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I have a fantasy surrounding Thanksgiving. The unfortunate thing is that I think this fantasy sounds expensive. I dream of owning a big house in the country (but let’s be real… not too far away from a Target and Starbucks. #priorities) with lot’s of bedrooms, a big living room with soft carpet and big couches that you just sink into, a grand kitchen, and a big dining room. Why? Because I want to host the ultimate Thanksgiving weekend. I want this to be my thing.
I’m short a really big chunk of change to build my dream house, but a girl can dream!
Some day I’ll host Thanksgiving dinner, with or without my fantasy home. It’s not really about the house anyhow. It’s just fun to imagine…
The reality is just as good. I grew up eating Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in my grandparents small houses, full of laughter, TV trays, football on in the background (my Grandma Gray loved her football), a table and counter full of delicious food, crazy little dogs fighting and getting under everyone’s feet, loud games of Yahtzee or Rumikub battles and grandma making up her own rules, and so much love. These are the warm memories that shape my love of the holidays to this day.
Actually, I think reality is better than the fantasy.
THREE PERFECT PIES TO MAKE FOR THANKSGIVING
So, maybe you’re a dreamer like me with ideas of bringing perfect pies to your family Thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe you don’t cook at all are hoping to shock and impress your friends with homemade classic comfort food. Maybe you got stuck with the responsibility of the all-important Thanksgiving pies and you have no idea to begin. Whatever your reasons, I can promise you that the perfect pie is totally do-able!
We need to start with the most critical item: pie crust.
So many people don’t like pie crust, so they pay it no mind and just buy one of those factory pressed-into-a-foil-pie-plate looking crusts in the freezer section. Kind of tragic, really!
Now, there is no shame in taking a short cut on the pie crust. You hear me? NO SHAME! Pillsbury makes the bomb pie crust that you just roll out and press into your pie pan. It rocks.
Still, if you want to experience the triumph of making the whole pie from scratch, or if you’re cheap like me and know you can make the pastry for half the price of buying it… let’s do this pie crust thing!
Pro Parenting Tip: give your little one a few tablespoons of flour and a piece of dough and it will keep them busy while you bake. Works like a charm!
Shaping your crust needn’t be a pain! I create a pretty crust edge like this:
- Lay out your pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate.
- No need to trim the edges – just fold them under, leaving a 1/4 inch lip above the edges of the pie plate.
- Lay two fingers on the edge of the pie crust, about 1 inch apart.
- Place the index finger of your other hand in the 1 in space between your fingers on the edge of the pie crust (see picture below) and gently pull the pie crust to make a scallop shape.
- Repeat the process all the way around the edge of the pie crust.
Another really simple method is to fold under the edges of the pie crust and then crimp them with a fork:
If you want to just place your pastry in a pie plate and not mess with fancy edges, check out this pie plate (click the picture to view details):
My favorite thing to do with a pumpkin pie is to use a pie crust dough to cut out little shapes and decorate the crust:
TIP: When making pies, you NEED a pie crust shield! This will avoid all the tears that will inevitably flow when your pie crust burns before the pie filling is even finished baking. I love this one:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup shortening
- 3/4 cup cold water, divided
- 1. In medium bowl, mix together the flour and salt
- 2. Cut in the shortening by hand using pastry blender until the shortening and flour is the size of small peas.
- 3. Sprinkle cold water 2 tablespoons at a time over the dough, tossing with fork until the pastry forms a ball.
- 4. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and shape into balls. Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
- 5. Roll each pastry ball out on a floured surface to desired size and thickness.
“WHAT?” you ask? The chalazae is the white part that is connected to the egg yolk. It’s completely edible. The problem is that in custard pies, it sometimes doesn’t break down well. The other egg problem is that when the eggs are not beaten before other ingredients are added, they may not incorporate well. WHY does all of this matter? On more than one occasion I’ve chomped down on some rubbery mass resembling scrambled eggs in a pumpkin pie. AW-FUL! So now I am a serious perfectionist when it comes to making sure my eggs are well incorporated into my recipes.
Now that we’ve discussed some of my favorite pie making tips, let’s get to the recipes for the three perfect pies to make for Thanksgiving!
PERFECT PUMPKIN PIE
Pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving is a MUST! When you purchase canned pumpkin puree for your pie, be sure to get 100% pure, unseasoned pumpkin. There is also a version that is already seasoned for pie, but it’s really better to add your own seasonings.
Speaking of seasonings, my recipe calls for cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, but you can substitute 1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice instead.
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 can (15 oz.) pure pumpkin
- 1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
- 1 unbaked pie crust (to fit a 9-inch pie pan)
- 1. In a medium bowl, use a whisk to beat eggs for about 1 minute.
- 2. Whisk in the sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves and beat well.
- 3. Stir in the pumpkin then gradually stir in the evaporated milk.
- 4. Pour the pumpkin mixture into a prepared, uncooked pie crust.
- 5. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes then decrease the heat to 350 and bake for another 50 minutes.
- 6. Cool the pie at room temperature for 1 hour and then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
PERFECT PECAN PIE
I’m a big pecan pie fan. It’s a really perfect classic pie for a Thanksgiving feast!
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecan halves
- 1 unbaked pie crust for a 9-inch pie pan
- 1. In a medium bowl, beat eggs with a whisk for about 1 minute.
- 2. Mix in the corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla, then stir in pecans.
- 3. Pour filling into pie crust.
- 4. Bake at 350 for 70 minutes.
- 5. Cool for 2 hours on wire rack before serving.
PERFECT APPLE CRUMB PIE
Apple pie… oh, apple pie! There is nothing more happy than the smell of an apple pie baking in the oven. I have warm memories of my mom baking an apple pie on cold fall evenings and waiting so patiently to claim the first slice.
I can’t reproduce my mom’s apple pie, so I’ve gone a different direction and perfected my own apple crumb pie. I think this recipe tastes like something a grandma would make.
- 8 cups cored, peeled, and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1. In large bowl, toss together the filling ingredients. Pour into a 9-inch pie crust.
- 2. In medium bowl, use pastry blender or fingers to mix together the topping ingredients until a crumb forms. Sprinkle evenly over top of pie.
- 3. Bake at 400 for 45 to 55 minutes or until pie crust and crumb topping are deep golden brown and filling begins to bubble.