While I’m beyond thrilled to be leaving for Australia in just seven days, there’s a fairly substantial storm cloud hanging over my 15-day getaway.
I’ll be missing Thanksgiving.
While skipping my favorite holiday is probably good for my waistline, I’m really going to miss the yearly tradition of hunting down new recipes, forking over a small fortune on organic groceries, and spending the better part of three days preparing an autumnal feast that is up to Scott’s foodie standards.
I can’t help but dwell on what could have been.
One of us would have spilled the turkey brine, I’d mistakenly triple the recipe for my sausage stuffing, and Scott would have some sort of melt down–most likely involving our new convection oven screwing up his dinner rolls. We would return to the grocery store at least five times to round up forgotten ingredients. I would acquire a second degree burn on the back of my arm. Scott would take cheap shots at the turkey frills I insisted on ordering. Sure, our culinary endeavor would almost end in divorce, but it would all be worth it when we sat down to an epic calorie-fest featuring Scott’s magical gravy that I still can’t replicate for the life of me.
Ah, Thanksgiving. I’m going to miss your football, the chaos you cause in my kitchen, not to mention the opportunity to finally use the wedding china we just unpacked after nearly seven years.
But most of all? Most of all I will miss your pies.
If there’s one thing Scott and I take seriously, it’s pie. (And Nordstrom Rack…but that’s an entirely different blog post.) Last Thanksgiving, there were three people at our table, each of whom had their very own made-from-scratch pie. That’s the marvelous thing about Thanksgiving’s official pastry — the potential for pie-tastic leftovers! While one pie per person might seem like overkill, we ate several slices for breakfast the next day, and brought the remaining slivers along on a Black Friday visit to Duluth. We’ve affectionately dubbed our traveling dessert–which simply must be eaten without utensils–“road pie”.
Yeah. I’m really going to miss my pies this year. But just because I’m going without my beloved Thanksgiving confection doesn’t mean you have to. In need of some pie inspiration? ‘Sota’s got you covered. Below, please enjoy a curated collection of my three must-try pies for Thanksgiving 2013.
That’s right. I’m now a pie-curator. It’s not an easy job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Pie
Pecan pie is my absolute favorite, and adding salty pretzels to this mix takes it over the top — in a good way. And if I were making it? I’d swap out the chocolate chips for melted caramel candies, kind of like this. Good for the soul, baaaad for the thighs.
Sweet Potato Pie with Gingersnap Crust
I made this last year as a fun twist on a traditional pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie has never been my favorite holiday treat — although let’s be real…that’s never stopped me from eating piece after piece covered in heavy whipping cream. Do I look like the kind of girl who turns down pie?
On second thought, please don’t answer that.
Anyway, this recipe was an absolute hit–particularly the gingersnap crust. Everyone–including Scott who is frighteningly loyal to all things pumpkin–agreed he preferred this new alternative over a classic pumpkin pie.
I’m one of the bizarre few who harbors a deep-seeded love for fruitcake. Candied nuts, emerald-green things that are allegedly “cherries”, and all that sugar? What’s not to love?! (Never tried fruitcake? Don’t be scared by its bad rap — it’s nothing short of magnificent. I highly recommend the ones sold in the Costco bakery.)
I’ve never made this recipe, but based on the ingredients, it’s safe to assume it tastes like a little slice of fruitcake heaven. Pineapple, dates, pecans and cherries? Yes please.
An added bonus? This pie is less extreme than a full-on fruitcake–a great option for diners who might still be on the fence about the holiday season’s most misunderstood baked good.
A note about pie crusts:
I know what you’re thinking.
“Is it cheating if I use a pre-made store-bought crust?”
Yes. Yes it is.
I swear, preparing a made from scratch pie crust is fool-proof if you follow this recipe and abide by my five pie crust rules.
1. Use butter. Do not use lard or shortening. Trust me on this one.
2. You must must must dice your butter into small cubes (about the size of peas) and put them in the freezer for fifteen minutes or so before mixing them in. Do not skip this step, lest you want to anger the pie gods. (AKA, Jolie and I.)
3. A pastry cutter is absolutely essential. It helps makes your dough coarse and crumbly without over working it. (Over mixing is death to pie crust.) If you’ve had problems with crust before, it’s probably because you didn’t use a pastry cutter. I picked mine up at Target on the cheap — here’s a similar version from Amazon.
4. It’s okay to use more water than the recipe indicates. For some reason, 1/4 cup is never enough to get my dough sticky enough to form a ball. Keep adding, one spoonful at a time, until you get there. And yes, it must be ice water.
5. When you wrap your dough balls in plastic to refrigerate them, you should be able to see chunks of butter in the dough that haven’t been mixed in all the way. These are what will make your curst flaky. If you don’t see the butter chunks, you probably over mixed.
There you have it–my trusty tips for Thanksgiving pastry excellence. Now go forth and make excellent pies that will impress your guests and force you to change into pants with an elastic waistband. And if it’s not too much trouble…send me some pie pics on Instagram? I’ll live vicariously through them while I’m traversing the pie-free outback.*
*I’m actually sticking to the East Coast and won’t be venturing into the Australian Outback at all…I just thought that last sentence sounded good.
**Apparently pies–particularly meat pies–are huge down under. So, while I may be missing Thanksgiving, I’m sure I’ll fit my favorite pastry in somehow.
***If Marie Calendar’s frozen pot pies are any indication, I may like this Australian meat pies even more than my beloved pecan. Blasphemous, I know.
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