Serious Eats: Recipes

Cakespy: The Pumpkin-Apple-Pecan Pie

The holy trinity of Thanksgiving pies.

[Original artwork and photographs: Jessie Oleson]

It happens every year: that delicious dilemma at the dessert table when you have to decide between the three titans of Thanksgiving treats: pumpkin, apple, or pecan pie? But what if they could be combined into one triple threat, a veritable Turducken of a Thanksgiving pie?

I was set on finding out so I recently prepared three pie shells and three respective batches of pumpkin, apple, and pecan pie filling, and experimented in various ways.

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That would be Pie #3, or the Peace Sign Pie.

Pie #1: The filling contained three distinct layers (pecan, apple, and pumpkin) all on top of each other, so that when sliced, you could see a strip of each.

Pie #2: The filling contained a slurry of all three flavors in equal parts. They were mixed together, then poured into the shell.

Pie #3: A pie shell divided into sections, TV dinner tray-style, and filled with individual portions of the pie fillings in their pure, unmixed form.

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From left: Pie #2 and Pie #1.

Because each pie had a different suggested baking time and temperature, I ended up baking each in the oven for a middle-of-the-road 350°F for about one hour. In the case of Pie #3, however, I baked the pumpkin and apple fillings for 15 minutes first before adding the pecan.

The Results

Pie #1: While the apple and pecan layers worked well together, and the pumpkin with the pecan was tasty, the combination of all three simply did not harmonize. But since the fillings were neatly layered, it was still possible to carefully compose each forkful (pecan-pumpkin or pecan-apple) for a delicious experience.

Pie #2: That wasn't true in this case. The fillings were all mixed together and it was harder to eke out bites of the complementary flavors.

Pie #3: Ultimately this was the winner. As it turns out, each filling benefited from being baked in such close quarters. Each flavor had a certain unexpected dimension, perhaps a result of aromatic infusion? While the flavors may not work all at once, this pie's design proved that they can still co-exist in peace (or is that pieces?).

Note: I have included the recipe for one generous pie crust and a full pie's worth of each filling. This means you can choose your own adventure with the extra filling. You could simply double the pie crust and use the extra filling to make more pies, or divide the below pie crust, using two-thirds of the crust for your main pie, then divide the extra crust into small circles and make mini pies using cupcake cups. Or, you could try halving the filling recipes—I see no reason why it wouldn't work.

Fillings adapted from The Grand Central Baking Book.

About the author: Jessie Oleson is a Seattle-based writer, illustrator, and cake anthropologist who runs Cakespy, an award-winning dessert website.

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