About Holiday Pies
Everyone knows the holidays can get crazy. Especially where food is concerned. Too much to do in too little time. Too much to prepare and cook in too little space. Dessert is the last item on the menu and it often suffers. “I don’t bake” is the usual go-to excuse for the last minute grocery store pies. Fear not. You can do much of the pie work ahead of time.
• Buy disposable pie pans, make your crust, roll out and put in the pans. Wrap well and freeze. You can (and should in most cases) bake the filled pie with the crust still frozen. It helps prevent sogginess. Pie dough freezes beautifully, so keep some on hand year-round and you can get a pie into the oven in 15 minutes or less.
• If it is a fruit pie, fill the frozen crust with the fruit filling (you may want to add a little extra flour or cornstarch, depending on how juicy the fruit is), top with another crust, vent, wrap well and freeze the whole pie. Add about 10 minutes to the bake time to account for the frozen crust.
• Nut pies (like pecan) should be fully assembled and then frozen.
• Custard pies are a bit tricker, since they tend to separate. Freeze the crust and filling separately. Freeze the filling in an airtight container immediately after making it. Defrost the filling in the refrigerator overnight (but not longer), NOT on the counter or in the microwave. Whisk the defrosted filling very well to break up any ice crystals, fill and bake immediately.
• If you don’t want to go the freezer route for the fillings, make a “pie kit”. Have the frozen crust ready and make a kit of plastic bags with all the ingredients you need for the pie…for instance, toast the pecans, chop and put in a plastic bag for a pecan pie and combine the “syrup ingredients” in another bag. If you are using a leavening agent such as baking soda or baking powder, store that in a bag separately from the rest of the ingredients. When you are ready to bake the pie, dump all the filling ingredients into a bowl, mix, fill the frozen crust and bake. Remember to label everything. I make a copy of the recipe and store it in the bag with the dry ingredients.
• Don’t freeze fillings or completely assembled pies for more than one month.
• “Wrap well” means several layers of plastic wrap and a plastic bag or foil.
• Disposables such a plastic bags, really cut down pie-making time. I know it’s not great for the environment, but the only time I use throw away items is at holidays.
• I make 4-5 homemade pies every holiday and I can get them all of them into the oven in about ½ hour using the methods above.
• If all else fails, use a prepared pie dough (no judging!) and make your fillings fresh.
Here’s a step-by-step Pumpkin Pie recipe to get you started:
- 1 pie crust-wrapped and frozen, then blind baked (see instructions below)
- 15 oz. can (1 ¾ C. aprox.) of pure solid pack pumpkin (NOT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING)
- ½ C. packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. ginger
- Pinch of ground cloves
- Pinch salt
- 1 TBL. brandy or other liquor
- 2 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
- ½ C. half and half
- ¼ C. sour cream
- For the topping
- ¾ C. whipping cream
- ¼ C. sour cream
- 2 TBL. light brown sugar
Put the pumpkin puree in a medium bowl.
Whisk in brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and brandy.
Whisk in eggs and egg yolks.
In a separate bowl whisk the half and half and 1/4 C. of sour cream together.
Add the sour cream mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk well.
Put the pumpkin filling in an airtight container-vacuum sealing works wonderfully-otherwise in a good double seal bag-use 2-or a Tupperware container. Freeze.
The day before you want to bake this pie, transfer the pumpkin filling to the refrigerator to defrost. DO NOT DEFROST ON THE COUNTER-IT WILL SEPARATE.
The day you want to bake the pie, heat the oven to 350°.
Lay a piece of parchment in the frozen shell and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Make sure you have enough weights to fill the crust about ¾ full-you want to weight the sides too.
Blind bake the frozen pie shell until golden brown-about 40 minutes (check at 30 minutes).
Carefully remove the parchment and weights from the shell.
Turn the oven down to 325°.
Whisk the pumpkin filling and pour it into the shell.
Bake the pie on a baking sheet until the custard is set but still a little jiggly in the center-about 45-50 minutes.
Cool completely on a wire rack.
Combine the 3/4 C. whipping cream and 1/4 C. sour cream in a chilled bowl.
Whip until it begins to thicken.
Add the brown sugar and continue to whip until soft peaks form.
Serve the pie with a dollop of whipped cream or decoratively pipe on top.