We won't take sides in the pumpkin pie versus sweet potato pie or apple versus pecan debate. But pie is simply a must-have dessert.
For the harried cook, the dilemma is whether to make a pie or buy one. A 12-inch pie from Costco is hard to beat ... or is it? For the sake of convenience -- and those who are dough-challenged -- it's probably worth it. The pie yields about 12 slices, which comes out to about 68 cents per serving.
If you plan to make your own pie, you can make the dough three days ahead and refrigerate it or two months in advance and freeze it. Make the pies up to three days in advance.
We found recipes for two delicious pies -- an apple-pear and a pumpkin -- that guests will rave about and won't break the bank.
You can use store-bought crust or make your own. And, yes, it is easy as pie, and cost-effective, to make your own dough. It costs about $1 for ingredients for a double crust.
I rely on an adaptation of the Foolproof Pie Dough from Cook's Illustrated for nearly all pie crusts. It uses vodka -- yes, the kind that gets mixed in drinks -- to make the dough easier to roll. Trust me, it's a breeze.
Here are some surefire tips for making pies from scratch:
Have all the ingredients well-chilled, including the flour. Use water with ice cubes to keep the water cold. Cut the butter and shortening in pieces and stick them in the freezer to chill them. You can use all-purpose, unbleached all-purpose or pastry flour.
If using a food processor to mix the ingredients, place plastic wrap over the work bowl before putting the top on. This way the flour won't fly all over. If mixing by hand, cut in the butter and shortening using a pastry blender or two knives in a crisscross motion.
Mix the dry ingredients, then the fat and then slowly add the liquid. Add only enough liquid so the dough comes together and doesn't crumble.
To save a step, shape the dough into a disk -- not a ball -- wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate it.
Roll out the dough between pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper to make transferring it to the pie pan simple.
For a 9-inch, single-crust pie, roll the dough out to an 11-inch circle to allow for fluting a pretty edge. Or trim to the edge of the pan and make a decorative edge out of dough scrap s with mini cookie cutters.
To prevent soggy-bottom crusts, brush with beaten egg white before adding the filling.
Foolproof pie dough
Makes: One 9-inch double crust
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Note: If you do not have vodka, add 1 tablespoon cider vinegar and more water as needed. We cut back on the amount of shortening from the original recipe and got the same result: an easy-to-roll and flaky dough.
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup cold shortening
1/4 cup ice water
1/4 cup cold vodka (or more ice water as needed)
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the flour, salt and sugar.
Add the butter and shortening and process until coarse crumbs form. With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water and vodka until the mixture just comes together. Do not overprocess.
Divide the dough into two even balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to two days; or freeze for two months.
-- Adapted from Cook's Illustrated magazine, November/ December 2007 issue.
313 calories (58% from fat), 20 grams fat (10 grams sat. fat), 26 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 235 mg sodium, 36 mg cholesterol, 9 mg calcium, .84 grams fiber.
Sugar & spice pumpkin pie with brandied ginger cream
Preparation time: 35 minutes
Total time: 2 hours (not all active time)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup ice water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or unbleached flour
10 tablespoons ice cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons vodka, optional
2 cups canned pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon brandy or vanilla extract
3/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated cinnamon stick (or 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (or a pinch of freshly ground)
1 cup heavy whipping cream or 2 cups whipped topping (regular or light)
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon brandy or vanilla extract
To make the crust: Make sure all the ingredients are chilled, including the flour.
In a small bowl, stir the salt into 1/3 cup water until dissolved. Put the flour in a food processor and scatter the butter on top. Pulse until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the salt water and pulse until the dough begins to come together in large clumps. Add the vodka, or 1-2 tablespoons of water. Shape the dough into a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer to a 10-inch pie plate, easing the dough into the bottom and onto the sides and gently pressing into place. For a traditional crimped edge, trim the overhanging dough to 1/2 inch from the edge of the plate. Fold the overhang under and crimp decoratively. Or trim just to the top edge. Reserve the dough scraps. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight, or freeze for up to two weeks.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the chilled pie shell with foil or parchment and fill it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until the sides have just set and look dry, 16 to 20 minutes. Remove the liner and bake until the edges are lightly golden and the bottom is pale and completely dry, about 5 minutes.
Let the crust cool completely on a wire rack before filling. To make a decorative edge, reroll dough scraps and cut out 45 circles about 1 inch in diameter. Brush the top edge of the pie shell with beaten egg white. Overlap the cutouts around the top edge. Brush the circles with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.
For the filling: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, eggs, egg yolk, half-and-half, cornstarch and brandy or vanilla. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, pepper and cloves. Whisk the sugar mixture into the pumpkin mixture.
Pour the filling into the cooled piecrust. Bake until the pie is set around the outside but still slightly wet and jiggly in the center, about 1 hour. The filling will continue to set as it cools. Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to two days before serving.
Whip the cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until it forms very soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, ginger and brandy or vanilla and continue whipping until it forms medium-firm peaks, about 30 seconds longer. Put a dollop in the center of the pie and spread outward, leaving a band of filling visible around the edge of the pie, or put a dollop on individual servings.
-- Adapted from Fine Cooking magazine, November 2008 issue.
334 calories (55% from fat), 21 grams fat (12 grams sat. fat), 33 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 230 mg sodium, 112 mg cholesterol, 69 mg calcium, 2 grams fiber.
Apple and pear pie
Preparation time: 35 minutes
Total time: 2 hours (not all active time)
This pie has a great flavor combination: tart apples and sweet pears spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon.
Favorite pie crust for a double-crust pie
1 beaten egg white
1/4 cup applejack brandy or brandy, optional
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 1/4 pounds tart baking apples, peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/3-inch-thick wedges
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound firm but ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/3-inch-thick wedges
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup half-and-half or heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup coarsely chopped lightly toasted walnuts or pecans
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out half the dough and fit into a 10-inch pie plate. Brush the bottom with the egg white and refrigerate.
Mix applejack brandy if using, dried currants, fresh lemon juice and vanilla extract in large bowl. Let mixture stand 15 minutes.
Cook 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat until pale golden, about 3 minutes. Add apple wedges, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg. Saute until apple wedges are crisp-tender, about 12 minutes. Add apple mixture, pear wedges and cornstarch to currant mixture; toss to coat.
Mix light brown sugar, corn syrup, whipping cream and remaining 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in heavy small saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat until slightly thickened, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stir in chopped walnuts. Add to fruit mixture. Toss to coat.
Transfer warm filling to prepared crust. Roll out the top crust and place on top. Cut slits in the top so the pie can vent. Bake 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake until apples and pears are tender and liquid bubbles thickly, about 30 minutes longer.
Cool pie on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
-- Adapted from www.epicurious.com.
506 calories (48% from fat), 27 grams fat (12 grams sat. fat), 58 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 208 mg sodium, 44 mg cholesterol, 48 mg calcium, 3 grams fiber.
Susan Selasky writes for the Detroit Free Press.Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information ServicesCopyright © 2015, CT Now