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Pie Oh My!

11/20/2012 04:02AM ● Published by Style

All photos courtesy of their respective publishers..

1. Pecan Pie

From Handheld Pies by Sarah Billingsley & Rachel Wharton

(Chronicle Books, 2011, $19.95)

To me, pecans are the sweetest and softest of nuts. There’s something quite decadent and dessert-y about them; I shudder when I see them in savory applications. This reaction, I think, stems from my love of gooey, nutty pecan pie. If you want to gild the lily, drizzle the top of each pie with melted chocolate, or put a pat of Bittersweet Ganache Filling at the bottom of the cup for a delicious surprise. These pies can also be made in jars. Makes 12 to 16 pies.

  • 1/2 recipe Flaky Butter Crust (recipe follows
  • All-purpose/plain flour for dusting
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup or blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tbsp. bourbon (optional)
  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped

Have two 12-cup standard muffin tins ready. Remove the dough from the refrigerator.

Lightly flour a clean work surface. Unwrap the dough, place it on the floured work surface, and flour the top lightly. Roll out the dough into a large circle about 1/8-inch thick. It will be about 14 inches in diameter. Using a round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out as many circles 4 to 5 inches in diameter as possible.

Handling the dough circles gently, lift each circle and press it into a muffin cup, leaving a 1/8- to 1/4-inch overhang and patching any tears by pinching them together or plugging them with a dough scrap. You can crimp the dough that extends beyond the edge of the cup with fork tines or your fingers so it adheres to the top of the tin and forms a rim, if you like, but it is not necessary. Gather the dough scraps, form into a ball, and roll out, and cut out more circles. (Reroll the dough only once or it will bake up tough.) You should have 12 to 16 circles total. If you don’t have enough dough circles to fill every cup in a muffin tin, stagger the crusts, rather than clustering all of them at one end of the tin. If you’ve filled one tin, refrigerate it while you line the cups in a second tin, then refrigerate the second tin.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, and corn syrup until light in color. Whisk in the bourbon and orange zest (if using) and then whisk in the vanilla and salt. Stir in the pecans.

Remove the dough-lined cups from the refrigerator. Fill each cup two-thirds full with the pecan mixture. Refrigerate the assembled pies for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the pies until the filling is golden brown and no longer jiggles when tapped, about 15 minutes.

Let cool on a baking rack for at least 1 hour before serving. Run a sharp, thin knife around the edge of each pie to loosen it from the cup. Then, using the knife tip or a fork, gently pry each pie upward so you can grab it with your fingertips and lift it out of the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The pies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for about 5 to 7 minutes.

 

2. Pumpkin Pie

From Handheld Pies by Sarah Billingsley & Rachel Wharton

(Chronicle Books, 2011, $19.95)

What more is there to say about pumpkin pie? It seems to be the favorite pie of every third person I meet. It is the only pie my husband bakes. But for me, it is ho-hum. I’d rather eat just about any other kind of pie, unless I’m craving spices, in which case pumpkin is the way to go. Sweet pumpkin filling makes a star of cinnamon like few other substances on earth. And this filling is especially good with any nut butter crust variation. These pies can also be made in jars. Makes 12 to 16 pies

  • 1/2 recipe Flaky Butter Crust (recipe follows
  • All-purpose flour for dusting
  • One 15-oz can unsweetened pumpkin purée (about 2 cups)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup whole milk or buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup sour cream or crème fraîche
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Have two 12-cup standard muffin tins ready. Remove the dough from the refrigerator.

Lightly flour a clean work surface. Unwrap the dough, place it on the floured work surface, and flour the top lightly. Roll out the dough into a large circle about 1/8-inch thick. It will be about 14 inches in diameter. Using a round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out as many circles 4 to 5 inches in diameter as possible.

Handling the dough circles gently, lift each circle and press it into a muffin cup, leaving a 1/8- to 1/4-inch overhang and patching any tears by pinching them together or plugging them with a dough scrap. You can crimp the dough that extends beyond the edge of the cup with fork tines or your fingers so it adheres to the top of the tin and forms a rim, if you like, but it is not necessary. Gather the dough scraps, form into a ball, and roll out and cut out more circles. (Reroll the dough only once or it will bake up tough.) You should have 12 to 16 circles total. If you don’t have enough dough circles to fill every cup in a muffin tin, stagger the crusts rather than clustering all of them at one end of the tin. If you’ve filled one tin, refrigerate it while you line the cups in a second tin, then refrigerate the second tin. Refrigerate the lined cups for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove from the dough-lined cups from the refrigerator. Line each cup with parchment paper, extending it beyond the rim, and fill with pie weights. Place in oven, and bake until the pastry is pale gold, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a baking rack. Remove the weights and parchment and let the crusts cool for at least 15 minutes before filling.

In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, milk, sour cream, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt until smooth. Fill each cooled pastry cup two-thirds full with the pumpkin mixture.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue to bake until the tip of a sharp knife inserted into the center of a pie comes out clean, 12 to 15 minutes longer. The pies are ready if the filling jiggles slightly when a tin is gently shaken.

Let cool completely in the tin(s) on a baking rack, at least 2 hours. The pies should easily lift from the cups when cool. Use a knife tip or fork to pry each pie gently upward so you can grab it with your fingertips and lift it out of the tin. Serve at room temperature.

The pies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes.

 

3. Apple Tart 

From Canal House Cooks Every Day by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012, $45)

In September hard fruits replace soft fruits in our markets. We even see local apples as early as August, but September marks their true arrival. Local Golden Delicious is our apple of choice. It’s a little low on acid, but we love its sweet perfume in this tart. Serves 6 to 8.
For the pastry dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 4 tbsp. cold salted butter, diced
  • 2 tbsp. cold vegetable shortening
  • For the apple filling:
  • 3 tbsp. Demerara or brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 apples of your favorite variety, peeled, cored, and thickly sliced
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

For the pastry dough, whisk the flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Cut in both butters and the shortening with a pastry blender or a fork until crumbly. It should resemble coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle in 3 tablespoons ice water and toss together lightly until the dough comes together (add a little more ice water if you need to). Shape the dough into a flat rectangle (don’t overhandle). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface. It should be about ⅛ inch thick and fit into a 9 °—13-inch baking sheet. Roll the dough loosely around the rolling pin, then unfurl it into the baking sheet. Lightly press the dough into the pan, leaving ½ inch of dough hanging over the edge. Trim any excess off with a sharp knife. Tuck the dough under itself to make a nice edge.

For the apple filling, mix 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the cinnamon together in a small bowl. Put the apples into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar, then add the cream and toss everything together. Arrange the apples in an even layer on the pastry. Bake until the apples are soft, 45–55 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the apples with the remaining 1 tablespoon of Demerara sugar.
*Apple talk
Our friend Karen Bates of famed Philo Apple Farm in Northern California taught us that. . . Early apples tend to break down very easily—great for applesauce and very tender juicy pies, but the apples lose their shape. Midseason apples generally cook up fairly tender and hold their shape with more integrity, so the choice is mostly about flavor. Late season apples can border on being a little too firm with much less juiciness. So make your applesauce early in the season and keep your late apples as long as you can—they store beautifully all winter long.

 

4. Cherry Pie Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting

From Bake It in a Cupcake: 50 Treats with a Surprise Inside by Megan Seling

(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012, $24.95)

While it’s nearly impossible for me to answer the oft-asked question, “Which cupcake is your favorite?” the cherry pie–stuffed chocolate cupcakes, the first pie-stuffed cupcakes I ever baked, are most certainly in my top five. Miniature cherry pies overflowing with slightly tart cherry filling, nestled in a rich chocolate cupcake topped with vanilla bean buttercream? I can’t imagine ever wanting anything more from a cupcake. Makes 24 cupcakes

Cherry Pies:

  • 2 (16-ounce) batches pie crust dough (your favorite recipe or store-bought, enough to make 2 two-crust pies)
  • 1 cup cherry pie filling

Cupcakes:

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken or chopped into small pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups plus 2 tbsp. whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Frosting:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 2 tbsp. whole milk, if needed
  • 24 maraschino cherries, for garnish

1. To make the mini cherry pies, preheat the oven to 375°F and grease a 24-cup miniature muffin tin. Use a rolling pin to roll out the pie crust dough on a lightly floured smooth surface until the dough is about 1/8-inch thick. Then use a 2½-inch circular cookie cutter to cut out 48 small circles.

2. Press the dough circles into the prepared tin and fill them three-quarters full of cherry pie filling. Top each pie with another dough circle, sealing the pies by pinching the edges of the bottom crust to the top crust. Use a sharp knife to cut a small X into the top of each pie. Bake the pies for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges of the crust have browned. They may overflow a bit, and that’s okay. They don’t have to look perfect since they’re going into a cupcake! Allow the pies to cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then carefully transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling while you mix the cupcake batter.

3. To make the cupcakes, turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with 24 paper liners. Place the chocolate and 2 tablespoons of the milk in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20 seconds on high. Stir and microwave for another 20 seconds. Stir the mixture until the chocolate has melted completely and the cream is fully incorporated. Place the bowl in the refrigerator so it can cool while you prepare the rest of the cupcake batter. Use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer on medium speed to combine the butter and sugar for 90 seconds, until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing in each egg completely before adding the next. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then, with the mixer on medium-low speed, add the vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the cocoa powder. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and mix for an additional 30 seconds, until all the ingredients are well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, alternately with the milk, 1/3 cup at a time, mixing until each addition is completely incorporated before adding the next. Finally, with the mixer on medium-high, drizzle in the cooled chocolate mixture. Continue to mix the batter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds, until smooth and creamy.

4. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter into each cup in the prepared tins. Place a cooled cherry pie into the center of the batter and press it gently toward the bottom. Cover the pie with another heaping tablespoon of batter so the top and sides are completely covered and the cup is about three-quarters full. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the edges and tops of the cupcakes have set and the cake springs back when you gently press your finger into the top of it. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tins for at least 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. For the frosting, whip the butter for about 30 seconds with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer on medium speed. Add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, whipping on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add the vanilla seeds and whip until just combined. If the frosting is too thick, add the milk and whip on high for 20 seconds. Pipe or spread the frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes. Top each cupcake with a cherry.

 

5. Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie

From Cutie Pies: 40 Sweet, Savory, and Adorable Recipes  by Dani Cone

(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011, $16.99)

The Classic lunchtime sandwich becomes a crowd-pleasing dessert! Try it with a Graham Cracker Crust, and even use some cinnamon or chocolate grahams. You won’t want to cut the crusts off! Make up a half recipe of the crust, because this is a single-crust pie. Makes 1 Single-Crust 9-inch Pie (or 1 Single-Crust 7-inch Deep-Dish Pie, 18 Petit-5s).

All-Butter Crust (recipe follows)

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup jelly (see note)
  • 11/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Peanuts and fruit (whatever kind is in the jelly), for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a rack in the center of the oven.
  2. To make the crust, follow the All-Butter Crust recipe (making one-half of the recipe) and roll out the dough per the instructions.
  3. Gently drape one edge of the rolled-out dough circle over the rolling pin, and revolve the rolling pin to wrap the whole crust around it. Place the rolling pin over the edge of the pie plate or tin, and carefully unroll the dough over to the other edge of the pie plate so the dough circle is centered. Press the dough gently into the bottom of the pie plate and around the sides. Trim the dough edge to a 1/2 to 1-inch overhang beyond the rim of the pie plate.
  4. Go around the pie and use the fold-tuck-crimp method to seal the pie edge: Starting in any spot, use the fingers of both hands to gently press and fold over the overhanging crust and tuck it under at the outer edge of the pie. Then, to crimp, using the forefinger of your left hand and the thumb and forefinger of your right hand, go around the pie edge and press in with the left forefinger and simultaneously outward with the right thumb and forefinger. Or alternately, instead of crimping, after you fold-and-tuck, use a fork and press the back side of the fork prongs into the pie edge all around the rim.
  5. Line the pie crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove the weights, and let cool.
  6. To make the filling, in a large bowl, with a spoon or an electric mixer, stir together the cream cheese, peanut butter, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the milk, honey, and salt until well combined.
  7. Spoon the peanut butter mixture into the crust and spread evenly over the bottom.
  8. Spoon the jelly onto the peanut butter layer, and spread it evenly on top. 9. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, whip the whipping cream, the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the vanilla until soft peaks form.
  9. Top the jelly layer with the whipping cream, as thick or as thin as you like (I recommend 1 to 2 inches).
  10. Sprinkle with some peanuts and just a few raspberries (or whatever fruit the jelly contains), for garnish.
  11. Chill until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes.

Note: We use raspberry jelly at High 5 Pie, but you can use your favorite.

Crust options: all-butter (or graham Cracker, vegan, gluten-Free)
Shape options: 9-inch Pie (or 7-inch Deep-Dish Pie, Petit-5)

All Butter Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup ice water

 

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar and mix well.
  2. Add the butter to the flour mixture, and mix gently with a pastry blender, a fork, or your hands. The goal is to lightly incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. The butter pieces should be well coated with the dry mixture and somewhat flattened.
  3. Gradually add the water to the flour mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing the dough until it comes together and forms pea-sized or crouton-sized crumbs. The dough should look like coarse individual pieces, not smooth and beaten together like cookie dough.
  4. With your hands, gather the dough crumbs together to form 2 patties, gently molding the crumb-like mixture into a patty shape and being careful not to overhandle the dough. Wrap each patty in plastic wrap.
  5. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days. The dough can also be frozen for up to 2 weeks.
  6. When you’re ready to use the dough, let it sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes to soften it and make it workable. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each of the 2 dough patties to about a 1/4-inch thickness, lightly dusting it with flour, if needed, to prevent sticking, and making sure to roll the dough evenly.  
 

6. Cherry-Almond Piepops

From Cutie Pies: 40 Sweet, Savory, and Adorable Recipes  by Dani Cone

(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011, $16.99)

High 5 Pie’s take on a classic cherry pie, this delicious version features almonds, cinnamon, and a pinch of allspice. This recipe was one of the very first we introduced upon launching the business, and it’s been a top-seller ever since. We also feature it in full-sized pies, Cutie Pies, Piejars, and Flipsides, so try them all! It’s a terrific year-round, any-occasion recipe. Consider it a new classic. Makes 50 Piepops (or 1 double-crust 9-inch pie, 1 double-crust 7-inch deep-dish pie, 16 Cutie Pies, 36 Petit-5s, 8 Piejars, 10 Flips ides).

  • 1 pound (about 2 ½ to 3 cups) fresh or thawed
  • frozen tart pie cherries
  • 1 scant tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 scant tsp. pure almond extract
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • All-Butter Crust (See previous recipe)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Lightly spray the baking sheets with nonstick pan spray.
2. To make the filling, in a large bowl, combine the cherries, vanilla, and almond extract.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, allspice, and almonds.
4. Pour the sugar mixture over the cherries, and toss to thoroughly coat. Drain the mixture slightly to avoid having too much liquid.
5. To make the crust, follow the All-Butter Crust recipe and roll out the dough per the instructions. Cut 100 2 ½-inch-diameter circles from the dough. Reroll the dough to make all the circles, making sure to avoid overhandling the dough.
6. Lay half the circles on the prepared baking sheets. Brush the circles lightly with the beaten egg. Place a lollipop stick across the center of the circle, with the tip about ½ inch from the edge. Press the stick gently into place.
7. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling onto each of the dough circles. For each Piepop, lay a circle of dough over the pop, and press firmly around the edge with the tip of your thumb, making a good seal.
8. Cut 3 (1/4-inch) vent slits into the top of each Piepop, and brush lightly with the remaining beaten egg.
9. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining Piepops.

Crust Options: All-Butter (or Vegan)
Shape Options: Piepop (or 9-inch pie, 7-inch deep-dish pie, Cutie Pie, Petit-5, Piejar, Flipside)

 

7. El’s Butterscotch Pie

From Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story by Kimberly “Momma” Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero

(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011, $29.99)

Submitted by Helen Levin, from her grandmother Eleanor Hutchison’s recipe, Abilene, Texas

Helen decided to create a family cookbook, so she began rummaging through old recipes. Somewhere amidst note cards, clippings, and scribbled slips of paper—many on the backs of checks, and even one on the Abilene public school schedule—Helen came across this recipe. When she asked her relatives to share any memories they had about Grandma El (pronounced EEL) and her butterscotch pie, the responses varied. Cousin Helen (whom our contributor was named after) remembered Eleanor as a smart woman, a great manager, funny as hell, but not a good cook. Cousin Sarah, on the other hand, said, “Butterscotch pie? I thought it was Scotch pie! Growing up, I figured it was for John A. [because he drank Scotch], so I never ate it!”

We are here to announce to all of Helen’s relatives, old and young, that this butterscotch pie is a winner. The pecan crust is a pleasant surprise when you bite into it, contrasting with the mellow butterscotch filling. You may want to resurrect El’s recipe and add it to the rotation. Your family and friends will think you invented something new. Accept the praise and offer up another slice.

Pecan Crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold, cut into thin slices

Butterscotch Filling:

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 batch Sugar Mommas Rum Cream Topping (recipe follows)
  • Glass of Scotch

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the flour, brown sugar, and pecans in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse several times until it is well incorporated and the mixture forms moist crumbs. Press the mixture firmly and evenly in the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the crust begins to turn golden in the center. Remove from the oven and set aside to let cool.

To make the filling: Place the sugar, flour, and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually stir in the milk and continue stirring for 8 to 10 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken. The consistency should be like a thick cream soup. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks. To temper the eggs, pour about 1 cup of the hot, thickened milk mixture into the bowl of yolks. Quickly whisk together and then slowly blend the egg mixture back into the hot milk in your saucepan, stirring continuously. Decrease the heat to low and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring constantly, until the mixture takes on the consistency of pudding. Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter until melted, then stir in the vanilla. Allow the filling to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and chill for 4 hours to overnight. Serve alone or topped with the Rum Cream Topping that follows.

Sugar Momma’s Rum Cream Topping

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 capfuls rum

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on high speed until it begins to stiffen. Add the sugar and rum and beat until soft peaks form.

Sugar Momma’s Tips
Sass it up: Go a little “nuts” and sprinkle some chopped pecans on top of the pie.

 

8. Grasshopper Pie

From Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story by Kimberly “Momma” Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero

(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011, $29.99)

Submitted by Sandi Nutt. From her grandmother Helen Venturi’s recipe, Plainville, Connecticut

According to Sandi, Granny Helen was a natural cook but did  not pass on her culinary talents to her daughter Eileen (Sandi’s mother). Dad did the cooking in Sandi’s family. However, there are some things only a mom can do…like mend a broken heart. The only time Eileen ventured into the kitchen was to create her cure-all elixir, grasshopper pie. The pie, with its bright green filling, was sure to produce a giggle and a smile. It never failed to cheer up the children when their spirits needed lifting.

Sandi recalls that the pie appeared when she did not make the cheerleading squad. It also materialized when a boy broke up with her in high school. Sandi ate the entire pie! We’ve all been there.

Years later Sandi met John, her future husband. When they began dating, he told Sandi that the one thing he remembered most about his childhood was his mom’s grasshopper pie. What are the odds? Clearly these people were destined for matrimony. It was a green match, and Sandi’s love life came full circle.

Grasshopper pie is light and buoyant. It gives you the cool, refreshing sensation you get from the mint chip ice cream. Because of the shamrock color, you just can’t take life too seriously while you’re eating it.

Chocolate Wafer Crust:

  • 1 9-oz. box chocolate wafers
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 or 5 tbsp. butter, melted

Filling:

  • 28 large marshmallows
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 4 to 6 drops green food coloring
  • ¼ cup crème de menthe
  • 3 tbsp. white crème de cacao
  • Grasshoppers

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the wafers until crushed. Add the sugar and pulse again. While the machine is on, add the melted butter, starting with 4 tablespoons and adding more only if needed, until a coarse meal forms. Press the mixture firmly and evenly in the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes to set. Remove from the oven and set aside to let cool.

To make the filling: Place the marshmallows and milk in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until melted. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until cold.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Add the drops of food coloring until the cream is bright Kelly green, like a shamrock. Use a spatula to fold in the marshmallow mixture until fully incorporated. Do not beat. Sir in the crème de menthe and crème de cacao. Pour the filling into the crust. Chill for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

 

9. Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

From Bake It in a Cupcake: 50 Treats with a Surprise Inside by Megan Seling

(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012, $24.95)

Makes 24 cupcakes

Pumpkin Pies:

  • 1 (16-ounce) batch pie crust dough (your favorite recipe or store-bought, enough to make 2 one-crust pies)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin pie filling, made as directed on the can

Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk

Frosting:

  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream or whole milk
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Decoration:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, for garnish
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnnamon, for garnish

1. To make the mini pumpkin pies, preheat the oven to 425°F and lightly grease a 24-cup miniature muffin tin. Use a rolling pin to roll out the piecrust dough on a lightly floured smooth surface until the dough is about 1⁄8 inch thick. Then use a 21/2-inch circular cookie cutter to cut out 24 small disks. Ball up the scraps of dough and wrap in plastic wrap for later use.

2. Press the dough circles into each cup in the prepared tin and fill three-quarters full with the prepared pumpkin pie filling. Keep in mind the pumpkin pie filling will expand a bit while baking. Bake the pies for about 7 minutes. With the pies still in the oven, turn the oven down to 350°F and bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the edges of the crust have browned and the pumpkin pie filling no longer jiggles when you gently shake the tin. Allow the pies to cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then carefully transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling while you mix the cupcake batter.

3. To make the cupcakes, line 2 standard muffin tins with 24 paper liners. Use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer on medium speed to combine the butter and cream cheese for about 90 seconds, until smooth. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing in each egg completely before adding the next. With the mixer on medium speed, add the vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Finally, add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, alternately with the milk, 1⁄3 cup at a time, mixing until each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Continue to mix the batter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds, until smooth and creamy.

4. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter into each cup in the prepared tins. Place a cooled pumpkin pie into the center of the batter and press it gently. You don’t want the pie to touch the bottom of the tin. Cover the pies with another heaping tablespoon of batter so the top and sides of the mini pie are completely covered and the cup is about three-quarters full. Bake for 25 minutes, until the edges and tops of the cupcakes have turned golden brown and the cake springs back when you gently press your finger into the top of it. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tins for at least 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. To make the frosting, melt the cream and cinnamon chips together in a microwave in a small microwave-safe bowl for about 45 seconds on high. Stir the mixture until all the chips have melted and place in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the frosting. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds, until smooth. Whip in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until the mixture is fluffy. Finally, with the mixer on low, drizzle in the cinnamon chip mixture. (Make sure it has cooled a bit—if it’s too hot, it will melt the frosting.) Spread or swirl a generous helping of the frosting onto the cupcakes using a spatula or pastry bag.

6. Put the leftover piecrust scraps to good use by making cinnamon-sugar decorations. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Use a rolling pin to roll out the reserved ball of dough onto a lightly floured smooth surface until it’s about 1⁄8 inch thick, then cut out quarter-sized circles with a small cookie cutter or frosting tip. Place them on a baking sheet, sprinkle them with a little bit of the cinnamon and sugar mixture, and bake for about 10 minutes at 350°F, until they’re golden brown. Once they’re cool, put one on top of each of the cupcakes and serve.

 

10. Thanksgiving Pie

From Humble Pie: Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust by Anne Dimock

(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2005, $12.95)


Crust:

  • 1 (9- or 10-inch) piecrust, prepared or made from scratch

Filling:

  • 3 apples (use a soft, sweet variety like McIntosh or other sauce variety)
  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh whole cranberries
  • 1 cup light brown sugar

Topping:

  • 3⁄4 cup walnuts
  • 1⁄4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup white flour
  • 3 tbsp. butter, softened or cut into bits
  • 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1⁄8 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare the piecrust and fit into a 9- or 10-inch pie pan. Peel, core, and dice the apples. Place the apple pieces in a large bowl with the cranberries and 1 cup of light brown sugar; mix well and place into the pie shell. Place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade; pulse for 5 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until blended but still crumbly. (If you don’t have a food processor, chop the nuts by hand and blend them with the rest of the ingredients with the back of a large spoon.) Spoon the topping all over the pie. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees for 30 more minutes; cover with foil to prevent the topping from darkening too much.

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