Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Pie Round-Up!

Just in case you're still adding things to your menu for tomorrow, here's a collection of some of our family's favorite pie recipes.  Some are easy, some are a little more time-consuming; all of them are delicious!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

I come from a family of pumpkin pie tolerators. If nobody bothered to make a pumpkin pie this year for Thanksgiving, I'm pretty sure most of us would be perfectly happy without it, because we have something far better than pumpkin pie:  pumpkin chiffon pie. The recipe comes from my Aunt Suzi, and I've loved it for as long as I can remember. Where pumpkin pie fails to impress me, pumpkin chiffon pie shines. Pumpkin pie is dense and gluey; pumpkin chiffon pie is light and creamy. Pumpkin pie has a heavy, overwhelming flavor; pumpkin chiffon pie has just the right amount of pumpkin flavor and just a hint of spice. Pumpkin pie needs to be smothered with whipped cream; pumpkin chiffon pie is already smothered in whipped cream. You'd better make two; they go quickly!

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
dedicated to all of the pumpkin pie haters out there

1 pie crust, baked according to directions for a filled pie
1 small package instant vanilla pudding
2/3 cup milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 9-oz container cool whip, plus more for topping
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Combine vanilla pudding and 2/3 cup milk and whisk until pudding is thickened.  Fold in pumpkin, cool whip, and spices.  Spoon mixture into cooled pie crust. Spread more cool whip on top and sprinkle with extra nutmeg.  Chill until ready to serve.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

At times like Thanksgiving I am especially torn:  I am a lover of both tradition and experimentation when it comes to food.  I love having the same foods on the same days year after year, but I also like to try new recipes and discover new favorites.  Our friends Dave and Marcelle hosted a dinner party last week and offered the perfect solution:  Fantasy Thanksgiving.  We were all encouraged to bring the mouth-watering foods we'd seen online and in holiday magazines that conflict with the foods we already love on Thanksgiving.  We got to try new recipes for turkey and stuffing, nontraditional pies and potatoes, and exciting soups and salads.

I was in charge of dessert, and of course I couldn't just make one new dessert.  So I tried 3.  The first was pretty nasty.  It was bad enough that I didn't serve it; I actually washed it all down the sink.  The second was mostly tasty, but had a very strange, rubbery crust.  Maybe I'll post it someday when I figure out how to fix the bad parts.  The third was fantastic and more than made up for the other two failures!  To quote one diner directly, it "strummed a chord on my heartstrings."  Really not much of a surprise considering it had a cinnamon-scented graham cracker crust topped with homemade caramel sauce and pecans, a layer of tart apples slow-cooked in brown sugar, butter, and spices, and a decadent cheesecake topping covered with whipped cream and more caramel sauce.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie
from Mimi Hodge, the winner of the Pie of Emeril's Eye Contest on Good Morning America

for the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup caramel sauce
1 cup chopped pecans

for the apple filling:
5 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
5 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

for the cheesecake topping:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

to finish:
lightly sweetened whipped cream
caramel sauce
chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter, and stir to combine. Press mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch pie plate. Bake for 6-8 minutes until crust is golden. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. When crust is completely cool, pour caramel sauce evenly over the bottom and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Set aside.

In a large skillet, melt 5 Tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in cinnamon and brown sugar until combined. Add apples and cook until apples are tender and liquid has reduced, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before pouring into prepared crust.

Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth, then add vanilla, egg, and lemon juice and beat again. Pour cheesecake topping over apple filling and bake pie for 30 minutes, until cheesecake is completely set.  Remove from oven and let cool, then refrigerate until chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Serve topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce, and chopped pecans.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Chocolate Pudding

I'm a fan of chocolate pudding.  That sounds a little ridiculous to say, because honestly who isn't a fan of chocolate pudding, right?  But I love it in all of its many forms:  instant store-bought, cook-n-serve store-bought, already made store-bought, the kind that's refrigerated, the kind that doesn't need to be refrigerated (I'm still not sure how that one works), homemade; I love 'em all.  I think my love affair with chocolate pudding started when I was in elementary school in San Antonio.  They served Jell-O Pudding Pops sometimes at lunch.  God Bless You, Crestview Elementary.  God Bless You!

I've said before that I think custard scares people.  It sounds tricky and complicated and temperamental, and you think bad things of epic proportions will happen if you mess it up.  But this chocolate pudding recipe is basically foolproof.  It doesn't require a thermometer or whipping egg whites (something I loathe), and the results are silky smooth and deliciously chocolatey.  I almost ate two huge servings the first time I made it.  Like I said, I'm a fan!

Chocolate Pudding
 from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy
If you read the recipe before starting--which I highly recommend!--you'll notice two things:  1) the recipe takes time, but it's all inactive waiting time after the puddings have cooked.  If you're going to make this, you just need to plan ahead.  And 2) it seems to dirty several different pans, bowls, and containers.  Again, if you plan ahead and reuse bowls you've already used in a previous step, you'll end up with way fewer dirty dishes.  Always a plus!

3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 oz sweetened chocolate (I used a mixture of dark and milk), chopped or just broken into pieces (why complicate things with a knife and a cutting board??)
5 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  In a heavy saucepan, combine the cream and half of the sugar.  Heat until tiny bubbles form on the edges of the pan and it is steaming.  Do not boil it!  Put the chocolate pieces in a bowl, pour enough hot cream mixture over the top to cover the chocolate, and let sit 5 minutes.  Whisk until smooth, add the remaining cream, and whisk again.  In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Slowly and steadily pour the hot chocolate mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Pour the pudding through a strainer and into a clean container that has a spout for pouring.  Place six 6-oz oven-proof baking dishes in a big roasting pan.  Put the roasting pan into the oven, divide the pudding among the baking dishes, and fill the roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the baking dishes.  Cover the whole thing with foil and bake for 45-60 minutes.  The puddings are done when they look firm and move as one big, slightly jiggly mass when shaken.  Just like a cheesecake.  Remove the roasting pan from the oven, take off the foil, and let the puddings cool to room temperature.  Remove the individual puddings from the water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cool and ready to serve. 

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