'Fall' for some delicious pies
Can't you already smell the aroma of an apple pie baking?
We're just now coming into in the season for apple and pumpkin pies, two fall favorites. These will pretty much rule the dessert world over the next few months. There are, however, other fall fruits that deserve our attention — among them pears. Bartletts, around since 1797, are the most popular but Anjou, Bosc and Asian are also excellent, for both eating and cooking.
Then here come cranberries, plums and figs. We are still able to get peaches and berries so the pie repertoire is pretty impressive right now. Still, apple pies, in all their variations, are baked more this time of year than any other.
Most of us have our own favorite recipes, many likely handed down from kitchen to kitchen over decades. Apple pie and pumpkin are traditional but others also hold their own using other fall ingredients. Pears, for one, make wonderful pies but can also add flavor when combined with others, like apple or peach. They need to be peeled, cored, thinly sliced and then sprinkled with lemon juice to keep from browning.
Cranberries aren't just for Thanksgiving — add them to an apple or pear pie for both color and a little zing. Still hankering for berry pies? No problem, there are plenty available, just not locally grown. Add as many different ones as you want. A berry pie is good any time, any season. Nuts also appear in pies with a popular one being that Southern favorite, pecan.
Overall, pies aren't that difficult to make. It's the crust that puts some bakers into stress mode, even though all they are made up of is flour, a fat of some sort and water. Crusts can be tough, crumbly, soggy, and flavorless leading some to buy a ready-made crust in the local freezer aisle. Easy yes, but they can't compare to home-made.
The single most important factor in making crusts is keeping the fats cold, whether you are using butter, shortening, a mix of both or lard. As you cut the fat and flour together, leave chunks of the fat as that creates flakiness. Now the water — add just enough chilled to hold the dough together. In recent years some bakers have substituted vodka and swear by that.
Form the dough into a disc, wrap and chill. After 30 minutes roll it out onto a well-floured surface, rolling it away from you, Edges should be same thickness as the center. Gently place into the pie plate and chill again about 20 minutes without the filling. (Helps keep the shape.) Finally add the filling, the top crust if using, and bake. There, done.
At the end of the day, what makes a good pie? I first chatted with Mary at Grandma's Kitchen where pies have been a feature for decades. They are known for their cream pies, made fresh every day, as well as at least eight other varieties including a selection of fruit pies. Right now they are bringing on their fall features including a best-selling pumpkin pie, apple and caramel apple.
Said Mary, a server, "What makes a pie special is the crust. It has to have a good crust. Ours do."
Tim McCarty, executive chef of the Rochester Golf and Country Club, agrees that the crust is an important element. He prefers baking one-crust pies, then topping the filling with a streusel crust."That adds more interest."
He also pointed out that dried fruits like raisins, dates, apricots and prunes can combine for an elegant fall pie.
1 9-inch crust rolled and placed in pie pan
4 cups apples, sliced and peeled2 cups fresh (or frozen) cranberries1/2 cup sugar1/3 cup all-purpose flour1/4 cup brown sugar, packed1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Topping1/2 cup flour1/3 cup brown sugar, packed1/4 teaspoon cinnamonSprinkle of nutmeg1/4 cup butter1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl gently mix the apples and cranberries. In a small bowl mix together the rest of the filling ingredients. Add to the fruit and toss to coat. Pour into the crust. In another bowl mix all topping ingredients together except the butter and pecans. Using a pastry blender or fork cut in the butter until crumbly, then stir in pecans and sprinkle over filling. Bake 45 to 55 minutes until apples are tender and crust and topping are golden brown. Let set up for several hours, then serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
1 9-inch pie crust2 cups pecans3 large eggs3/4 cup dark brown sugar2/3 cup light corn syrup1 teaspoon vanilla extract2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted3 tablespoons bourbon1/2 teaspoon kosher salt3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375. On a rimmed baking sheet toast pecans for about 8 minutes or until fragrant. Coarsely chop. In a large bowl whisk eggs with the brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, melted butter, bourbon and salt until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans until evenly distributed. Pour filling into pie shell and bake 45-55 minutes or until center of pie is set. If the edge is browning too quickly tent the crust with foil halfway through the baking time. Transfer pie to a rack and let cool for several hours before serving. Can be stored at room temperature for up to one day. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream and a good cup of coffee.
1 double crust1/2 cup sugar3 tablespoons all-purpose four1/4 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1 teaspoon lemon zest5 cups peeled and sliced Bosc pears1 tablespoon butter, diced1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preheat oven to 450. Put a baking sheet on the oven rack. In a bowl combine the sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and lemon zest. Roll out half the pastry and line a 9-inch pie pan. Arrange pear slices in layers over the crust, sprinkling the sugar mixture over each layer. Dot with butter and sprinkle lemon juice over. Roll out the top crust, cover filling and pinch edges to seal. Cut slits to let steam escape. Bake on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 and bake until crust is golden brown and filling bubbly, 35-40 minutes longer. Cool on rack for several hours.
Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to [email protected] .