Given that I never ate a pie growing up, I have no idea where my obsession with pies comes from. Ever since I’ve moved to the U.S, I’ve made pies both during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I’ve already decided which delicious pies will become a part of my family recipes that I pass down. My favorite is this pumpkin and maple-glazed sweet potato pie with a graham cracker crust. There are three reasons in particular why I have found this pie irreplaceable: 1) unlike most pumpkin pie recipes, I have found that cooking the pumpkin puree with autumnal spices such as cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, actually makes a huge difference to the depth of flavor compared to just mixing these spices into the batter 2) Pumpkin puree might be delicious, but most people might get sick of the canned pumpkin flavor throughout the pie. The addition of roasted sweet potatoes adds new flavor and a certain amount of freshness that compliments the pumpkin 3) Roasting the sweet potatoes in maple syrup actually gives the kind of sweet taste that is desirable, instead of the sickly sweet corn syrup taste that is present in most pies.
The second is a bourbon spiced pecan pie. I do not care much for pecans, but my partner a) loves pecans, and b) is obsessed with Alton Brown. And I have to admit, his recipe for bourbon spiced pecan pie will win over many people who have the same feelings about pecans as me. Now this recipe takes way longer than than a usual pecan pie recipe, but is absolutely worth it. It involves toasting with pecans with a bunch of spices such as cumin, cayenne pepper, dried orange peel, and cinnamon. This goes a long way in adding depth of flavor to what can be an otherwise very sweet recipe. Second, this recipe has introduced me to the wonder of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. There is nothing that I hate more in the American baking pantry more than corn syrup. Thousands of studies have shown it’s not great for you, and if we have to eat something that’s not great for us, it should at least taste great, right? Except that corn syrup just has a one-dimensional cloying sweetness, and golden syrup is a wonderful substitute to overcome this problem. Thirdly, the crust has bourbon in it – which you can very much taste when you take a full bite of the pie even with the filling. So this recipe is also a keeper.
This year I have been inspired by a pie party that my friends and I had a few weeks ago. One of my friends made a lemon meringue pie, and I am excited about incorporating a lighter pie, something that adds acidity and freshness, to the Christmas dessert course this year. And finally, if you clicked on this post hoping to find a recipe for a pie, here’s one for a s’more pie that I took to the above mentioned pie party. It’s fast to assemble, and fun to serve (think a brulee torch and people excited by fire). The only downside is that this pie is incredibly rich, so you will probably not realize how stuffed you are until it is too late!
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
For the crust:
Filling and topping:
- 7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not more than 70% cacao; not unsweetened), finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 large egg, at room temperature for 30 minutes
- 2 cups mini-marshmallows (highly recommend the Whole Foods ones!)
- Prepare the graham cracker crust in 9-inch pie plate and heat the oven to 350 F.
- Bake the graham cracker crust until crisp, 12 to 15 minutes, then cool on a rack to room temperature, about 20-30 minutes.
- While the crust is cooling, prepare your filling. Put chocolate in a large bowl. Bring cream just to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, then pour hot cream over chocolate.
- Let stand 1 minute, then gently whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
- Gently whisk in egg and a pinch of salt until combined and pour into graham cracker crumb crust (crust will be about half full).
- Cover edge of pie with a pie shield or foil, and bake until filling is softly set and trembles slightly in center when gently shaken, about 25 minutes.
- When the pie is out of the oven, add marshmallows on top of the chocolate while it is still warm so that they stick to the chocolate.
- Let cool for 15-20 minutes and then using a brulee torch, toast the tops of the marshmallows, and serve while it’s still warm.