Food on Friday: Two pies edition

Yesterday’s post wasn’t 100% fictional. I did, in fact, make two pies in the morning: a pumpkin pie made from a sugar pumpkin I processed a week or so ago, and an apple-blackberry pie that included blackberries I picked and froze this summer. I don’t bake all that often these days except when I’ll be sharing what I make with other people, so Thanksgiving was a good excuse to try out a new pie crust recipe I’d been wanting to try. Dan insists Thanksgiving isn’t complete without pumpkin pie, and my mom insisted I bring a fruit pie, so these were my two contributions to the family’s Thanksgiving meal.

Pumpkin pie (from a sugar pumpkin), adapted from standard Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe

One sugar pumpkin, processed and water squeezed out of the flesh (should leave about 1.5-2 cups of pumpkin)
1 14 oz can evaporated milk (full, low, or nonfat)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 unbaked pie shell (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 425F. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, spices, and salt until thoroughly mixed. Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375F and bake for another 35-40 minutes or until filling is set and no longer runny. Serve with freshly whipped cream.

Apple-blackberry pie, loosely adapted from apple pie recipe in red plaid Better Homes & Gardens cookbook

3 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3/4-1 cup frozen or fresh blackberries
juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)
*3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp corn starch
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
double crust pie recipe (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, mix all filling ingredients and let sit for a few minutes while you prepare the bottom pie crust in a deep dish pie pan. Pour apple/blackberry mixture into pie pan and add top crust, crimping edges. Poke several holes in the top of the pie with a fork. Slide a baking sheet or pizza pan onto the bottom rack to catch potential drips and the pie onto the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until top crust is golden and juice is bubbling up through the top of the pie. Serve with freshly whipped cream, if desired.

* You can increase the sugar up to 1.5 cups if you like a sweeter pie. I like my fruit pies to be more tart and offset the tartness with whipped cream

Recently, I saw something on America’s Test Kitchen on PBS about using vodka in place of some of the water in a standard pie crust recipe because alcohol will help wet the ingredients but won’t cause the gluten in the flour to develop, which helps keep the crust flakier and less dense/heavy. I was excited to try this out, and found a recipe for vodka pie crust (the alcohol bakes out and doesn’t flavor the crust at all). After sampling both of my pies last night, I feel the experiment was a smashing success, and I plan to use alcohol in place of some of the water from now on.

Recipe for single pie crust (will make enough for single crust pie, plus some extra)

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
small amounts of pie-appropriate spices (cinnamon, cloves, etc.)(optional)
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup butter flavored vegetable shortening cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons of cold vodka
2 tablespoons cold water

Store all ingredients in refrigerator or freezer or chill them before using. In a medium bowl, sift flour, salt, sugar, and spices if using. Using a pastry blender, cut cold fat into flour mixture until the largest lumps are the size of small peas. Put in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Remove and pour vodka and water over mixture, then use a rubber spatula to mix liquid into dry ingredients until just holding together. Gather into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge for an hour (or up to 24 hours) or, if time constrained, in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool it down again and let it rest.

Cover a flat surface with waxed paper and sprinkle with flour. Plop crust dough onto floured surface and sprinkle with more flour. Using a rolling pin and working as fast as possible, roll out until crust is about 1/8 inch thick and big enough to fit in a pie pan, adding small amounts of additional flour if needed to keep dough from sticking to rolling pin. You will see pieces of fat that are not worked all the way into the dough and this is a good thing. Lift waxed paper and flip crust into pie pan, then peel waxed paper away. Trim overhang edges of dough (you can use them for other small projects, like cinnamon sugar crust twists) and crimp remaining dough. Fill and bake with your filling of choice.

Recipe for double crust pie

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1.5 teaspoons sugar
3/4 tsp salt
small amounts of pie-appropriate spices (optional)
1 stick cold unsalted butter
6 tablespoons cold butter flavored vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons cold vodka
3 tablespoons cold water

Follow as above for single crust recipe, but divide dough roughly in half before rolling, using larger ball for bottom crust. When bottom crust is in pan, add filling of choice. Roll out and add top crust over filling. Trim overhang and crimp edges, making sure to poke holes in the top of the pie with a knife or fork so steam can escape.

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