Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Pies

I always make two pies for Thanksgiving, even though my family is so small and some of us are such tiny eaters that even one pie would likely still leave us with leftovers. One reason was because while I believe pumpkin pie to be an essential component of any Thanksgiving holiday, I am not especially fond of it, and so always wanted a dessert that I could enjoy as much as the rest of the meal. After years of making pumpkin pies for the rest of the family, incorporating various iterations such as caramel drizzles andwalnut streusels and gingersnap crumb crusts, I have finally developed an appreciation for plain old pumpkin pie, and my recipe of choice is from The Joy of Cooking cookbook.

An all-butter crust (as opposed to one mostly of shortening) will shrink. Because I par-baked this one,
I ended up with more of a tart than a pie, but it tasted just as good (or better - butter crusts are
far-superior in flavor, though they may lack some of the flakiness you might be used to
in the shortening crusts). The crust could only hold half of the recipe for the filling though,
so I froze the other half of custard and have another pie coming my way in a few weeks.
But I still wouldn't feel right about celebrating the bounty of the season without contributing a second pie to the feast. This year, I selected a has-it-all meal-in-itself 'Harvest Pie' by Leslie Mackie (owner and founder of Macrina Bakery). Not only is it filled with apples, pears, and cranberries, the crust is made of almonds and sesame seeds for a buttery richness that makes an excellent cookie when baked alone.
The crust was probably my favorite part. It is crunchy and flavorful enough to stand alone as a shortbread type of cookie, and held the decorative crimping in the pie rim throughout baking. But it is also tender enough that it made an excellent pie crust as well. I will definitely make it again.
The pie filling is a wonderful representation of the best this season has to offer. I found it a little too sweet though, and far too juicy. The streusel topping was also delicious, but I had cut back on the sugar and butter, and even still used only half the recipe. The recipe below incorporates all of my preferences from the original as printed in Mackie's cookbook, Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook.

Sesame-Almond Cookie Crust
makes enough for two 9-inch crusts
1 cup whole almonds (+ 2 tablespoons for streusel)
3/4 cup sesame seeds (+2 tablespoons for streusel)
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces total) unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds and sesame seeds on separate baking sheets and toast about 10 minutes (almonds will take about 12). Remove from oven and cool.

Combine cooled almonds and seeds with 1 cup flour in food processor and pulse to a fine grind. Add to stand mixer with remaining flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and lemon and blend. Using paddle attachment, add butter and mix on low until coarse and crumbly, about 3 minutes.
Whisk together eggs and vanilla and mix into dough just until combined. Divide dough into two pieces, pat into a flat circle and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days (or freeze up to two months).

Once chilled, roll out one circle of dough into 12-inch round, lay into pie plate and crimp edge as desired. Freeze for 30 minutes, then fill with foil and pie weights, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes until golden.

Remove beans and foil and set crust aside to cool.

Note: This is a great video for how to make decorative crusts. I especially love the "wheat" border, because it seems so complicated until you watch how easy it is to make.

Harvest Pie Filling
2 Granny Smith apples
2 bartlett pears
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup cornstarch

Peel and core apples and pears, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Combine in large bowl with 1 cup sugar, cranberries, and lemon juice. Toss well and place into colander. Allow to juices to drain at room temperature for one hour.

In bowl, combine cornstarch, 1/2 cup sugar, and spices, then toss with drained fruit. Pack tightly into cooled crust and top with streusel topping. 

Sesame-Almond Streusel Topping
2 tablespoons toasted whole almonds
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons white sugar

Coarsely chop almonds and cut together with butter, seeds, flour, oats, and sugar using pastry blender or your fingers.

Bake assembled pie at 350 degrees for 90 minutes and cool at least one hour before serving. 

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