Note: There is a recipe at the bottom of this post (pictures too!), if you don’t feel like reading my overly winded intro!
I’m a bit infatuated with holiday food. My Grandma always cooks the same meal for Thanksgiving, and I love it like crazy. I would lament not having canned corn at Thanksgiving dinner, no matter how succulent the alternative — just because that’s what Grandma always makes. My Thanksgiving green beans should have bacon, not crispy onions, and I want just regular pumpkin pie, please — not pumpkin cheesecake, even though that sounds so ridiculously good that I would briefly consider smearing it on my face…
But only briefly!
This year, since we took a family vacation to Mexico the week before and my parents have a fledging business to run, we departed from our typical Thanksgiving tradition. Instead of venturing to snowy Lake Tahoe, we had Thanksgiving at my parents’ place in Portland. And instead of Grandma making the feast, my mom, sister, and I would have to figure it out. Which meant that I got to make the pies… of course!
Now, I’ve never made a pie, let alone for an occasion as important as Thanksgiving! Of course, I couldn’t just go the easy route — I had to make SPECTACULAR pies! But… where to start?
I scoured the internet for recipes for pumpkin and dutch apple pies. I read Smitten Kitchen’s tutorials on making pie crust. I got a rolling pin, pie plates, a pastry cutter, and a couple pounds of beans (because edible pie weights are far cooler and cheaper than their non-edible counterparts)! I plotted, I schemed…
It was a four-day, epic Thanksgiving Pie Creation Extravaganza!
My first and most important pie was, of course, the Pumpkin Pie.
Not satisfied with going the tried-and-true route of canned pumpkin and evaporated milk, I (for some crazy reason) decided to go for the decidedly more time-consuming, more expensive, and messier alternative of making my own pumpkin puree — which is all the more crazy because I was once grounded for not cleaning out my Halloween pumpkin (true story!). I had no idea what recipe Grandma used, and as she wasn’t home to ask, I was swayed by Alton Brown’s declaration that sweet potato made for a way better pumpkin-pie than pumpkin did and ended up making Smitten Kitchen’s Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie, including her All-Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough.
The result was… well… different. The pie was, as the name suggests, unbelievably smooth, and despite my nearly-doubled spice, it had a very subtle flavor. It grew on me with age, but next time, I think I’ll tackle Grandma’s recipe book for tradition’s sake!
Luckily, the second pie completely kicked ass.
My dad requested a dutch apple pie, but, oddly enough, recipes were hard to find, and none sounded right to me! So, I patched together three different recipes and came up with a truly delicious, marginally healthy pie that I will absolutely make over and over again!
Jenni’s Mish-Mash Dutch Apple Pie
I call this a mish-mash because I used components of three different recipes — Smitten Kitchen’s crust, Weight Watchers’ filling, and a topping by Pioneer Woman. YUM!! I used a really deep pan… if you have a smaller pan, you may want to use fewer apples.
1/2 recipe of all-butter, really flaky pie dough
1/4 cup sugar
5 medium granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 -1/2 inch thick
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp flour, divided
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water
7 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans
dash of salt
Roll out the pie dough and blind bake (400F, line with foil and fill with weights, bake for 15 minutes, remove weights and foil, rotate, and bake 5-10 minutes until golden brown and crisp). Keep oven a 400F.
Combine sugar, apple slices, 1 tbsp flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and water in a bowl; toss. Spread on top of crust.
Combine butter, the rest of the flour, sugar, pecans, and salt. Mix until you get clumps (I use my hands to do this… it breaks up the butter better), and pour over apples.
Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, then reduce head to 350F and bake another 30-40 minutes, until the topping is golden and the apples are juicy. If the topping starts getting too dark, cover with foil until finished baking. Let rest for about 30 minutes, but serve warm… preferably with ice cream.