Thanksgiving, to me, is all about pies. Christmas can have its cookies, Halloween its candy, and Easter its chocolate… Thanksgiving is the holiday for me. I love a good pie, and even more than that, I love 4 good pies at once, all topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream (unsweetened, please…I like my cream straight up). I used to be able to eat a slice of each after dinner, but the days of overactive metabolisms have passed me by. Now I like to take a tiny sliver of each to equal about 1 1/2 regular slices total. This year my mom and I made 2 types of pumpkin (the differences between which I’ll explain later), a pecan, and my favorite—open-faced designer apple pie.
I’ve been wanting to try this pie for a while, ever since I bought the Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It’s not as much work as I originally anticipated and the result is so pretty and delicious. I didn’t have a leaf-cutter and so because I am insane I ended up cutting the leaves out by hand. They look a little wonky, but wonky can be delicious, too. Rose says to make enough dough for a 2-crust pie but I think that is wholly unnecessary. I was making 3 crusts at once and I just used the scraps from each of the 3 and that did it. I’d say probably make 1 1/2 of a 9-in pie dough recipe. Also, make sure to overstuff the pie…seriously, slide those slices in until you think they are going to pop out—they’ll shrink when they bake and you don’t want your apple rose to look deathly ill.
The only pain in the ass–pre-baking the crust. I hate pre-baking. It’s not really a big deal, it’s just one of those things that irks me, like putting sheets on a bed. But making the bed never ends with warm apple pie in your mouth, if you know what I mean:
Speaking of pre-baking…let’s address the pumpkin pie contest we had going on. I kept seeing all these recipes pop up for new and improved pumpkin pie. “Silky!” “Perfectly-spiced” and “creamy” were oft-thrown-around descriptors. I knew I had to try one–I love silky, perfectly-spiced, creamy things (see: panna cotta). So I eventually chose a recipe from Pastries from La Brea Bakery…it had browned butter and vanilla beas, garnet yams, and cream! All good things! So, the catch. It’s a total pain in the ass recipe. It involves STRAINING pumpkin and yam puree through a sieve (I dislike sieves…see: berry coulis), pre-baking the crust, of COURSE, and many fussy ingredients.
I was rooting for it though. I wanted it to be better, partially to justify the extra hour or so of time it took to make. It seemed like blasphemy to then crack open a can of Libby’s and some evaporated milk and have the regular version in all of 5 minutes flat (and no pre-baking, thank you very much). But alas, the conclusion was that the regular-old from-the-can version was much better. Bah! Don’t get me wrong, they were both good…but the La Brea version barely tasted like pumpkin. It was creamy, but too much so. It was silky, but I didn’t notice much of a difference betwixt the two. The lesson? Never try.
from Pastries from the La Brea Bakery
1 recipe Pie dough (see my next post for a good one)
For the filling:
2 medium jewel or garnet yams (I used regular old sweet potatoes)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 stick (2 oz) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean
2 extra-large eggs
1 extra-large egg yolk
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp whole milk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
3 tbsp light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tbsp brandy
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 very small pinch ground cloves
1 small pinch white pepper
2 tbsp milk or water
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
4 to 5 gratings fresh whole nutmeg
Adjust the oven rack to the middle positions and preheat to 400˚F.
Prepare and roll out the pie dough. Chill until ready to use.
To prepare the filling: Place the yams directly on the oven rack and bake them until they are very soft and starting to burst, about 45 minutes to an hour. Allow to cool, remove the skins, and set aside.
Turn the oven to 350˚F.
Blind bake the crust (weighed down) for 25 minutes.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, puree the yams with the pumpkin. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, allow the moisture to evaporate as the mixture bubbles and cooks, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, begin to melt the butter. Using a small paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise. With the back of the knife, scrape out the pulp and seeds and add scrapings and the pod to the butter. Swirl the pan to ensure the butter cooks evenly and doesn’t burn. Continue cooking about 3 to 5 more minutes, until the bubbles subside and the butter is dark brown and has a nutty aroma. Remove the vanilla bean.
Add the browned butter and dark flecks to the pumpkin-yam mixture and combine. Strain the mixture into a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk the whole eggs, egg yolk, cream, milk, maple syrup, brown sugar, brandy, ginger, salt, cloves, and pepper. Add to the pumpkin mixture, whisking to combine.
Brush the scalloped rim with the milk or water and pour in the filling to just below the rim.
In a small bowl combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sprinkle the topping over the filling.
Bake for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the filling is set and the crust is nicely browned. When done, the filling should no longer quiver when you gently shake the baking sheet.
Open-Faced Designer Apple Pie
from The Pie and Pastry Bible