Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010: Pumpkin Pie and Apple Non-Pie

Every year, I think I'm going to come up with a new dessert to make for my family's Thanksgiving dinner, but somehow I always come back to pumpkin pie and apple crisp. Since we don't eat either of these desserts any other time throughout the year, it just feels like we would be missing out on something if I didn't make them for Thanksgiving. For the past few years, I've just used basic recipes out of my Betty Crocker cookbook, but this year I decided to try a new twist on each one.

I chose a Martha Stewart pumpkin pie recipe because of the press-in shortbread crust. I haven't had the best luck with pie dough in the past, and I was happy to avoid that process altogether. I ended up doubling the crust recipe in order to have enough dough to fill my pie plate, but other than that the crust was super easy to make. Unfortunately, I wasn't crazy about the flavor, which was slightly bitter and a bit too salty. On the other hand, the filling was silky and perfectly spiced. I think next year I will use the same filling recipe with a gingersnap or graham cracker crust.

The apple crisp I made started out as an apple pie, the recipe for which came from The Repressed Pastry Chef. I even went as far as preparing a buttermilk pie dough, but when it came time to roll it out and transfer it to the pie plate, I got frustrated and decided an apple crisp sounded better anyway! The hardest part of an apple crisp is peeling and slicing all the apples, which my sister was kind enough to help me with. I used Granny Smith apples, which turned out to be a good choice because the tartness of the apples balanced out the sweetness of the topping. Although, I probably could have just eaten the topping and forgotten about the apples all together. . . brown sugar, cinnamon, and I are very good friends.

I know I'm a little late in sharing these recipes for this year's Thanksgiving, but I just prefer to think of myself as conveniently early for next year!

Pumpkin Pie with Shortbread Crust
Adapated from Martha Stewart

For the crust:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt

For the filling:

15 ounces (1 can) pumpkin
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs


1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Prepare the crust: Combine butter and sugar in a medium bowl with a hand mixer. Add egg yolks and mix until combined. Add flour and salt, and mix until dough is dry and crumbly. Press the dough into a 9-inch pie dish (you may not need to use all of the dough). Freeze the crust for about 20 minutes, then bake 20-22 minutes or until golden brown. Let crust cool while you prepare the filling.

2. Reduce oven temperature to 325˚F. Whisk together all filling ingredients until smooth. Pour filling into cooled pie crust. Bake about 1 hour or until filling is just set--slightly puffed but still a bit wobbly. Cool on a wire rack; then, refrigerate until ready to eat or up to two days.

Brown Sugar Apple Crisp
Adapted from The Repressed Pastry Chef

For the filling:

3 pounds apples, peeled and sliced about 1/4-inch thick
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the crumb topping:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed


1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Combine all topping ingredients except butter in a medium bowl. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the topping mixture until only pea-sized chunks of butter remain. If you don't have a pastry blender, you can use clean hands to rub the butter into the topping mixture.

3. Stir filing to redistribute juices, then pour into a 9-inch pie plate. Evenly distribute crumb topping over the filling. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until apples reach desired tenderness. Serve warm or refrigerate until ready to eat. To reheat, warm apple crisp in a 250˚F oven for about 20 minutes.

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