Tag Archives: Twelve Days of Pie

Day twelve: cherry pie

We are all familiar with that gooey, unnaturally bright red filling made of maraschino cherries, and to be honest, that’s really the only sort of cherry pie I’ve ever known.  So for our final installment of the Twelve Days of Pie, we transformed a classic favorite into something a little more real.

Using frozen cherries kept things simple — this recipe is definitely worth a try.

32 oz frozen cherries, thawed
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons tapioca
Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon brandy
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons butter, cut into dice

1 egg beaten with water
Dough for 1 double pie crust

Toss all filling ingredients together except for the butter and set aside.

Roll out bottom crust and press into pan, then spoon in the filling.  Sprinkle diced butter on top.

Roll out top crust, cutting decorative shapes into center to vent if desired with a small cookie cutter.  We used a star shape, it being Christmas and all.

Crimp edges together and brush with egg wash.  Cut slits in top to vent if you did not already cut out shapes.

Bake in an oven preheated to 400 for 25 minutes.  Then turn temperature down to 350 and bake for another 40 or so minutes.


I hope everyone enjoyed the Twelve Days of Pie as much as Mr. R and I enjoyed making them!   I must say, however, it will be a while before I want pie again…

Merry Christmas!



Day eleven: ginger-pear pie

Unsurprisingly, pears are a close relative of apples and are one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits.  According to Bill Neal, they are frequently paired with ginger in southern recipes, which “produces a fruit pie that, when following a heavy holiday meal, doesn’t stifle or stuff.”  This pie is intended for dessert after a, uh, let’s say “adventurous” Christmas Eve dinner menu, so let’s hope that will be the case…

Ginger pear pie

6 cups sliced pears, about 2.25 lbs whole
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
Scant 2 tablespoons instant tapioca
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely minced crystallized ginger
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon tangerine or clementine zest
Pie dough for 1 double crust
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 tablespoon water


Position rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 350.

Peel and slice the pears.  Mr. R. used an apple corer/slicer and then cut each slice in half a second time.  Place in a bowl.

Combine the 1/2 cup sugar, tapioca and salt and sprinkle over the pears.    Add ginger, lemon and tangerine zest.  As clementines are so abundant (and delicious) this time of year, we actually substituted those.  Stir or toss to coat pears completely and set aside while you roll out the dough.

Roll out half of dough and press into pan.  Fill the pan with fruit and drop in some chunks of butter.

Moisten edge of crust and cover with top layer, crimping the edges together.  Brush the top with egg beaten with water, and sprinkle teaspoon of sugar on top.  Cut steam vents.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or so, until crust is a golden brown.

As you can probably guess, this recipe is adapted from Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie.  I’ll let you know how it tastes after tomorrow night!


Day ten: classic apple pie

Apple pie is always better in the fall, when the markets are overflowing with all kinds of varieties directly from local orchards.  Mr. R and I make a point to go apple picking every year, and with more apples than we ever know what to do with, always end up making a pie or two.  Apple season has long passed in my region, but I nonetheless felt I’d be remiss in ignoring this classic dessert — how can you do a whole series on pie and leave out apple?

We’re all familiar with the phrase “as American as apple pie,” but, truth be told, apples are native to Central Asia and apple pie was enjoyed by Europeans long before the tree was ever introduced to the thirteen colonies in the 17th century.  In fact, the Wikipedia article on apple pie suggests that the phrase was created during prohibition by the apple industry to maintain the fruit’s popularity after cider was banned.  Regardless, it is an enormously popular dessert, and the US is the #2 producer of apples in the world (after China).

Crisp, tart apples such as granny smith are best in pies, but using a mixture is always good, and don’t be afraid to experiment with other varieties.  At the farmer’s market in the fall, apple vendors should be happy to discuss with you which of the varieties they’re selling would taste good in a pie recipe.

Apple pie traditionally uses a double crust.  I usually like to make a lattice top but you can do whatever you’d like.  As with many fruit pies, the results can get awfully watery, so tapioca is added as a thickener.

Apple pie
This recipe has been adapted beyond recognition from various sources over the years. 

1 double pie crust
6-8 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced.  I used a mixture of granny smith and mcintosh.
3/4 cup sugar
1.5 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 pieces crystallized ginger, minced
2 tablespoons tapioca
1 egg, beaten lightly

Make pie dough and place in fridge to chill.

Peel and slice the apples and place in a bowl.  Add sugar, lemon juice and zest, salt, spices, and tapioca. Mix thoroughly.

Roll out the bottom crust and press into pan.  Roll out the top crust and use a ruler with about 1 inch width to assist in cutting lattice strips.

Pour apple filling into crust.  Most recipes I find call for 2 lbs, or about 8 apples, but I generally find this to be too much.  The crust should be overfilled but not excessively so.

Place half the lattice strips across top of pie.  Lift half of them, lay another strip across them perpendicularly, and place lifted strips back down.  Repeat with other strips until woven together in a lattice.

Uh, that sounds kind of confusing.  Just watch this video at about 4:40 (or watch the whole thing for a blueberry pie recipe!).

Press ends into edge of pie and crimp.

Brush the lattice pie with an egg wash — we used pure egg yolks which I think burned a little too dark.  Try a whole beaten egg or even just egg whites.

Sprinkle with raw turbinado or decorative sugar.

Place pie on a cookie sheet with some parchment paper as this one has a tendency to overflow in the oven.

Bake in an oven preheated to 425 for 10 minutes.  Cover pie with a piece of foil and reduce heat to 325.  Bake for another 40 minutes or so, until inside is bubbly but not runny.

Served à la mode, does it really get any better than this?


Day nine: chocolate chess pie

Not gonna lie:  I am growing a little bit tired of pie!  In spite of our efforts to share as much pie as possible with our friends and family, our fridge is just about overflowing.  It’s just so much butter!  And cream!  I can’t handle it all!

So this pie is being given away in its entirety.  I’ll report back from our friends whether or not it was a success.  But for now I’ll just post the recipe without any feedback.

Chess pie is a traditional southern dessert, with a rich custard filling for which there are several variations, including lemon.  The chocolate version is an uncomplicated filling that is sure to please any chocolate lover.

Chocolate Chess Pie
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup butter
4 eggs
1.25 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon whiskey or rum
1 partially baked 9-inch pie crust

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler, or a metal bowl set over a pot of boiling water.

In a separate bowl, gently beat the eggs.  Sift the sugar, salt, and flour together and stir into the eggs.  Then add the cream and the melted butter/chocolate.  Finally mix in the vanilla and alcohol.

Pour filling into a partially baked pie crust and bake in an oven preheated to 325 for about 35 minutes.

Center should be set and the top a bit crusty when it is done.

Recipe from Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie by Bill Neal


Day eight: curried vegetable mini pies

Hand pie, hot pocket, turnover — whatever you want to call it, these mini pies are the perfect snack, portable lunch, or single-serving dessert.  Ever so versatile, they can be filled with sweet or savory goodness, deep fried, sauteed, or baked.  Make a large batch and freeze the extra, or bring them to a potluck — who wouldn’t want their own mini pie that they don’t have to share?

It is rare that I ever see vegetarian versions of these, and I have been meaning to try making them myself.  I was pleased to discover that while the process took a while, it was surprisingly easier than it sounded.

The dough

When making a turnover, you will want the dough to be nice and pliable, so it doesn’t tear or explode.
I used the same chickpea flour dough I made for my spinach pie the other day, which, though not perfect, as it easily tore, worked well enough.  I didn’t experience any major mishaps.  I think you could easily make this dough vegan and/or gluten-free as well.  Just replace the butter with earth balance spread and the milk and yogurt with a vegan alternative, and replace the 3/4 cup AP flour with either 2/3 more of the chickpea flour or whatever equivalent amount of GF AP flour.

I don’t think the chickpea dough would taste very good in dessert variations, so if you want to go that route, I would be sure to seek out a dough recipe tested specifically for hand pies.  Alton Brown has one that I have not tried myself but is well reviewed.  Here is another.

The filling

Don’t be afraid to get creative with this.  You can use a more traditional dessert pie filling, or just a simple combination of vegetables, seasoning, cheese, etc.  Keep it simple and try thinking in terms of things you’re already familiar with — like spanakopita, stromboli, etc. I was inspired by samosas and came up with a curried vegetable filling.

Curried vegetable mini pies


For the filling:
1 medium onion, finely diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup each of:
–finely minced carrot
–finely diced potato
–frozen peas
–frozen cut green beans
1 chili pepper, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder (freshly ground preferable)
1 tablespoon flour
Approximately 2 cups water or stock
Salt, pepper to taste
1 batch chickpea flour dough

Saute the onion in ghee or vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes, until translucent.  Add the garlic, curry powder, and some freshly ground black pepper, and saute until spices are fragrant.  Add mixed vegetables and cook about 5 minutes, until they have softened.

Just barely cover veggies with water or stock, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Thicken with a tablespoon of flour as necessary (I used the chickpea flour and it worked wonderfully).  Season to taste with salt, and allow to cool before using.

While the mixture is simmering and/or cooling, make the mini pie circles.

Roll dough to about a half inch thickness and cut into circles with a 2-3 inch diameter.  You can use the rim of a glass, a biscuit cutter, whatever you have.

Roll each of these circles as thinly as possible, to about a 5-6 inch diameter.

Place a scant tablespoon of filling into the middle of each round, carefully fold over and press together to seal, brushing on a layer of water if necessary.  Crimp edges with the tines of a fork, and cut a slit or dock the top of the pie to vent.

Now they are ready to cook.  You could deep fry them, pan fry them, or bake them.  We decided to try both pan frying and baking.

To pan fry:  heat a generous amount of oil in a skillet and saute pies for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

To bake:  place on a baking sheet and into an oven preheated to 350 for about 30 minutes, until edges are nicely browned.

The pan fried pies were delightfully crisp.  And in spite of some tearing, they sealed back together nicely in the pan.  In fact, I practically ripped one in half while transferring it to the pan, but you couldn’t even tell when I removed it.

The imperfections were a bit more noticeable on the baked pies, though they still held together well enough to be transported.  Though they lacked the crispy fried awesomeness of the others, they still tasted pretty darn good.   And they’re a little easier on your stomach.

The pan fried ones came out so well I am not sure I would even bother with deep frying them.

This recipe took a while, but now my fridge is stocked with enough single-serving pies to last me all week.  You could even freeze uncooked ones to make them as needed at a later date.  Why buy the frozen kind when a fresh, homemade version can be whipped together on a Sunday night?




Day seven: key lime pie

Key limes originate from Southeast Asia, having made their way through North Africa, Europe, and finally North America for their use, along with other citrus fruits, in preventing scurvy on naval fleets.  Key limes are more acidic than the more ubiquitous Persian limes, which in turn are more acidic than lemons, perhaps explaining their traditional pairing with rum (also once believed to prevent scurvy).  At one point, key limes were a significant agricultural commodity in Florida, hence their name, but orchards never quite recovered from the devastation caused by the 1926 Miami hurricane.

These days, fresh key limes are hard to find in the US, and when you do see them, they can be prohibitively expensive.  They are also labor-intensive to work with, and generally speaking, are rarely used in cooking anymore.  Thus, this recipe may be more accurately called “lime pie,” but it still retains the essence of the traditional Floridian dessert.

Key lime pie is often served with a graham cracker crust, but, contrary to popular belief, a traditional pastry crust is actually more authentic.

4 egg yolks
One 14-0z can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
1.5 teaspoon lime zest (plus 1 teaspoon for garnish)
1 tablespoon white rum
1 prebaked pie shell
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons sugar

Beat the egg yolks well.  Add the condensed milk, lime juice, 1.5 t zest, and rum. Let stand for a few minutes.

Pour into a prebaked pie crust and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven, let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

In the meantime, beat heavy cream with sugar and a teaspoon of lime zest.  Pipe onto pie.  Garnish with a lime wedge and more zest if desired.

Recipe adapted from Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie.


Day six: lemon meringue

Like coconuts, lemons aren’t exactly seasonal here.  But sometimes, when the weather outside is frightful, indulging in tropical imports is exactly what I need.  This pie is delightfully tart, with a light flavor that belies its richness.

Once again, this is another recipe from Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie.

3-4 lemons, or enough for:
–1 teaspoon lemon zest
–1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/3 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
3 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cup boiling water
4 tablespoons butter
1 prebaked pie crust

Grate and extract juice from lemons.  Take one lemon, peel with a knife and remove pith and membrane.  Chop the pulp, discarding the peel, seeds and pith.  Reserve all juice, zest and pulp.

Sift 1 1/3 cups sugar, cornstarch and salt into a saucepan.  Slowly work in the cold water, stirring constantly to dissolve the cornstarch.  Add egg yolks, zest, juice and pulp.  Keep stirring and add boiling water.  Cook over low heat for about 4 or 5 minutes after the boiling point is reached.

Stir constantly until mixture has thickened.  Beat in the butter.

Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit, stirring occassionally.

Beat egg whites with 6 T sugar to firm peaks.

Pour lemon filling into the pie shell.

Spread meringue on top, giving it some nice texture.

Brown in an oven preheated to 350 for about 10-15 minutes.

Serve chilled.