Quince may not be my favorite fruit for eating, but it is definitely my favorite for cooking. Unlike most fruit for pies, quince is a bit high-maintenance, and requires the critical step of cooking it twice—once on the stovetop and once in the pie itself. It takes time and patience to coax the sweet, floral taste out of the fruit, so when I'm working with quince I make the most of the time at home to relax in the wonderful, fruity aromas that fill my apartment as it simmers away on the stove and bakes in the oven.
'Thanksgiving pies' on Serious Eats
The addition of boiled apple cider elevates a humble egg custard pie to a dessert that tastes much like a perfect bite of apples and whipped cream. Adapted from a collection of well-loved recipes collected by Hermine B. Horman in her book A Century of Mormon Cookery, Volume 2, I tweaked the recipe to cut down the added sugar so more of the tartness of the fruit shines through.
We've come to the final installment of Pie Week, and now I'm ready for a cocktail. This pumpkin bourbon pie can't be shaken, stirred, or served with a twist, but it's the perfect closer to a week of pie baking or Thanksgiving with the in-laws.
While almost everyone's heard of mincemeat pie, few people actually consume it regularly or even annually. I've crossed paths with various forms of it on more than one occasion, but these encounters were far from memorable. This week, I delved into the world of mince pies, hoping to finally get a taste of what has kept them relevant for so many years. This pie, though, enriched with bacon and bacon fat, is not the traditional mincemeat born in 13th century England.
In September I moved to tropical Singapore—about as far away from cornucopias and pilgrim hats as you can get. Without a gourd in sight, I sulked for a week from having missed a proper Halloween pumpkin carving, so I've been determined to not let pumpkin pie season pass me by too. After locating a grocery store that specializes in ingredients for displaced expats such as myself, I snatched up the last few cans of pumpkin puree and got to work.
Fresh cranberries are one of my favorite ingredients for adding a burst of flavor and color in a season of otherwise drab-looking produce. I especially love them in desserts because they play so well with other flavors, including caramel and nuts, which was why I decided to bake them into a pie this year.
Sweet potato pie is all about balance. I like to keep the sweet potato front and center, with caramel notes from brown sugar, and just a touch of spice to enhance, but not overpower the flavor. With a pie that's less sweet in the filling, you can layer on sweetness with the marshmallow topping. I prefer to brulee the top just before serving, which provides a rich warm contrast to the chilled filling.
I'm in love with fall for about two weeks each year; the window of time when it becomes just chilly enough to wear a sweater but the sun still remains up for a reasonable amount of time. It's also the time I start getting excited about using my favorite fall flavors again. Next to Brussels sprouts and bacon sauteed in maple and Sriracha, this pie never fails to bring me back to those couple golden weeks; it's tailor made to suit my tastes, and a slice that I never want to finish.
It looks like apple pie. It smells like apple pie. It even tastes like apple pie, but the secret to this Great Depression era classic doesn't come from an orchard, it comes from a box of crackers.
Nearing The Meal's triumphant end, I often find myself literally forcing pie into my stomach, because it's pumpkin and I love it, even though there's no space left after the turkey and all the trimmings. That level of gluttony can be difficult for some, and if you are one of them, I submit this alternative for your consideration. It has all of the flavor of a pumpkin pie, without the heft of the traditional baked custard.
My first taste of great pumpkin pie (during a meal at an outstanding New York City restaurant) caused me to shed all previous notions of how pumpkin pie can taste. This one was creamy and perfectly spiced, with subtle sweetness standing back to allow the mellow pumpkin flavor and aroma to shine. More than a pie, it was an inspiration, and it turned my old opinion of pumpkin pie on its head.
I've always enjoyed mixing it up when it comes to holiday baking, throwing a pumpkin cheesecake or frozen mousse into the Thanksgiving mix to keep things fresh and interesting. And yet, in spite of my adventurous nature, there is one standard dessert that must be on the table for the final course; a classic, unadulterated pecan pie. It's a non-negotiable that may as well have been included in my wedding vows, "In sickness, or in health, I will bake thee a pecan pie on Thanksgiving". But in the sea of holiday stress and fuss, a pecan pie is akin to a baking vacation.
Tackling this week's pie has been a frustrating exercise for me. From time to time, I've encountered a person who enjoys a hearty wedge of sharp cheddar cheese alongside his or her slice of warm apple pie, including De Niro's character in Taxi Driver. Hoping to understand the origins of this culinary proclivity, I've asked folks from many walks of life about the origin of this fascinating culinary preference. Each time, the answer is the same: they've learned from their parents or grandparents, and it's an important regional tradition from where they grew up.
As October exhausts itself, apples in all their glorious shades and colors pile high in outdoor market bins and are turned into warm cider and doughnuts. Some of my favorite costumes for apples are sugary coatings like scarlet candy shells, and particularly, sticky caramel blankets. With that in mind, melted caramels lurk in a mound of tart Granny Smith apples bubbling in butter, brown sugar, and vibrant lemon.
Last Thanksgiving I was baking so many apple pies to fulfill orders at the restaurant, I couldn't bear to look at another one for my family's own holiday table. Instead, I decided to combine my favorite French tart with America's favorite dessert: pie. The result was pear and frangipane on steroids, complete with a flaky, golden brown crust, and layers of pear baked into the almond filling. My relatives became just as smitten with my Americanized version of the French classic.
Once when visiting Maida in Miami Beach we fell to talking about pies. "They're the hardest thing of any to get right, don't you think?" Maida asked me. True perfectionist that she is, Maida meant that to get the pastry dough to a golden flakiness and the filling to just the right stage between runny and set required a lot of work. She then told me that a young friend had just asked her to teach her to make an apple pie, and that she had thought about it for a while and decided to make a big free-standing pastry that partially enclosed a cinnamon and brown sugar-scented cooked apple filling. This pie is inspired by hers.
One of fall's more elegant offerings is the sweetly aromatic quince. Available for just a few months in the early fall, this relative of the apple and pear is best enjoyed in cooked form rather than eaten raw, and just about perfect when baked into this Apple, Pear & Quince Galette.
The tart is a baked ganache (a simple mixture of chocolate and cream), scented with orange zest and rum, topped with chopped hazelnuts, in a sweet hazelnut pastry crust. A final drizzle of chocolate makes a simple decoration.
The confidence to Shoo-Fly pie at home came via my Mennonite college roommate, who shared her family recipe which I've adapted here for use with modern kitchen gadgetry. Trust me when I say that the preparation couldn't be simpler. If you already have pie crust on hand, you can have this delicious, comforting pie ready for serving in under an hour.