In my family, Thanksgiving and Christmas are a very similar affair, culinarily speaking. That's not a complaint, please note. The recurring themes are turkey (mainly because I demand it - I can't get enough of the meat, and have eaten myself into a turkey coma on more than one occasion), stuffing, some form of potatoes, and pie. Pie is almost always pumpkin, made by the dear Mrs. Smith. As much as I insist on turkey showing up twice a year, my father insists on frozen pumpkin pie. My brother and I have dared to try to make it from fresh and serve it instead, only to be threatened with removal from the will for the betrayal of switching pies on my father (well, not really, but he was rather upset and forbade us from denying him the frozen variety again).
In the UK, pumpkin pies are slightly harder to find, either the fresh bakery or frozen variety. That doesn't cause too much strain since I prefer to make my own, and once I'm armed with my trusty tins of pumpkin (thank you Waitrose), the hardest part of making the pie is deciding how indebted I want the flavor to be to Mrs. Smith's. Which, as it turns out, is my absolute standard for how pumpkin pies should taste. I suppose I've been indoctrinated as much as my father has, I'm just more stubborn and will make it from scratch in order to make it taste like the frozen. Still, that's some damn fine pumpkin pie.
Apple pies are a close second on the holiday pie-eating favorites list. It was for the sake of apple pies that I made my first pastry, and honed my technique (as it is). I've been making apple pies and crumbles for years now, though I still tweak my apple recipe each time I make it. I currently like to sautee up my apples for a couple of minutes, accompanied with a glug of amaretto liquer and the occasional handful of raisins if I'm feeling in a German, strudel-like mood.
I had a request to make an apple pie this week for Anne, the grandmother of my just-baptized godson Matthew. The pie was to be the dessert at the christening party, although I wasn't under any delusion that the pie was meant for anyone other than Anne. Sadly, I was hit by a bug this weekend and Mr. A&N rightly declared that I couldn't/shouldn't/wouldn't be handling foodstuffs unless I was happy with possibly infecting the whole party. So Anne didn't get her apple pie, for which I can say: stupid sickness bug. I have promised to make it for her the next time she's over from Ireland, but shall in the mean time post the recipe here (along with a picture of baby Matthew, the most gorgeousest baby I've had the privilege of blowing raspberries onto).
Makes enough for 1 10" crust; double if making apple pie or any other covered pie
- 1 C flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 70 g / 1/3 C shortening (Crisco in the US, Cookeen in the UK)
- 1 1/3 Tbs butter
- (optional: ground cinnamon or nutmeg)
- apprx 1/8 C ice cold water
- Cut the flour, salt, shortening and butter in together until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. I like to add in 1/2 tsp of cinnamon or a few shavings of fresh nutmeg in with the flour mixture in order to give the pastry a bit of the taste of the pie.
- Add water into the pastry a bit at a time. You should use enough water to gather up all the dry bits of the flour mixture, but the pastry should not be wet or tacky.
- Cover and allow to sit in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour.
- After chilled, roll out the pastry on a floured surface so that it's big enough to fit in the base of the pie dish.
- Cut off any excess dough (if making the pumpkin pie, you can cut back to the top of the rim of the dish; for the apple pie, leave a little bit more overhang).
- Line the dish with baking paper and fill with weighted baking beans (or, the cheap option of dried beans) and blind bake for 10 minutes at 175 degrees C.
Pumpkin Pie (bake at 220 C, reducing to 175 C)
- 1 1/2 C mashed pumpkin (about 4-6lb fresh pumpkin roasted, peeled, and drained or 1 15 oz tin)
- 1 14 oz/400g tin sweetened condensed milk
- 2 eggs, yolks and white separated
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbs allspice
- 1 tsp fresh ground ginger
- 3/4 of 1 fresh nutmeg, ground
- 1 tsp salt
- Combine the pumpkin, condensed milk, egg yolks, all the spices and salt, and mix well.
- Beat the egg whites until fluffy and with soft peaks
- Fold in the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture (if you have trouble with folding - like I do - stir in about 1/4 of the egg whites until well combined, and then fold in the rest of the whites. It will be much easier).
- Pour mixture into blind-baked crust, and bake for 15 minutes at 220 C. Then reduce the temperature to 175 and bake for another 40 minutes.
- 8 average sized apples (cooking apples are recommended though since these can be quite big, 4-5 will probably do)
- 1/4 C flour
- 1/2 C light brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 Tbs butter
- 1/3 C almond-flavored liquor
- Peel and slice the apples into thick chunks (about 1/2 inch in width).
- Place sliced apples in a bowl, into which you'll add the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Sire well and allow to sit for 1/2 hour.
- Heat the butter in a frying pan, and add in the apple slices and any of the juices from the bowl.
- Add the liquor, and sautee for 3-5 minutes until the liquid has thickened a bit. The apples shouldn't begin to soften, the ingredients should simply come together and create something of a syrup.
- Place into the pie tin with the blind-baked crust. Cover with another layer of rolled-out pastry, and cinch the top and bottom crusts together by folding the top edge under the bottom and creating the fluted-type pattern with your fingers as seen above.
- Cut a hole into the top crust, making it seasonally decorative (such as a leaf or a turkey).
- Brush the crust with milk or a beaten egg.
- Bake for around 45 minutes at 175 C, taking care not to let the edges of the crust burn (if the edges do start browning too quickly, cover them in foil).