Category Archives: Pies

Apple Pie for Thanksgiving

It’s way past Thanksgiving, but I did save the pics from baking the apple pie—Whew!

I decided that I was kind of tired of the traditional pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. We weren’t having turkey, either, so tradition was kind of out the window.

As I know from many years of making apple pie, there are pitfalls:

  1. Sometimes the apples aren’t done by the time the crust is done.
  2. The filling can shrink away from the top crust as the apples cook within it. When you cut into such a pie, you think you’ve been cheated out of some filling.
  3. Sometimes the apples are too sweet or too tart because you don’t get to test the filling before it goes into the pie and make adjustments.

So this year, I cooked the filling first. In hindsight, it seems like a no-brainer. The best part of cooking the filling in advance is that you can do it the day before making the pie. You can also make the crust a day ahead so that the day of baking is just assembly and baking. I ended up making the whole pie the day before Thanksgiving so I could just eat on the big day. đź‘Ť

I found this terrific recipe for a Classic Apple Pie with Precooked Apple Filling. It also has what looks like a good crust that you might want to try, even though I opted for a different one. I used a combination of Granny Smith and Macintosh apples to cover both the tart and sweet flavors. I can’t imagine ever making another apple pie without a precooked filling.

For the crust I used the Foolproof All-Butter Dough from Cook’s Illustrated—it’s not the one with vodka. (There may be a paywall that prevents you from reading the recipe if you are not a member.) It’s a nice dough that almost resembles a puff pastry, with many flaky, tender layers, as you may be able to see in the photos. If you look closely at the slits in the baked pie, you can see the layers in the crust. We thought it was the most tender crust we ever had:

I can’t believe I didn’t take any photos of the pie after it was sliced!

Is It Too Late To Talk About Thanksgiving?

It might be late, but who needs a holiday for turkey, stuffing, and pie?

The Turkey

If you remember last year, I de-boned a whole turkey to make a turkey roll, after practicing with a couple of chickens. It was a good skill to learn and have in my apron pocket, but I decided to go with something even easier this year—the spatchcocked turkey. You might recall when I spatchcocked a chicken to cook on the grill. Well, it’s the same simple process with a turkey—cut out the backbone with kitchen/poultry shears and press the whole thing flat, so it all cooks at the same time without overcooking the breast.

It did mean that I needed to buy some more kitchen equipment, which I’m always glad to do. I bought the extra large 15″ x 21″ x 1″ baking sheet (from Nordic Ware®) and a 14″ x 20″ stainless steel rack that fits exactly into it. Even though I’m only cooking a small 12 lb. turkey this time, the sheet will be big enough for larger ones in the future. The rack sits up enough to allow room for carrots, celery, and onion beneath the bird to flavor the juices that drip down, although I skipped that because I made the stock for gravy on the day I started the brining process with the backbone and giblets. I also picked up the extra long heavy duty aluminum foil to line the pan, because, why make a hot mess on its first voyage?

Here are the instructions for dry brining, and here are the instructions for the roasting day, both from Serious Eats. This might be my favorite new way to cook a turkey. It cooks in just a little over an hour at 450° and everything comes out juicy, including the breasts without the usual drying out to get the thighs done. Cutting up the turkey for serving is very easy—I’m long over the need to present a whole stuffed bird and try to carve it at the table; I’d much rather present the serving platter.

After dinner, I made turkey stock in the slow cooker with the carcass and drumsticks (we don’t really care for those), letting it cook on low overnight. You can let the slow cooker go for as long as 24 hours when making stock. The next morning I packaged the rich stock in quart containers for the freezer.

The Dressing

I almost called it stuffing, which would be technically incorrect. You can’t really stuff a flattened bird. 🙄

For me, the dressing is the most important dish on the Thanksgiving table, then gravy, then pie, then bird, then potatoes, in that order. I picked up 2 half-pound bâtards (short baguettes) last week and put them in the freezer. I’m making a simple dressing with roughly-torn croutons, onion, celery,  sage, and parsley, lots of butter and stock, like this one from Epicurious, but without the other herbs. This dressing recipe includes beaten eggs, which makes the stuffing kind of a savory bread pudding—I recommend it. We ate every bit over a couple of days. I might have nibbled into one corner before dinner, as you can see in the pic.

The Pie

It’s been a long time since I didn’t make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but with my husband’s lactose intolerance, the custard and whipped cream just seemed like more than I wanted to deal with in terms of substitution, so apple it is. I’ll be making that on Wednesday and trying out the concept of macerating the apples beforehand and then cooking the resulting juices into a syrup. The process is described here, another recipe from Epicurious. The juices from the apples cook up into a very nice syrup with a strong apple juice flavor, and the pie filling is not overcooked, as sometimes happen when you cook the filling in advance, apples and all. I did follow the linked recipe pretty closely, but I did not want to fool around with our expectations by adding Chinese five spice powder—I just used cinnamon.



Apple Puff Pastry—Tarts, Turnovers, or Hand Pies?

Whatever you call it, the muffin tin makes it easy to construct, and provides a neat and kind of glamorous result. I have been thinking about hand pies lately, trying to come up with a simple method of making the packet without cracks and burnt edges and leaky fillings. If I’m going to make pie crust, though, I’d just as soon make a regular pie. So I turned to puff pastry for something just a little different, yet not your typical turnover.

I made the apple pie filling yesterday, so all I have to do is the construction and baking today, while dinner cooks in the slow cooker. While my apple pies are almost always made with raw apples, I didn’t think these would bake long enough today to cook the apples, so a precooked filling seemed like a better idea. I used this one from the New York Times, because it doesn’t add any liquids, other than a splash of apple cider vinegar, and comes out very thick, so it will be less likely to bubble over or make the pastry soggy. The apples in this filling—I used Granny Smiths, my favorite for pies—are not overcooked and mushy, so they will withstand more cooking inside the pastry. I diced rather than sliced them to fit in the round cups better.

I needed six 6″ squares of puff pastry for my jumbo muffin cups, so I had to roll out the two pastry sheets in the package to 12″ x 12″; that left me with two extra squares, which I cut up and made into Parmesan twists. Each lined muffin cup held about 3/4-1 cup of filling.

Apple Puffs

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

  • 1 recipe cooked pie filling (about 6-8 cups); good one from NY Times
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 2.5 pounds apples, peeled and diced (I used 5 large Granny Smiths)
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
    • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, each rolled into 12″ x 12″
  • egg wash—1 egg yolk plus 1 tablespoon water
  • decorating sugar
  1. Cook pie filling ahead of time so it can cool. I made it the day before, then brought it back to room temperature before filling the pastry-lined cups.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°; butter 6 jumbo muffin cups.
  3. Let pastry sheets thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes, so it’s workable, but still cold. Roll each sheet into 12″ x 12″ square. cut each into 4 squares of 6″ x 6″—puff pastry will puff up in the oven, so perfection of the shape is not necessary.
  4. Line each muffin cup with one square, letting the corners hang over the sides.
  5. Fill each cup with cooled filling to the top of each cup.
  6. Fold over the pastry corners to the center of each cup. If your pastry has gotten too warm, put the filled cups in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before finishing, so the pastry is chilled when it goes into the oven.
  7. Brush the tops with egg wash, then sprinkle with decorating sugar.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Mine were done at about 22 minutes.


Pear Clafoutis with Coconut Milk

Still looking at ways to get around using dairy with lactose, whether in desserts or main dishes. Coconut milk comes in handy as a substitute in desserts, and I find the coconut taste mild enough that it doesn’t interfere with and can even enhance certain foods. The full fat coconut milk is also a good substitute for cream, as in today’s clafoutis.

Clafoutis is a kind of custard-meets-genoise with embedded fresh fruit, using not too much sugar and not too much flour—those are the two things I’m concerned with, while my husband can’t handle the lactose. I’m starting with Ina Garten’s recipe, leaving out the lemon zest and pear brandy in favor of the coconut flavor. I wish I had a prettier dish for it, but the old Pyrex pie dish will have to do, so I’ll try to compensate with a pretty design of the fruit slices.

I could have wished for pears that were just a little more ripe—probably just waiting until tomorrow would have been enough. It seems with pears they are either too ripe or not ripe enough at any given moment. Still, it came out as planned and is a wonderfully light dessert with which to highlight your favorite fruit, including the traditional cherry.

Pear Clafouti with Coconut Milk

  • Servings: one 10 inch round dessert
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 375°; butter a 10″ round baking dish or pie plate with sides of at least 1 1/2″ and dust with granulated sugar.

1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon sugar for preparing baking dish

1/3 cup granulated sugar

4 large eggs

3/8 cup (6 tablespoons) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups unsweetened full fat coconut milk—Do not shake the can first. Scoop out the fat at the top of the can and then add enough of the remaining milk in the can to make up the required amount.

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large, ripe Bartlett pears

  1. Beat the eggs and sugar for about 3 minutes with a hand or stand mixer.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients on low speed. Set aside while you prepare the pears.
  3. Peel, core, and slice the pears, either vertically or horizontally (I did both). Arrange the pears in the prepared baking dish in any design you like or no design at all.
  4. Pour the batter over the pears and bake for about 35 minutes. Let cool a bit, then slice or scoop out with a large spoon. I tried to keep my pear arrangement intact in serving, but that’s not really important. I would just as soon have it in a bowl.

I suppose you will want to garnish it, but I think you get more of an appreciation of the custard-like cake without any further additions.