies out of the pans, I set them aside to finish cooling.

Here’s to another apple season!  Join us if you dare, we do this weekly.  Visit the website, pick up a copy of the book and get to baking-you won’t regret it!


cranberry crackle tart; a tuesdays with dorie post


Cranberries are a vital part of the holiday season for many Americans.  In my family, we cook them up into a sweet sauce flavored with oranges, vanilla bean and spices and the kids eat them by the bowl full.  It is one tradition that I really will miss this holiday season.  We relocated from Nashville to Williamsburg and our family group that gathered together each Thanksgiving and Christmas is now separated by nearly 700 miles.  Even so, I couldn’t resist buying a bag or two, or four of cranberries and had to find a tasty way to use so many fresh cranberries.  Thankfully, this recipe used more than half of a bag, and now I only have 3 and a half more bags in the fridge…

The recipe gives you some good options and I decided to test some of them out.  With two different dough recipes to choose from,  I decided to mix up a batch of the sweet tart dough and as I mixed it, I chose to follow the recipe suggested in the “Bonne Idee” sidebar; it gave the option of using a small portion nut flour in place of the all purpose flour called for in the recipe.  It was quick to mix up in the food processor but I really think the amount of dough it produces was about double what was needed to make the pie shell.  As a result, I formed a patty with the leftover dough and tucked it away in the freezer.

As a person who literally has rolled out hundreds of pie shells by hand, this dough was very pleasant to work with and I did not have any sticking or crumbling or tearing.  It was so easy to work with that I had the crust rolled and in the pan in a matter of minutes.  Where I had issues, the baking time.  When I read the instructions and saw 20 minutes at 400, I was skeptical, it seemed like a long time for such a high temp.  In hindsight, I wish I had listened to my inner voice.  My crust came out of the oven a little black around the edges.  Luckily, I had not trimmed it down by one-third as the recipe called for and had enough to trim away the burnt edges and still have a side crust.

The filling of a marshmallowy meringue was such a small amount that I had trouble mixing it in my 6qt kitchen aid bowl; it just wasn’t enough volume for the beater to really come in contact with it at first.  After a really long time, it finally came together.  Since I did not want to buy any jam-I have two dozen jars of homemade blackberry jelly in my pantry, I just used some of my own from the open jar in the fridge.

As the tart baked in the oven, it puffed and cracked and finally, it was a nice, light golden shade and had a few deep cracks across the top. Carefully, I removed the pan from the oven, closed the door and set it down to cool.  A quick glance at the clock, 11:12pm; we wouldn’t be tasting this pie tonight.  Off to bed, to sleep and to dream of crunchy, crackly meringue and tart pockets of ruby red berries…