What You’ll Need: Tools and Tips

We recommend using a pie crust mix. Give it a try; you can get a free one above.

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Chances are, you don’t have six pie pans to make six pies.  Not to worry.  If you have good, nonstick pie pans, you can slip the pies from the pans to serving plates.

Grab the crusts and twist them in the pan to break them free, then gently slip the pies out of the pans.  You can then use the pans for the next two pies.

You also need pie crust shields, especially with pumpkin and other custard pies that take a long time to bake.  Get in the habit of slipping a pie crust shield on every pie that goes in the oven.

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Related Information: Get four FREE e-Cookbooks, make your best holiday dinners!

  • Holiday Dinner: Recipes, Articles, and Equipment
  • Baking with Pumpkin: A Collection of Pumpkin Recipes
  • Dinner Rolls: A Collection of Recipes and Techniques
  • The Perfect Pie: A Handbook for Pie Lovers

If you are not already receiving these, we recommend our Free Kitchen Library–ten books plus a bonus book.

Learn more about the Free Kitchen Library.

Recipes: Traditional and Creative

At Thanksgiving, I’m usually in charge of pies although my son, Nathan, likes making the pumpkin pies.  Some guests look forward all year to Thanksgiving pumpkin and apple pies but I like to tinker, to experiment, to try something different and often our guests want to also. So I make both.

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Here you will find both traditional recipes for Thanksgiving and creative spin-offs.

Favorite Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Over the years, we have made hundreds of pumpkin pies.  This is our favorite recipe.  This recipe makes two pies.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugarpie 5
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons flour
2 1/4 cups evaporated canned milk
1/2 tablespoon vanilla

2 unbaked, nine-inch pie crust, not deep dish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  1. With your stand-type mixer, combine the pumpkin, eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and flour.
  2. Add the evaporated milk and vanilla.  Pour the filling into the pie shells.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes.  Cover the edges of the pie crust with a pie shield or aluminum foil.  Bake for another ten or fifteen minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack.

Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Streusel (in a Gingersnap Crust)

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This is an outstanding pie.  While it certainly works for holiday dinners as an alternative to pumpkin pies, this should not be relegated to holidays.  We think this will be one of your favorite pies, something to turn to whenever fresh fruit is not in season.

For the crust

1 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cup just-add-water pie crust mix
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

  1. Mix the ginger, sugar, and cinnamon with one-fourth cup of the pie crust mix.  Stir well to distribute the ginger.  (The key to this crust is getting the fresh ginger evenly distributed in the crust.)  Stir this mixture into the remaining pie crust mix until it is well distributed.  (You may also use a food processor to mix the ingredients.)
  2. Add the water.  Stir with a fork to form a dough ball.
  3. Roll out the dough and form the crust in a deep dish pie pan.  Form a decorate edge that also acts as a dam to reduce spills.  (See pictures for a recommended edge.)

For the filling

2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons butter rum flavor

In your stand-type mixer with the whip attachment, beat the sweet potatoes until well mashed.  Add the other filling ingredients and mix until combined.

For the streusel

3/4 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup butter

In a medium bowl, combine the pecan pieces, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  With a pastry knife, cut in the butter until the pieces are no larger than peas.  Set aside.

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Caramel Apple Pie

Caramel is made with cream and brown sugar.  We approximated that with brown sugar, milk, and butter and then strengthened it with a little caramel flavor.  There is enough caramel to coat every apple piece.

This is a great pie.  Serve it with whipped cream or ice cream.

4 1/2 to 5 cups 1/4–inch thick sliced apples (4 or 5 medium whole apples)
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamonpie 10
1/2 cup Original Clearjel
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon caramel flavor (optional)
pie crust mix or recipe to make a double crust
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  1. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and Clearjel in a medium saucepan.  Mix well.  Add the milk and lemon juice.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until it thickens and just begins to bubble.  Take it off the heat immediately.  Do not overcook.  Add the butter. Stir until melted. The slurry will thicken more when baking.  Add the apple slices and flavor and stir.
  2. Form the pie shell.  Add the filling to the pie shell.  Add the top and crimp the edges or make a lattice top.  Brush the butter over the crust and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.  Unless you are using a lattice top, cut slits in the crust to allow the steam to escape.
  3. Place a pie shield over the crust edges to avoid over-cooking the edges of the pie crust.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.

Fully Loaded Apple Pie

This recipe calls for sour cream, walnuts, and cranberries—hence it is fully loaded.  But the secret of a great apple pie is the apples.  Use the best you can find.  We prefer tart apples for the recipe.

Since you are baking a high-mounded, deep dish pie, you will need about one and a half to two times a normal double crust recipe. You will also need a nine-inch, deep-dish pie pan for this recipe.  A dark colored pie pan will absorb heat and help bake the crust so that it does not become soggy.

Ingredients

For the crust:

9-inch double crust

For the filling:
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
9 to 10 cups apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup dried or 1 cup frozen, or fresh cranberries
2/3 cup walnut pieces
4 tablespoons butter

For the topping:

1 large egg white
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  1. Prepare and press the pie crust into a deep-dish pie pan, setting aside the dough for the top crust. Trim the crust. Do not bake the crust.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour, sour cream, lemon juice, and spices together into a smooth paste. Add the apples, walnuts, and cranberries and mix until coated with the sour cream mixture. Scrape the apple mixture into the unbaked pie shell.  Cut the butter into chunks and spread on top of the filling.
  3. Roll out the top crust. Brush the top edge of the bottom crust around the rim with water to help the two crusts seal. Place the top crust over the pie. Trim the crust and seal the two crusts with the tines of a fork.
  4. Mix the egg white, water and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon together. Brush the mixture over the top of the pie. Mix the cinnamon with the granulated sugar and sprinkle over the top of the pie.
  5. Cover the edges of the pie with aluminum foil to keep it from burning or use a pie crust shield. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove the foil. Bake for another 35 to 45 minutes or until the pie is bubbly and the crust is golden.

Traditional Pecan Pie

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When I lived in the south, I found that the good Southerners had elevated pecan pie to an art form. Those Southern ladies could bake out-of-this-world pecan pies. This recipe should give you similar results.

Ingredients

3/4 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 1/2 cups pecan halves

1 nine-inch pie shell

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  1. In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar and eggs together. Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and melted butter. After the filling is well-mixed, stir in the pecans. Pour the filling into the pie shell.
    2. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the pie tests done. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Baker’s note: Test for doneness in one of two ways. Jiggle the pie gently to see if the filling is still liquid. The center will still be slightly soft but the heat of the pecan pie will continue to cook the filling after the pie is removed from the oven. If you are not confident in this method, insert a thin-bladed knife one inch from the center. If it comes out clean, your pecan pie is done.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

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If you love rich, gooey chocolate and pecan pie, this is the recipe for you. It’s easy to make; just mix melted chocolate into your pecan pie filling.

If a chocolate pecan pie sounds good to you, try this recipe. Since pecan pies tend to be sweet, we like the robust flavor of bittersweet chocolate rather than the sweeter milk or semisweet chocolate—but suit yourself.

Ingredients

3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1 nine-inch pie shell

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Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Melt the chocolate. In a large bowl, beat the chocolate, melted butter, brown sugar, and eggs together. Add the corn syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla. After the filling is well mixed, stir in the pecans. Pour the filling into the pie shell.
    2. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the pie tests done. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Baker’s note: We first made this pie with four ounces of bittersweet chocolate. When we took a poll of the crew, some thought the pie too chocolaty so we cut it back to three ounces—though the real chocolate fanatics liked it just the way it was. But then, our bittersweet chocolate is pretty intense.

Test for doneness in one of two ways. Jiggle the pie gently to see if the filling is still liquid. The center will still be slightly soft but the heat of the pecan pie will continue to cook the filling after the pie is removed from the oven. If you are not confident in this method, insert a thin-bladed knife one inch from the center. If it comes out clean, your pecan pie is done.

How to Make Chocolate & White Chocolate French Silk Pies

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This recipe makes a delightful silk pie whether in chocolate or white chocolate.  It is silky smooth and luscious and the filling sets firmly for nice cuts and picture perfect presentations.

1 nine-inch pie shell, baked and cooled

3 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water

10 ounces dark (semi-sweet) chocolate wafers or other quality coating or eating chocolate
1/2 cup butter cut into pieces and softened

1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon French vanilla flavor

1 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon French vanilla flavor
1/3 cup granulated sugar

  1. Add the eggs, sugar, and water to a large sauce pan.  Cook the egg and sugar mixture over low to medium low heat while beating constantly with an electric mixture.  Continue cooking and beating until the mixture reaches 160 degrees being careful not to scorch the eggs.  Remove from heat.
  2. Immediately mix the butter into the hot egg mixture with the electric mixer until smooth.  As soon as the butter is melted and while the mixture is still hot, add the chocolate wafers.  Continue beating until it is completely mixed together and cooled to room temperature.
  3. Whip the first measure of whipping cream in your stand-type mixer with the whip attachment until stiff peaks form.   Add the French vanilla flavor.
  4. Change from the whip attachment to the paddle attachment.  Scrape the chocolate mixture into the bowl with the whipped cream.  Turn the mixer onto the slow speed setting and gently fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream.  Mix for less than a minute, until the chocolate is mixed into the whipped cream.  Scrape the filling into the prepared pie pan.  Set aside and let chill.
  5. When you are about ready to serve, whip the second measure of whipping cream.  As the cream is whipping and after the peaks start to form, drizzle in the sugar and add the flavor.  Beat until stiff peaks form.  Spread the whipped cream over the pie filling.

For the white chocolate variation:

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There shouldn’t be any difference in the performance of white and dark chocolate in these pies but as we have continued to experiment and make more of them, we have found that white chocolate does not consistently set up as firm as the dark chocolate.  So we have started adding a 1/4-ounce packet of unflavored gelatin when we use white chocolate.  Add the sugar to the pan and stir the gelatin into the sugar before adding the eggs and beginning to cook.

With that exception, make the pie exactly as above substituting white chocolate wafers for the dark chocolate wafers and a Madagascar or Indonesian vanilla for the French vanilla.

You may wish to spread sliced strawberries or sliced peaches over the filling after it is set and covering all or part of the pie with whipped cream.

Double Chocolate Cream Pie

A smooth, cool chocolate cream pie is always inviting. This one is tucked in a chocolate crust to make it doubly so.

This recipe presents an absolutely scrumptious chocolate filling that is rich but not too chocolaty. The crust is buttery and flaky. The whipped cream topping has some marshmallow filling for flavor and to stabilize the whipped cream.

Make this pie the day before. It takes six hours for the pie to set firm.

Double Chocolate Cream Pie Recipe

For the topping:

1 cup whipping cream for topping, divided
1/3 cup miniature marshmallows or snipped large marshmallows
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Note: If you want enough whipped topping to cover the pie, double the amounts listed above.

For the crust:

3 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 cups pastry flour (or all-purpose flour if pastry flour is not available)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup cold butter (1 1/3 cubes)
1/3 cup ice cold water

For the filling:

1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk
5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
4 tablespoon butter (6 tablespoons if you are using nonfat milk)

Directions

For the topping

  1. Place 1/4 cup of the whipping cream in a small saucepan. Add the marshmallows and heat, stirring often, until the marshmallows are melted.
    2. Pour the marshmallow mixture into a medium glass, ceramic, or steel bowl suitable for whipping the cream. Add the remainder of the whipping cream and refrigerate until well-chilled. Chill the mixer attachments that you will use for whipping.
    3. To top the pie, whip the cream at medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until firm peaks form. Spread the topping on the pie as desired.

For the crust

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Make the pie crust by mixing the cocoa, flour, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until it is the size of peas.
    2. Add the ice cold water all at once. Mix these ingredients with a fork just until they start to come together. Remove the dough to the counter and knead just a few times until the dough is coherent and can be rolled out.
    3. Roll the dough out until it is less than 1/4-inch thick and larger than a pie pan. Place the dough in a nine-inch pie pan and shape the crust.
    4. Fill the pie with pie weights and bake the shell for 8 minutes at 450 degrees then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 25 minutes. (Baking times will vary depending on the type of pie weights that you use. See how to use pie weights.)

For the filling

1. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium sauce pan. Add the milk and egg yolks to the pan and stir the contents until smooth.
2. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the contents are bubbly and thick. Cook for another 30 seconds or so, stirring constantly.
3. Remove the pan from the stove and add the vanilla and butter. Set the filling aside to cool for fifteen minutes.
4. Pour the filling into the baked pie crust and smooth top. To prevent a crust on the top of the filling, cover the pie with plastic wrap and press the plastic against the filling.
5. Refrigerate the pie for at least six hours to set the filling.

Bakers Note: Make certain that the filling is cooked enough. Amylose is the primary thickener in starch. Eggs contain enzyme that will attack and destroy Amylose. This enzyme in eggs is destroyed with high heat, nearly boiling. If this enzyme is not destroyed, the pie that looks perfect this evening will be a runny mess in the morning.

 

About the Author

Dennis Weaver has burned food from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Miami, Florida. He is the founder of The Prepared Pantry in Rigby, Idaho and the author of How to Bake: The Art and Science of Baking available as an E-book or as a Kindle book on Amazon.

Dennis lives in Rigby, Idaho, with his wife, Merri Ann. They have five wonderful children and five beautiful granddaughters