Perfectly Pie!


This year, as usual, we're going to celebrate Thanksgiving with family — but not at our house. Instead, we'll be with our grandchildren, Nicole and Jonathan, whose parents have an even larger dining room.

Since I don't have the lion's share of cooking and setting up, I'm making the pies with their help. Not just the usual pies — the top crust of these will be decorated with fancy pastry shapes, or we may dispense with a top crust and just lightly press pastry shapes on top of the filling.

Nicole and Jonathan love to roll out the pastry, and cut out leaf or apple shapes choosing from my cookie-cutter collection, (though the pastry may be a bit off-color by the time they've actually finished.) Or maybe we'll just fold the overlapping pastry over the edges of the fillings to make a "free-form" apple pie.

Not enough pie dishes? Pull out any unusual shaped baking dishes or even a large au gratin dish. Use those instead of the traditional round pie dish. I bake apple and pear pies in a deep white baking dish in the form of a leaf.

Our pie fillings will be delicate and moist, but firm enough so that in transporting between houses, there's no spillage. And we'll make pastry shells from scratch. With the Perfect Processor Pastry recipe below, it's easier than pie. (Don't let little ones use the processor!) We might — just might — use one or two prepared pie shells, such as the graham-cracker pie crusts. We'll keep the transparent cover so that when turned over, it acts as a lid without actually touching the pie.

Perfect Processor Pastry

An unbelievably easy, short crust pastry. May be refrigerated for two to three days, or frozen for several weeks. This recipe makes enough for a 9-inch double-crust pie.

3 cups all-purpose flour 
1/4 tsp. salt 
1 cup (2 sticks) pareve margarine, cut in pieces 
1 egg 
11/2 tsps. white vinegar 
ice water to mix

Place the flour and salt in the food processor bowl. Using the pulse button, cut in the margarine until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

In a measuring cup, whisk the egg, vinegar and enough ice water to make 2/3 cups. Add the egg mixture. Process till dough starts to clump together. Do not let it form a ball and come away from the sides of the bowl.

Remove and divide into two equal pieces. Wrap tightly in wax paper.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to three days.

Let stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling out on a floured board.

Approximate nutrients for one 9-inch pie crust: calories, 1,525; protein, 24 g; carbohydrates, 144 g; fat, 95 g; cholesterol, 106 mg; sodium, 1,385 mg.

Brown-and-Gold Raisin Pie

Try substituting dried cranberries for some of the raisins.

11/2 cups golden raisins 
1 cup dark raisins 
2 cups boiling water 
3 Tbsps. frozen orange-juice concentrate 
pinch cinnamon 
1 cup brown sugar, packed 
3 Tbsps. cornstarch 
2 tsps. fresh lemon juice 
1 Tbsp. pareve margarine 
pastry for a 9-inch double pie crust

Preheat oven to 425°.

To prepare the pie filling, place the raisins, boiling water, orange-juice concentrate and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Return to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir into the raisin mixture.

Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, stirring, until mixture is thick, clear and no starchy taste remains, about five minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice and margarine. Cool.

On a floured board, roll out half the pastry. Transfer to a 9-inch pie dish. Pour in the raisin filling. Roll out remaining pastry and place on top. Press down edges and trim. Cut three 1-inch slits on top for steam to escape.

May roll out trimmings, then cut out leaves or other shapes. Moisten the underside of shapes with water. Press down lightly on top crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°. Bake for 25 minutes longer or until crust is golden.

Cool to room temperature before cutting into wedges.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 364; protein, 4 g; carbohydrates, 68 g; fat, 10 g; cholesterol, 10 mg; sodium, 157 mg.

Free-Form Apple-Cranberry Pie

Pastry Ingredients:

21/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 Tbsp. sugar 
2/3 cup pareve margarine 
1 egg yolk 
1 tsp. white vinegar 
ice water

Filling Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar, divided 
1/3 cup finely ground hazelnuts 
11/2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour 
6 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut in 1/2-inch thick wedges 
1 cup fresh cranberries 
1 Tbsp. pareve margarine 
2 Tbsps. vanilla-flavored nondairy creamer 
confectioners sugar to dust (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°.

To prepare the pastry, mix the flour and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the margarine until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (you can also do this in the food processor).

In a measuring cup, mix the egg yolk, vinegar and enough water to make 1/4 cup. Gradually stir into the flour mixture, until the mixture just holds together. (You may need 1 to 2 tablespoons of additional water).

On a floured board, roll out the pastry into a circle about 14 inches in diameter. Don't worry if the edges are uneven. Transfer to 12-inch quiche dish or large pie dish, letting the pastry hang over the edges.

For Filling: Reserve 2 tablespoons sugar. In a bowl, mix the remaining sugar with the hazelnuts and flour. Sprinkle about half this mixture over the pastry in pie dish. Toss the apples and cranberries with the remaining mixture. Spoon on top of the pastry in the pie dish. Sprinkle with reserved sugar. Dot with margarine. Drizzle the nondairy creamer over. Fold the overhanging pastry over to form a ragged border.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375° and bake for 35 minutes longer, or until apples are tender and pastry is golden. If browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Cool. Before serving, dust with confectioners sugar (optional).

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 360; protein, 4 g; carbohydrates, 52 g; fat, 16 g; cholesterol, 21 mg; sodium, 157 mg.

Chocolate-Vanilla Cream Pie

Quick, easy and no baking! Make the day before and refrigerate until ready to serve.

4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature 
2 Tbsps. sour cream 
2 Tbsps. sugar 
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 container (12 oz.) whipped topping, divided 
1 chocolate graham-cracker 9-inch pie crust 
8 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate at room temperature 
2 Tbsps. mini-chocolate chips 
grated white chocolate to garnish (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together the cream cheese with the sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract.

Stir in half the whipped topping. Spread over the bottom of the pie crust. Refrigerate.

Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 11/2 to 2 minutes, or until chocolate is soft enough to stir smoothly. Stir after 1 minute.

Add the remaining whipped topping, stirring gently, so that no white streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread over the vanilla layer, roughing up with a fork.

Garnish with white chocolate (optional). Refrigerate two hours before serving.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 379; protein, 4 g; carbohydrates, 41 g; fat, 24 g; cholesterol, 30 mg; sodium, 196 mg.

Brown-Sugar-Crusted Pear Pie

Bosc pears, ripe and perfumed, are perfect for this pie. Splurge –after, all it's Thanksgiving! Top the baked wedges with a scoop of really rich vanilla ice-cream.

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed 
1/2 cup, plus 3 Tbsps., all-purpose flour 
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice 
1/3 cup butter 
1/4 cup undiluted evaporated milk or light cream 
1 Tbsp. honey, warmed 
6 large ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced 
2 Tbsps. orange juice 
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Preheat oven to 425°.

Place the sugar, 1/2 cup of the flour and Chinese five-spice in a medium bowl or in the food processor. Cut in the butter or process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the evaporated milk or cream with the honey. Set aside.

Toss pears with the orange juice and remaining flour. Arrange attractively in the pie shell. Spoon the sugar and spice mixture over top. Drizzle with cream and honey.

Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°. Bake for 30 minutes longer, or until topping is golden-brown and filling is bubbly.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 413; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 65 g; fat, 16 g; cholesterol, 29 mg; sodium, 147 mg.

Harvest Pumpkin Pie

2 eggs 
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin 
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed 
2 tsps. pumpkin spice 
11/4 cups undiluted evaporated milk or light cream 
3/4 tsp. orange extract 
1 chocolate graham-cracker 9-inch pie shell 
1 cup pecan halves

Preheat oven to 425°.

Whisk together eggs, pumpkin, sugar, pumpkin spice, milk or cream and extract in a large bowl. Mixture should be smooth. Pour into the pie shell.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°. Bake for 35 minutes longer.

Arrange pecans, round-side up, on top. Return to the oven and bake 10 minutes longer, or until mixture is set in center (a knife inserted in center should come out clean). Cool.

Serve with a bowl of whipped cream on the side (optional).

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 279; protein, 7 g; carbohydrates, 21 g; fat, 19 g; cholesterol, 61 mg; sodium, 169 mg.

Aunt Hanni's Blueberry Torte

From The Art of Cooking, Cooking Club of America. Our late Aunt Hanni was a sensational baker, who brought this recipe to America from Germany. Meurbe Teig is a European buttery pastry.

Meurbe Teig Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature 
1/4 cup sugar 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
11/2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling Ingredients:

3/4 cup sugar 
3 Tbsps. cornstarch 
pinch salt 
1 cup water 
1 quart fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed 
1 Tbsp. grated ginger root

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Cut the butter into 8 pieces. Place in the food processor along with the sugar, egg and 1/2 cup of the flour. Pulse 2 to 3 times to mix. Add the remaining flour and pulse to form a ball.

Press the dough into the prepared pan covering the bottom and coming about 1-inch up the sides. Prick all over with a fork.

Cover bottom with a sheet of aluminum foil weighted down with 11/2 cups dried beans or pastry weights. This will keep the pastry from rising.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans and discard. Set aside. (The beans may be cooled and reused.)

To prepare the filling, combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and water in a large saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat to simmer and cook 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Stir in blueberries and ginger.

Cool before pouring into the baked shell.

Refrigerate two to three hours before serving.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 275; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 44 g; fat, 10 g; cholesterol, 46 mg; sodium, 9 mg.

Ethel G. Hofman, the author of Mackerel at Midnight, is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.


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