The holidays bring out the baker in all of us. As the days grow shorter, we appreciate signs of warmth and welcome, like spiced pies and buttery crust smells taking over the house. Starting with Thanksgiving pie baking, we are up to our elbows in flour and sugar, making delicious treats for husbands and wives, children, and grandchildren.
No matter how many people are in your family, Thanksgiving dinner is almost always capped off with one or more from the all-American trinity of pies –pumpkin, pecan, and apple. Most of us just can’t help fixing one of each; not matter how full we are after the big meal, there is always room for pie!
Pumpkin is the traditional pie of the season, but some of us like to tweak it a little each year. The trick is not to make the creamy, comforting pie so unusual that it doesn’t forsake tradition. So while we may give you innovative flavors – or a pinch more ginger than you are used to – these pies lose none of the essential goodness of the velvety pie we come to crave each year. Check out our Pumpkin Rum Pie, Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie, and you’ll see how yummy we can make it!
Most of us grew up with the pecan pie on the Karo corn syrup label; several decades ago, there wasn’t much else you did with pecan pie except argue about using the white or the dark syrup in the recipe. These days you can find Bourbon Pecan Pie, Chocolate Pecan Pie, Mystery Pecan Pie and other recipes that add rum, coffee, toffee, and more sweet flavors.
Apples pies are our idea of serving fruit for dinner. We love ‘em double-crusted, lattice-topped, streusel loaded, spiced with cinnamon and ginger, and mile-high. Try Paula’s Crunch Top Apple Pie and Savannah High Apple Pie to see how she likes to tempt you with fruit.
It’s just not a holiday pie without a homemade pie crust, and a good Southern baker knows how to make her own. We may use refrigerated pie crusts the rest of the year, but not for Thanksgiving pies. The secret to making perfect pie crust is using butter, getting it very cold before you mix it into the flour, and not pulverizing the butter pieces when you do. Those little lumps of cold butter – no larger than the size of small peas—create steam pockets when they melt, leaving behind flaky, buttery expanses in the baked pie crust. Although lard and shortening will make tender, flaky crusts, there is nothing like the real taste of buttery pie crust.
Then there’s always those extra pastry scraps we like to turn into cinnamon “cookies” for the children. We roll them out, cut them into shapes with their favorite cutters, and sprinkle the dough with cinnamon sugar before baking them into crispy treats.
We’ve got a corner of the test kitchen dedicated to storing rolling pins, flour and sugar canisters, cookie cutters, and other tools of the holiday baking trade; it is a reminder that baking season is here and we are all set to get started with pies!