A Piece of the Pie
story by Becky Junkin • photography by Jennie Guido and Becky Junkin
When our editor, Jennie, asked me to share an article on pies, I almost died. Pies are not my thing. However, I decided that most of the world loves pies; so here I am. Whenever you see the pictures of holiday dinners, there is almost always a dessert table loaded with all sorts of pies: cream pies, meringue pies, fruit pies, nut pies, ice-box pies, and baked pies.
Every year when I was growing up, my family had the traditional pecan pie and, of course, homemade mincemeat pie on the dessert table along with other desserts. Every year, I ate the top off of the pecan pie and the filling of the mincemeat pie. For bridge my grandmother would make an Impossible Pie that I did like, but there was no crust. Perhaps part of the reason I still don’t like pies is the memories of the trouble I got into when they realized that once again I had eaten all of the pecans off of the pie.
As an adult, I’ve watched my children grow to love blueberry pies; and Alberta would make them one every Friday. I finally decided my problem was the crust. One, I did not like it; two, I could not make it; and three, I am neither a sugar person nor a person fond of desserts. When it came to making the crust, I tried everything; I even tried sugar cookie dough one time. However, the crust blew up; and there was no room for the filling. If I made the crust, it was so tough you had to use a knife for each bite. My good friend who taught Home Economics for years sent me her mother’s fool proof pie crust recipe.
So, ladies and gentlemen, get out that rolling pin this holiday season; and try your hand at making your crust from scratch. If it doesn’t work, then go back to the aluminum pie pan; but there is such a difference that it is worth the extra effort. Happy eating to all of you!
Basic Pastry Crust
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
About 4 tablespoons ice water
Preheat oven to 425 to 450 degrees. Sift and measure flour and salt. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cut in the fat until it is the size of small peas. Gradually add water until most of the flour is moist. Shape into a ball. Roll out about 1/16 of an inch thick. Trim off the excess one inch larger than the rim of the pan. Fold in half. Lift into the pie pan. Press the crust down into the pan, and decorate the edge. If you are going to add filling to the pie and then bake, stop here. If you are going to use a refrigerated pie filling, continue on. Prick if you used for one pie crust pie. Bake until golden brown.
This pie is from my good friend Sue Purvis; it uses a graham cracker crust, which is easy to make.
1 9-inch graham cracker crust
4 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sour cream
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla; and beat until light and fluffy. Pour into pie crust and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Mix sour cream, sugar, and vanilla; and spread onto the pie. Bake again at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool and then refrigerate for several hours. You can add your favorite fruit topping when you serve.
The next two recipes are from Natchez Coffee Company. They are perfect with a cup of coffee and as a favorite dessert after Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Natchez Coffee Buttermilk Pie
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1 uncooked pie crust
Stir together flour and sugar with a fork. Using a wire whisk, combine buttermilk, eggs, butter, and vanilla; and mix well. Add to the flour and sugar mixture, and mix well. Pour into your pie shell and bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees; then lower the oven to 350 degrees until the center is slightly jiggly. Then sprinkle the top of pie with grated nutmeg.
Natchez Coffee Coconut Pie
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup half and half
3 slightly beaten egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 1 1/2 cups coconut
1 cooked pie crust
In a saucepan combine sugar, flour, salt; and gradually add milk. Stir and cook over medium heat until bubbly for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir a small amount of mixture into the eggs; then add to mixture. Add butter, vanilla, and coconut. Pour into crust and top with meringue (see recipe to the right). Sprinkle the top with coconut and put under the broiler watching very carefully until the meringue is beginning to brown.
2 eggs whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a mixing bowl using an electric mixer on low speed, beat the egg whites and salt until frothy. Add the cream of tartar, increasing the mixer speed to medium. Continue beating until the whites are fluffy with large bubbles forming around the edges. With the mixer running, add the sugar a few teaspoons at a time or until all of the sugar is incorporated. Continue beating until the peaks are firm but still glossy. Add the vanilla. Spoon the meringue onto the hot pie filling, and spread the meringue to the crust edge to seal the filling in. Fluff it with the back of the spoon.
My daughter Jordan made these for my grandchild’s class when they were studying “A.” Needless to say, they were a big hit with all the kids and are so easy for them to hold in a napkin. They are wonderful for a holiday meal since they are a quick and easy pick-up dessert for any age, for you can really make them any size you want. She found these on Pinterest, and it was originally published as Hand-held Apple Pies in Taste of Home Christmas Annual 2013.
Hand-held Apple Pies
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups finely chopped peeled tart apples
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons water
Coarse sugar and cinnamon-sugar
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture until well blended. Divide dough in half. Shape each into a ball, and then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and allspice; set aside. Divide each portion of dough into 12 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 4-inch circle. Place a tablespoonful of chopped apples on one side. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sugar mixture; dot with 1/4 teaspoon butter. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk and water. Brush edges of pastry with egg wash; fold pastry over filling and seal edges well with a fork. Place 2 inches apart on un-greased baking sheets. Brush remaining egg wash over tops. Cut slits in pastry. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and cinnamon-sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for 11 to 14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. This yields 2 dozen.
Pastry can be prepared and rolled out a day in advance. Stack pastry rounds between floured sheets of waxed paper. Don’t worry if your dough looks a little dry and crumbly before you pop it in the fridge. It will come together beautifully after it rests. Avoid blowouts! Cutting slits in pastry allows steam to escape. This dough isn’t sweetened, so it works well with savory fillings, too. Use about a tablespoon of filling per pie, and finish with a grind of coarse pepper instead of sugar.
This has been at every Thanksgiving and Christmas that I can remember. It is always served with real whipped cream. The recipe used to be found on the side of every dark Karo syrup bottle; but one year it wasn’t, and we had to go to every store in Natchez until we found one that had it on the side. That, of course, was way before the internet.
Classic Karo Pecan Pie
1 cup Karo Dark Corn Syrup
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 1 1/2 cups pecans
1 9-inch unbaked or frozen* deep-dish pie crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla using a spoon. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into pie crust. Bake on center rack of oven for 60 to 70 minutes. Pie is done when center reaches 200 degrees. Tap center surface of pie lightly; it should spring back when done. For easy clean up, spray pie pan with cooking spray before placing pie crust in pan. If pie crust is over browning, cover edges with foil. Cool for 2 hours on wire rack before serving.
*To use prepared frozen pie crust, place cookie sheet in oven and preheat oven as directed. Pour filling into frozen crust and bake on preheated cookie sheet.
I found this recipe on spruce.com, and it looked and tasted like my grandmother’s except she did not add the chocolate. She added the chopped pecans to her pie, which I think was better. If I remember correctly from half a century ago, I thought she called it impossible pie; but as I said, my memory from fifty years ago isn’t too great. She always served hers with real whipped cream. (Remember there is no crust; the pie makes its own, but it’s not really a crust.)
Ritz Cracker Mock Pecan Pie
20 Ritz crackers, crushed
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecan halves
3 ounces milk chocolate, finely grated
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie plate. Mix together the Ritz cracker crumbs and baking powder. Beat egg whites until stiff; then very slowly add sugar, continuing to beat. Add vanilla and blend thoroughly. Fold egg whites and crackers together. Spread the filling mixture in the prepared 9-inch pie plate. Arrange pecans over the top of the pie filling. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle the pie with the grated chocolate; place it back in the oven (or under the broiler) for just long enough to melt the chocolate. If you place it under the broiler, watch it closely so that the chocolate melts but does not burn. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
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