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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two-fers Tuesday, Part Two: Battle of the Southern Belles

When I was little, I spent insane amounts of energy trying to keep myself from reading the last chapter in books. I absolutely ruined a couple of The Boxcar Children books when my willpower caved. That said, sometimes knowing the ending made the rest of the book even more enticing. This is one of my favorite parts about baking. When reading a recipe, knowing how it turns out makes the "how-to" all the more intriguing.

The end of this story is really simple. We have two show-stopping, delightfully simple pumpkin pies that are traditional enough to incite palate-nostalgia and unique enough that you won't have to go up against your mamma's.

THIS is Paula's recipe, Apple Butter Pecan Pie. As you'll notice, she doesn't provide a crust recipe. This irks me just a tad. Not to say that I'm a hater of pre-made ingredients across the board or even pre-made crusts for every occasion, but in my (incredibly humble) opinion, it's Thanksgiving, if you can't bring out your rolling pin once a year, I might cry a bit. Now, I completely understand the stigma against crusts. For something that is technically a vehicle for the flavor-packed filling, why would you want to spend inordinate amounts of time on it? And for that matter, chefs, bakers, and even Food Channel stars spend unnecessary amounts of time focusing on the horrors of adding too much water, too little water, 'working' the pastry too much, 'working' the pastry too little...exhausting.

Well I am here to provide you with a full-proof, I repeat, full-proof, all-purpose crust recipe.

(makes 2 9-inch crusts)

I swear I made it 
Tip #1 (aka the key to all pie crusts) - all ingredients must be as cold as the refrigerator can make them but not frozen.

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tspn salt
1 tbspn sugar
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup ice water

Tip #2 - use a food processor.

Put flour, salt, sugar in food processor and pulse a couple times. Pulse in the butter and vegetable shortening until the butter and shortening are the size of marbles.

Gradually pulse in the ice water until the dough begins to form a ball all by itself! (Herein lies the glory of the food processor).

Tip #3 - some boring Sunday early in November, make a double batch and freeze it. You too can get a pie in the oven in 20 minutes flat.


 Recipe Ease: from collecting ingredients to putting the pie in the oven, this took all of 15-30 minutes. It doesn't get easier. Leave it to Ms. Dean to allow any lady to feel like a culinary goddess.

Yumminess: the apple butter intensifies the flavor beyond all belief. This is way more than a pumpkin pie. This is Autumn in a pretty pastry package.

Health Benefits: It's Paula, just don't think about it. Need to rationalize? Pumpkins are incredible antioxidants. That's all I've got...go eat the pie and hop on the treadmill tomorrow.
 $$$: THIS is more expensive than THAT, primarily because of the apple butter. I promise it's worth it!

Best in Show-worthy: For all you traditionalists out there, this is what you're looking for. Sure, it's pumpkin pie on flavor steroids, but it looks like the pumpkin pie you know and love from your a chicer, yummier, spice-filled way.

that rich molasses color comes from the fact that we literally packed every ounce of possible flavor in there

THAT is Claire Robinson's Ginger Pumpkin Tart recipe. If you're not a borderline obsessive Food Network-phile, Claire is the newest spunky host to grace the screen. To be honest, she annoyed me a bit at first. As I consider myself a southern girl, I tend to judge new TV personalities on the validity of their 'southerness' and boy howdy did I give her a hard time. Somewhere in the middle of a Claire marathon that I may or may not have been aimlessly glued to, she grew on me. And, I think she'll grow on you once you try THAT recipe. 

Recipe Ease: did you see the name of her show? Did you count the ingredients? That's right, there are 5, including the pinch of salt. There isn't easier. 

Yumminess: the flavors in THAT are nothing but traditional. It's nearly all pumpkin. The texture, on the other hand, is almost mousse-y as opposed to the standard custard. It's lighter, airier and less dense than your standard pie. Also, that gingersnap crust adds the exact flavor snap for which you're looking. 
Health Benefits: definitely the winner. 
 $$$: see THIS 

Best in Show-worthy: look at that beauty. It's a pale orange with a caramel colored crust, and removed from the tart tin, it looks nothing like your momma's. 
      eat me                                     

There are countless (an)OTHER recipes.

Remember my recipe for the chocolate-y dumplings to make with crust scrappings? This is it. Why does it have a chunk taken out of it already? Jon and I couldn't manage to wait to take a picture before devouring at least half of it.

Jon came up with the brilliant idea to use the apple butter instead of melted butter. Just do it.

To keep on theme with my 'waste not, want not', what are some options if you have extra filling?

secret family toffee recipe...maybe one day I'll share
Above, ANOTHER option is to put the leftover filling into ramekins, filling them up 3/4 of the way. Bake at the same temperature as the pie calls for around 15-20 minutes. The top will start to crack. Let it cool to your desired temperature, put a dollop of whipped cream and some toffee candy.

ANOTHER route to take with the ramekins is to dollop with ice cream and sprinkle with crumbled gingersnap. I added a whole one in there under the pretense of 'showing what was in it'...truthfully, I just love any excuse to eat gingersnaps.

Do you have any alternatives to the traditional pumpkin pie? Any uses for leftover yolks, egg whites, filling, or crust? Please do share!

Happiest and healthiest Thanksgiving wishes to you and all of yours.

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