Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Part I: Pie, Pie and More Pie!


I love Thanksgiving.  It is my number one favorite holiday.  It’s my favorite, not only because I love food and good wine and Thanksgiving is a smorgasbord of decadence and deliciousness, but because it is an All American holiday.  Everyone in this country celebrates Thanksgiving, it brings us all together as Americans and unites us through one common act, stuffing ourselves silly with turkey and gravy.  I love when you can actually wish someone a Happy Thanksgiving, I don’t have to worry about whether I just offended them like during the winter holidays (note the PC correctness).  I mean seriously, I am so tired of saying Happy Holiday’s instead of Merry Christmas because heaven forbid I make anyone feel excluded and offend those with oversensitive egos that celebrate Hanukah, kwanza, or whatever new holiday the Kardashian’s are going to make up and brand.  Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving, pure, simple, and classic.

Thanksgiving 2010...YUM PIE!
Pie is the pièce de résistance of Thanksgiving.  Just when you think you can’t eat anymore because you are so stuffed and popping out of your fat pants, you glance over at the sideboard and see those delicious pies staring back you.  And if you are anything like me, you tell yourself, I’m an American goddamnit, I’m going to eat some pie!  Then stuff yourself with two pieces, crumble on the couch in a food coma, and watch TV until you fall asleep.  I mean seriously people, does it get anymore American than that? 

Pie is a great tradition in the Soule house.  We take it VERY seriously.  Our Grandma Soule was the best baker there ever was, and now, since she is gone, the rest of us try and fill her shoes.  I find this time of year, there are many newfangled fancy Thanksgiving dessert recipes, like pumpkin mousse, pumpkin cheese cake, curried apple custard, and you know what I say to that, phooey!  I’m a classic girl with classic tastes, I want pumpkin, pecan, and apple pie.  And you know what dear reader, that’s exactly what you are going to get.

When making pies for a Thanksgiving feast, I recommend you cook them the night before.  All pie keeps well, especially covered in tin foil on a cool sideboard.  This keeps your oven free the next day for your turkey and other side dishes needing to be kept warm.  The trick to a successful Thanksgiving dinner is timing your oven—get the pies done early! 

Pie Crust
Each pie starts with the perfect crust, this is the best recipe I have found to make crust that is flaky and light.  If you do not have a mixer, you can combine the ingredients with two forks, harder, but good for your biceps.  I use this recipe from Epicurious.com.

Yield: Makes 2 pie crusts (enough dough for 1 double-crust pie, 1 lattice-topped pie, or 2 single-crust pies)

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup chilled lard or frozen nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (if you don’t have this, you can substitute more butter)
5 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and lard; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add 5 tablespoons ice water and mix with fork until dough begins to clump together, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather dough together. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. If necessary, soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out. 

Apple Pie
I shared a recipe with you last week, but this one is much more classic.  You can do a single crust or double, whichever you prefer.

1 pie crust (half recipe above) or 2 crusts (full recipe above)
8 or 9 large apples of several different cooking varieties (Delicious apples will NOT do), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
Juice of 1 large lemon
½ cup Sugar
1 t Ground cinnamon
1 t vanilla
Pinch of both ground mace and ground nutmeg

Unsalted butter
1 large egg white beaten with a little water, for brushing

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Unwrap dough.  On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll it out to a 12-in diameter, 1/8 inch round.  Fold into quarters and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.  Unfold and mold into plate.  Trim edges to a ¾ inch overhang.  Turn edges under and crimp with fingers, and refrigerate. 

In a large bowl, mix the apple slices in the lemon juice. Add the sugar and cinnamon, then add the mace, nutmeg, and vanilla.  Pour the apple mixture into the prepared pastry shell. Mound toward the center and dot with butter.

If using two crusts:
Roll out the remaining pastry and carefully lay it over the apples. Seal the edges, cut vent holes, and decorate with extra pieces of dough cut into decorative shapes. Brush the egg wash over the surface of the pastry.

Place the pie pan on a baking sheet (to catch any spill over) and cook in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350° F. and continue to cook for about another hour, until the top crust is a beautiful golden brown. If the edges start to darken too much, cover with a ribbon of aluminum foil.

Pecan Pie
My mother’s favorite—she makes an excellent version, this is an update to that recipe. 
1 pie crust (half recipe above)
1 large egg
5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup light cane syrup
2/3 cup light brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
¼ t salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 t vanilla extract
1 ¾ cup pecan pieces

Heat oven to 325 degrees. 

Unwrap dough.  On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll it out to a 12-in diameter, 1/8 inch round.  Fold into quarters and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.  Unfold and mold into plate.  Trim edges to a ¾ inch overhang.  Turn edges under and crimp with fingers, and refrigerate. 

Whisk egg and egg yolks together in a bowel.  Combine cane syrup, sugar, cream and salt in a saucepan until blended.  Add butter and cook over medium heat until melted, then cook until mixture is hot but not bubbling, about 1 min longer.  Gradually whisk syrup mixture into eggs until blended.  Stir in vanilla.  Add pecan pieces and stir together. 

Pour filling into the crust.  Bake until filling is set around edges but center jiggles slightly, 45-50min. 

Pumpkin Pie
The pie for without which, no Thanksgiving is complete.  The best pumpkin pie recipe I have ever come across is from my Aunt, adapted from the Silver Palate spicy pumpkin pie recipe found there.  It is so flavorful, no limp spices for this pie, you can truly taste the pumpkin… its delicious, and my favorite.  I upped the sugars from the original recipe, you can back them down if you want it really spicy.

1 pie crust (half recipe above)
3 eggs
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
2 C canned pumpkin puree
1 t. ground ginger
1 and 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t ground allspice
1/4 t ground cardamom
pinch salt
3/4 C heavy cream
3/4 C half & half


Preheat oven to 450.

Unwrap dough.  On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll it out to a 12-in diameter, 1/8 inch round.  Fold into quarters and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.  Unfold and mold into plate.  Trim edges to a ¾ inch overhang.  Turn edges under and crimp with fingers, and refrigerate. 

Beat eggs and both sugars until light in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin, spices, salt. Mix thoroughly. Stir in cream and half & half.

Pour into your prepared pie crust in pie plate.

Bake at 450 for 8 min. Reduce heat to 325 and bake for another 40-45 min...until filling is set.  Inserted knife will come out clean.

So there you have it!  All you need for the perfect delicious dessert spread. 

In other news, we have a new addition to our kitchen!  I call her Tanya.  It is a KitchenAid dishwasher with a Pro Scrubber… no more scrubbing for me!  Wha hoo!  And look how cute the Urban Chef is…


 Check back next week for Thanksgiving, Part II: Turkey Time

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