December 15, 2008

Thanksgiving Pies

So this is a wee bit out of date, no? But better late than never. I have been cooking up a storm lately and enjoying every minute of it. I made two pies for Thanksgiving; one for Ryan's family (tried and true apple) and one for my family (never-before-tried Caramel Pumpkin Tart). Both turned out pretty swell, and it was actually a lot of fun to branch out from my standard apple pie and try something new. Of course, this was a marathon cooking adventure; in the span of 2 days, I made a rum cake (another new recipe for me, and my brother gave me tips for the sauce--just rum and sugar!) for Ryan's b-day, which he took to work...and then beginning at 5 a.m. the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I began readying the crusts and peeling apples. I got home early from work that day and thankfully had 3 hours in the kitchen before Ryan's birthday dinner. Here's what the kitchen looked like....

And by God's grace alone, I was able to totally clean that kitchen by the time Ryan got home! It was like a birthday present for him. :) So here are the recipes...

My Standard Better-than-Grandma's-but-don't-tell-her Apple Pie (thanks Pastor Craig)

Pie crust (a top and a bottom!)
* If you have a reliable recipe, use it. I'm working up a new recipe myself, but here is a great place to start...

Apple filling:
5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chunked
1-2 tbls lime juice (to taste)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (to taste)
pinch of nutmeg
1 tbls flour
2 tbls melted butter

* I'd recommend blind-baking the pie crust. I am still perfecting this task, but here are some tips...

Peel, core, and chop the apples. Put them in a large bowl, and spritz on lime juice as you go. The lime juice adds a tart flavor, but also keeps the apples from turning brown. Whisk together the dry ingredients and pour over the apples. Stir to coat each one. I'd recommend tasting at least four or five bites of apple to make sure you've got 'em all covered. :)

For the other pie, I googled to my heart's content and came up with this recipe from Epicurious: it's a Caramel Pumpkin Pie. Now, this sounds heavenly--but it had two hurdles for me. One, I've never made a pumpkin pie before. Two, I've never made caramel before. And so this one was my great triumph and EVERY bite of it was eaten.

Here's what I learned. First of all, I followed this recipe almost exactly as it said--I didn't pay too much attention to the comments, except for when folks warned of the caramel making. They said it took about 10 minutes, and to watch the sugar and water boiling like a HAWK because it turns in a second. This is 100% true. My timer said 9:58 and the pot still looked like this:

And at 10:00, it looked like this:

Forgive the crummy picture, but I did not want to risk burning the caramel for a killer shot. :) I quickly poured in the cream and the most beautiful thing happened. Caramel + heavy cream apparently = heaven on the stove.

I did not have (nor did I want to purchase) a 2" deep tart pan with a removable bottom, so I improvised and used a springform pan. This worked well except in a couple of places, the pie crust did not remain upright. In any case, everything worked out and this was one of the best pies I've ever made. (So proud. So very proud.)

Stay tuned for more updates, including the office cookie swap and a week of home-cooked meals (with leftovers!).