This past weekend was my mom’s birthday (which birthday, I will not say, to preserve her youth…let’s go with 35). I asked her what kind of cake she wanted, and her response was simply, “I don’t want cake; I want pie.” Now, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I questioned this decision at first. We will have pie out the wazoo in less than two weeks, followed by more pie, come Christmas time! On top of this, I really wanted to try out my new fondant skills and make her a very pretty decorated and delicious cake! But, no – she wanted pie. No cake. Just pie. Apple pie. Pumpkin pie. Delicious pie. Homemade crust a must. And who was I to argue with the birthday girl? So I made pie.
Sidenote: A few weeks ago when I asked her about her birthday cake, I thought Christian, Daisy, and I would be spending Thanksgiving with my family. However, it turns out I will be spending Thanksgiving in New Hampshire with Christian’s family, so, in the end, it was a good call on my mom’s part to have birthday pie. They won’t be getting my homemade pies for Thanksgiving…a sad truth that they are not letting me forget.
Now, my mom was very distraught and indecisive over what kind of pie she wanted. Pumpkin or apple? Apple or pumpkin? Decisions, decisions. Such a hard life. I don’t even remember what she chose in the end, but I decided – being the wonderful daughter I am – to give her the best of both worlds, and make a version of both. I opted for my classic pumpkin pie, with a new and improved pie crust (more on that in a minute), and apple crumble, which I posted about a few weeks ago.
The apple crumble is quick and easy to make, as you can see in my previous post, and tastes so much like apple pie. I thought it was a quick solution for my mom to be able to have both flavors for her birthday. I made the pumpkin pie at my apartment the night before, but I decided to make the crumble at my parents’ so that it would be fresh and hot out of the oven, and just to show my mom how painless it really is. (Though, my mom doesn’t have a pastry cutter, so I had to cut the butter into the crumble mixture with a fork. My wrist was quite sore by the end…but it is normally quick and painless, with the right tools.)
As for the pumpkin pie, I usually use the recipe on the back of a can of Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin. It is delicious, and straightforward, and comes out perfect every time, so why mess with it? I’ll include the recipe here, but if you buy Libby’s pumpkin, it’s on the can! (Of course, if you take your “from scratch” one step further than I do, and mash up your own pumpkin, I guess you will be needing the recipe below!)
Tangent: I once used a different brand of pumpkin that had a recipe on the back calling for no sugar and sweetened condensed milk. I mistakenly used evaporated milk, since that is what I usually use with Libby’s, and still no sugar. Needless to say, it was disastrous sugarless mush and I had to throw the whole pie out. That was the first and last time I will EVER make that mistake. I always triple check now to make sure I am using the correct variation of milk. They say ‘don’t cry over spilled milk’, but what about evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk? Because I did…
The pumpkin pie filling is tried and true, but the pie crust was an experiment – a new end exciting twist on a classic. I’ve been hearing whispers about vodka in pie crusts, and have been wanting to try it for quite some time. Here was my chance. I referenced Smitten Kitchen for the recipe, which she got from Cook’s Illustrated, November 2007. I did, however, make one notable change: I used all butter, instead of part butter and part shortening. I cut and rolled and floured and molded. And it was delicious. De-li-cious. It was flakey and crumbly and buttery and great. I highly recommend it. I think next time I make it (for Thanksgiving in less than 2 weeks), I will try it with half butter, half shortening, just to compare, but I think either way, I have a new go-to pie crust recipe!
My only suggestions are to make sure you use cold water and cold butter like the recipe calls for. It helps make sure your butter doesn’t melt prematurely and makes for a lighter and flakier crust (the vodka helps with this as well, because it evaporates so fast!).
Ok, now, you have less than 2 weeks until Thanksgiving – Go bake!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 55 minutes
Yield: one 9″ pie, 8-12 servings
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz.) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk
1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
- Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl.
- Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
- Pour into pie shell.
- Bake in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. For optimal enjoyment, top with whipped cream before serving. 🙂
Foolproof Pie Dough
Cooks Illustrated, November 2007
Prep time: 1 hour
Yield: Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie (I made half of this recipe for my pumpkin pie)
2 and 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 and 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into small bits
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water
- Combine 1 and 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add butter and shortening and cut into flour mixture until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Use spatula to scrap dough.
- Add remaining cup of flour and mix until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up.
- Sprinkle vodka and some of the water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Add water as needed.
- Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.