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CHEF'S CORNER

 
Classic American Holiday - Classic American Pies
By Deirdre Cooper

 

 

There are two celebrations during the year that are truly American: the boisterous red, white and blue summer celebration of the Fourth of July and our uniquely American celebration of the year's bounty and the coming of the holiday season with Thanksgiving. We love Thanksgiving at our house. I love the atmosphere of the warmth inside, the chill outside and the traditional foods with a modern take on them, and everyone coming together to enjoy them (this year we will be 30!). While we all have our version of the perfect way to prepare a turkey and the particular favorite foods of family members to go along with it, I thought it might be interesting to concentrate on two particular favorites of the other traditional parts of the Thanksgiving menu - that is the pies that follow the feast.
 
"As American as apple pie" rings especially true at Thanksgiving. Apples are still available in abundance and in many varieties at this time of year and lend themselves beautifully to cooking in many different forms. The best cooking apples are Granny Smith, Jonathan or Cortland. Below are a couple of versions of this most American family favorite, apple pie.
 
Basic Pie Crust
 

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour

  •  
  • 1/4 cup sugar

  •  
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold

  •  
  • 1/3 cup solid shortening (cold)

  •  
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

  •  
  • pinch of salt

  •  
    Combine flour, sugar, salt in a mixing bowl and toss well to blend. Using a pastry blender cut in the butter and shortening until mixture forms small clumps. Sprinkle the water, 2 tablespoons at a time over the mixture and toss with a fork until mixture can be gathered into a ball. Divide the ball in two, one slightly larger than the other (for a top crust), wrap in plastic and chill for about an hour. When ready to use, roll the smaller portion of chilled dough on a slightly floured surface to about a 12 inch round. Transfer to pie plate, press into place and flute the edges, trimming away excess. Try not to overwork the dough as it can become tough. If you are not feeling inclined to make your own pastry, feel free to use one of the very good refrigerated ones from the market.
     
    Sour Cream Apple Pie
     
  • 2 tbsp. flour

  •  
  • 3/4 cup sugar

  •  
  • 1 1/2 - 2 tsp cinnamon

  •  
  • 1/4 tsp salt

  •  
  • 1 egg

  •  
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla

  •  
  • 1 cup sour cream

  •  
  • 6 - 7 medium Granny Smiths, peeled, cored and sliced

  •  
  • 1 unbaked, chilled 9" pie crust

  •  
    Topping
     
  • 2/3 cup flour

  •  
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  •  
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar

  •  
  • 1/4 lb butter, melted

  •  
    Sift together flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir in egg, vanilla and sour cream. Fold in apples and coat them well with the mixture. Spoon into pie shell and pour any remaining liquid over the top. Bake 15 minutes at 400, reduce heat to 350 and bake 30 minutes longer. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients and blend well. Spoon in clumps over the pie and bake an additional 15 minutes. Delicious served warm.
     
    Crunch Top Apple Pie
     
  • Pastry for 2-crust pie

  •  
  • 3/4 cup sugar

  •  
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour

  •  
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  •  
  • dash of salt

  •  
  • 3 1/2 cups peeled, chopped apples

  •  
  • One 16 oz jar tart applesauce

  •  
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  •  
  • 2 tbsp butter, cut in small pieces

  •  
    Crunch Topping
     
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour

  •  
  • Dash salt

  •  
  • 1 tbsp sugar

  •  
  • 1 tbsp butter, room temperature

  •  
    Pre-heat oven to 425. Line a 9 inch pie plate with half the dough. Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Stir in apples, applesauce and lemon juice. Spoon apple mixture into pie crust and dot with butter. Roll out remaining crust and cut into strips and arrange in a lattice design over top of pie. For crunch topping, combine, flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Using a fork, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over top of crust. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and continue to bake for about 45 minutes or until crust and topping are golden brown.
     
    Tarte Tatin
     
    This is a classic French bistro dessert, more like an open-face pie.
     
    Make your basic pastry recipe, eliminating the solid shortening, but adding 6 tbsp chilled sour cream. For the filling, you will need 1 stick plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature, 1 1/2 cups sugar and 10 (about 4 lbs) cooking apples, peeled, quartered and cored. One egg, beaten, for the glaze.
     
    Spread butter over bottom of a 12" ovenproof skillet with sloping sides (at least 1 1/4" deep). Reserve 2 tbsp sugar, sprinkle remaining sugar over the butter. Place skillet over medium-low heat and cook until butter melts, sugar begins to dissolve and mixture starts to bubble, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and arrange apples on their side around edge of skillet, placing tightly together. Arrange as many apples as will fit in concentric circles and sprinkle with 2 tbsp sugar.
     
    Set skillet over med-high heat, boil until a thick peanut butter-color syrup forms and add remaining apple slices as space permits, syrup will continue darkening as apples cook. Remove from heat, wrap handle of pan several times with heavy-duty foil.
     
    Meanwhile, position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425. Roll out pastry to approx 12" round and press pastry around apples at edge of skillet, brush pastry with egg glaze and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake tart until pastry is deep golden brown, approx 30 minutes. Cool for 3 minutes and cut around edge of skillet to loosen pastry. Using oven mitts, place large platter over skillet, hold skillet and platter together tightly and invert, allowing tart to fall onto platter. Carefully lift off skillet. You may rearrange any apples that may have become dislodged. Cool tart 30 minutes and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
     
    And don't forget the pumpkin. . .
     
    It surely wouldn't be a complete Thanksgiving dinner without pumpkin pie. I remember years ago when I decided to make a pumpkin pie from scratch which meant cooking the pumpkin as well as making the pie crust. I hacked away at four pumpkins, cleaning out the seeds and cooking them for what seemed like forever. Well, the pie turned out okay, but then I discovered in reading the label on canned pumpkin that it contained just that - only pumpkin. I decided then and there that canned was the way to go! Try one of these pies served warm with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream for the perfect ending to your Thanksgiving Day.
     
    Creamy Pumpkin Pie
    This pie has a more flan-like consistency.
     
  • 3 large eggs

  •  
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar

  •  
  • One 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

  •  
  • One 15 oz can cooked pureed pumpkin

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  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

  •  
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour

  •  
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

  •  
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

  •  
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

  •  
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

  •  
  • 1/8 tsp salt

  •  
  • 1 unbaked 9" pie crust

  •  
    Preheat over to 325. Combine the eggs, sugar, sweetened condensed milk and pumpkin in a large bowl and whisk until well blended. Add the butter and stir until thoroughly blended. Mix the flour, and all spices in a separate bowl. Stir into the pumpkin mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust and bake 45 to 50 minutes until the pie is light golden on top, firm to the touch and set in the center when you shake it gently.
     
    Cool completely on a baking rack before slicing. This pie will keep several days covered in the refrigerator and freezes very well. Be sure to serve it warm or at room temperature.
     
    Honey-Walnut Pumpkin Pie
     
  • 1 unbaked 9" pie crust with high fluted edge

  •  
  • 4 eggs, separated

  •  
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed

  •  
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  •  
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

  •  
  • 1/2 tsp allspice

  •  
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin

  •  
  • 1 cup heavy cream

  •  
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

  •  
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

  •  
  • 1/3 cup honey

  •  
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

  •  
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

  •  
    Heat oven to 450. In large bowl with mixer at high speed, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored. At low speed, beat in sugar, spices, then pumpkin, 1/3 cup heavy cream and melted butter.
     
    Beat egg whites until frothy, gradually add cornstarch, beating until stiff, but not dry; fold into pumpkin mixture. Turn into pie shell. Bake 15 min at 450, reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake 30 to 40 min until knife inserted in center, comes out clean. Cool and refrigerate. At serving time, mix honey and nuts; spread on pie. Whip remaining heavy cream with vanilla and add a dollop to each slice.
     

    Deirdre is a culinary enthusiast who enjoys traveling, gardening, and needless to say works wonders in the kitchen. Deirdre, a native New Yorker, now resides in Ambler with her husband John, and can often be found entertaining family and friends. Enjoy!
     
     
     
     

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