Pies! And Recreating S’mores as a Pie

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.

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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!

S'more Pie

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

Ingredients

For the crust:

How to make a graham cracker 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!)

Directions

  1. Prepare the graham cracker crust in 9-inch pie plate and heat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Bake the graham cracker crust until crisp, 12 to 15 minutes, then cool on a rack to room temperature, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. 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.
  4. Let stand 1 minute, then gently whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
  5. Gently whisk in egg and a pinch of salt until combined and pour into graham cracker crumb crust (crust will be about half full).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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Pumpkin & Maple-Glazed Sweet Potato Pie

As someone who gets annoyed with food trends really fast, I’m surprised at how much my obsession with pumpkins has continued for the third consecutive fall now. Of course, I’m not dropping to the level of adopting this Pumpkin Spice Diet, but I do look forward to the smell of pumpkin wafting through my food and drink – with some of my favorites being pumpkin bread, pumpkin beer and this pumpkin pie (sadly though, pumpkin pies were found to account for only 3% of all orders out of all dishes featuring pumpkin). This is also the third Thanksgiving in a row that I’ve made this pie – the first year I made it with pumpkin and candied yams, the second time around with pumpkin and regular canned yams, and this year, finally, my favorite combination, pumpkin and maple-glazed sweet potatoes.

I got the idea of using maple-glazed sweet potatoes when I was walking through Whole Foods. I normally dislike the sickly sweet taste of corn syrup (which is present in candied yams), so the idea of using maple-glazed products appealed to me, especially given that this recipe already uses some maple syrup. So I decided to substitute yams with these maple-glazed sweet potatoes this time around. Before I had even put this pie in the oven, the scent of the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup and sweet potatoes was floating through my kitchen, cut through with the sharp taste of ginger. I baked it on a graham cracker crust, and let it set overnight in the refrigerator and we were good to go for Thanksgiving next day!

Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Crust

Filling – Adapted from Smitten Kitchen – Makes enough filling for two 9-inch pies

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 and 1/2 cup maple-glazed mashed sweet potatoes*
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon table salt

Directions

Click here for directions for Graham Cracker Crust

  1. This recipe needs a 10 inch pie plate. Pre-bake the graham cracker crust for 5-7 minutes at 350 F. Once done, let it cool at room temperature.
  2. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
  3. Whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks and vanilla together in medium bowl.
  4. Combine pumpkin puree, mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, another 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cream mixture slowly, until fully incorporated. (Make sure that the filling is not too hot, otherwise your eggs may get scrambled as you are whisking in the cream mixture)
  7. Run mixture through a blender if it does not have a smooth consistency and then transfer to warm pre-baked pie shell.
  8. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes.
  9. Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Continue baking until edges are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer.
  10. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. (The pie finishes cooking with resident heat; to ensure the filling sets, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.)

* – Bought from Whole Foods

Besides this pie, it was also my second year of making this spiced pecan pie! What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving desserts?

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How to Make Pie Crust

The holiday season is synonymous with all kinds of pies – pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, apples, pears and cranberry-raisin. While it is really easy to just buy crust, making your own pie crust from scratch means that you can customize it according to the kind of pie you want to make – add some bourbon for a crust for a pecan pie, or grind some nuts for a pumpkin or sweet potato pie, add some vodka for a fruity pie, or just add some spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg for that extra flavor. You can also make plenty of pie crust and freeze it (unbaked) for later use.

I made the crust given here for a pecan pie, so I added two tablespoons of bourbon to it. In case you  don’t want it, just substitute it with 2 tablespoons of icy cold water. When adding liquid to the flour and fat mixture, it should always be ice-cold in order to keep the pieces of fat cool and separate. Liquid can include any of the following –  fruit juices, egg yolks, sour cream, milk or cream, and not just water.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp bourbon
  • Ice water

Directions

  • In a food processor, pulse flour with salt and sugar. Add butter.
  • Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces remaining.
  • Add 2 tablespoons ice water and 2 tablespoons bourbon; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. (If needed, add up to 4 tablespoons more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Do not overmix.
The dough should be crumbly but should hold when squeezed.

The dough should be crumbly and should hold when squeezed.

  • Turn out onto a work surface; knead once or twice, until dough comes together.
  • Divide dough in half, and flatten into disks. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate one disk at least one hour or up to three days. To freeze dough, put tightly wrapped disks in a resealable plastic bag. Label with the date, and freeze for up to three months. Defrost the dough overnight in the refrigerator before using.

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  • Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. This lets the flour absorb the liquid and helps to prevent stickiness when rolling out the dough. It also allows the gluten (the protein structure) to relax, making it more elastic and less likely to shrink back as you roll it.
  • Generously dust a clean, dry surface with flour; remove and unwrap one of the discs of dough from the refrigerator. Flatten the dough slightly with your hands and dust the dough lightly with flour before rolling the dough out with a rolling pin. Start rolling at the center of the dough and work outwards. If you’re a beginning pie-maker–or prefer easier cleanup–you can roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper.
  • The dough round should be two to four inches wider in diameter than your pie pan. Use a dry pastry brush to sweep away any excess flour. Gently fold the dough in half, and then into quarters. If it seems too brittle to fold, try another bakers’ trick: roll up the pie crust around the rolling pin and unroll it over the pie plate.

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  • Carefully pick it up and place it into the pie plate so the center point of dough is in the center of the pan. Unfold the dough, letting the weight of the dough settle it in the bottom and edges of the pan. Without stretching the dough, press the pastry into the pan with your fingertips.

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You can store unbaked pie crusts in the freezer and then prebake them at your convenience (Don’t store partially baked crusts in the fridge though!). On the question of whether to pre-bake a pie crust and how, see here.

A flour pie crust (left) and a graham cracker crust (right)

A flour pie crust (left) and a graham cracker crust (right)

And click here to learn how to make a fluted pie crust. Enjoy!