Pie is the ultimate Thanksgiving desert. In our family, we usually have two different kinds, pumpkin and apple. We usually also have pecan and mincemeat as well, but as bite-sized tarts instead of pie, since not everyone is fond of mincemeat and a big ol' slab of pecan pie can be cloying.
I know, it's crazy to offer so many deserts, but Thanksgiving dinner is all about the pies!
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If you have a phobia about pie-making, or just prefer to focus on other things, you can order your apple pie from Spring Mill Bakery in Gaithersburg.
I like my own pumpkin pie better than theirs, but their apple pie is absolutely stellar!
If you like making your own pie but just can't make good pie crust, you can always use the frozen pie crusts already in the pan or the rolled up premade pie crusts, such as Pillsbury. Granted, they don't taste as good as homemade, but you have other things to worry about and only your crabby Great-great Aunt Bessie is going to notice.
If you use the frozen pie crusts already in their own pan, I strongly advise removing the frozen crusts from their wimpy aluminum pie tins and putting the crusts in your own glass pie pans (Obviously the size pan must be the same). Or stack an additional aluminum pie tin to the bottom, so your beautiful pie will be well supported.
One word of warning, though: If you need to pre-bake the rolled up, premade pie crusts for something like a lemon meringue pie, you'll find that the crusts shrink like crazy and also tend to rise up in the pan.
An amazing way to nip that in the bud is this: Place your pie crust in a pie pan. Spray cooking spray on the bottom of another pie pan of the same size and place it OVER the pie crust. Turn the pans upside down and pre-bake as your recipe requires. For the last 10 minutes of baking, turn the pans over, remove the top pan, and bake as normal.
Gravity is a wonderful thing.
If you're interested in making your own pumpkin pie, here is my very favorite recipe. It's a mishmash of a half-dozen recipes, combined to make what I consider the ultimate pumpkin pie. My rescue group sells these at our annual Thanksgiving bake sale and they get rave reviews!
PUMPKIN PRALINE PIE
1 10-inch, unbaked pie crust to fit a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan
2 cups canned pumpkin (16 oz can)
½ cup + 2 T lightly packed light brown sugar
2 T gingersnap cookie crumbs
½ cup real maple syrup, Grade B (Mrs. Butterworth will not do – get the real thing!)
1 cup half & half, cream, or evaporated milk
2 T Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
2 extra large eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ cup chopped pecans
Lay your pie crust in your pie pan, crimp the edges firmly to the pie pan to avoid shrinkage. Cover the edges of the crust with foil to avoid over-browning.
Sprinkle gingersnap crumbs and 2 tablespoons brown sugar in the bottom of your unbaked pie crust. Spread the pecans over the cookie/sugar mix. Blind bake the pie crust 5-10 minutes until the sugar starts to melt.
Note: If you are using the pre-made rolled crusts, they tend to puff up. Poke them with a fork to release the air.
Let crust cool completely.
In a bowl with high sides, beat egg, spices, salt, and brown sugar together slightly. Add pumpkin, syrup, half & half, and Grand Marnier. Blend until well incorporated. The batter is very thin!
Taste the batter and correct spices to suit you. Pour pie filling into cooled crust, and really fill it full. Sprinkle a few pecans on top so people know there are nuts in the pie.
Place pie pan on cookie sheet to avoid spills. Bake at 425 degress for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 325 degrees for 40 minutes, or until knife inserted at center of pie comes out clean.
You'll notice as the pie cools that it may crack and/or separate from the pie crust edge. That is the nature of custard pies - I'm sorry to say - especially if they are somewhat overcooked. And that's easy to do with custard pies, as the edges tend to bake faster than the middle. So just get creative with whipped cream.