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It’s Thanksgiving! Let them eat pie

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

For Thanksgiving dessert, you need a big serving of tradition.

And we think pie is the way to go.

The nice thing about pie is you can fix it in advance, tuck it in the refrigerator, or a handy cooler, and move on to the 17 other things you decided to make.

What’s your tradition? Apple, pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato, old-fashioned chess or buttermilk pie?

In some families, pumpkin pie is not a big thing — diners can take it or leave it. In those families, sweet potatoes are often preferred.

Does your pecan pie have just a few nuts because all you really want is the gooey filling?

Let’s try to keep it simple and straightforward for the already busy cook with some traditional, not-too-complicated pies.

You should be able to add one or two of these to your regular repertoire, and as you get comfortable with the basic method, you can make additions and subtractions. Want more cinnamon? Add it. Leave out the cloves? Fine.

Perfect your version and it will become the holiday dessert everyone looks forward to. You’ve done enough already if you’ve made a turkey, dressing, two or three sides, gravy and rolls. Plus, we’re stuffed! Basic works at Thanksgiving because we’ve already had an abundance.

One year, you’ll venture out towards pumpkin cheesecake or bourbon pecan pie or sweet potato mousse. But if you don’t, that’s OK, too.

We found a recipe for a dynamite sounding sweet potato pie with a gingersnap crust, but the ingredient list got long and it required quite a bit of fuss.

Here’s one that’s super easy. You can dress it up any way you like.

Sweet Potato Pie

2 medium sweet potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds

1/3 cup butter, softened

2 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten

3/4 cup evaporated milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. salt

1 unbaked pastry shell or your own crust

You can bake your sweet potatoes at 375 for 60-90 minutes, or boil them for 13-15 minutes. Some say the baked sweet potatoes have a deeper flavor. If boiling, drain and mash into the pan and cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, mix well. Add milk, 2 cups of the mashed sweet potatoes, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; mix well. Pour into pie shell and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake about 35-40 minutes longer, until set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Now, if you want to add your own touches, consider adding a bit of ginger to the pie — about 1/4 tsp., or whip your cream with a splash of bourbon. Or, make the filling and use a graham cracker crust.

This is a good apple pie recipe for beginners.

Mom’s Easy Apple Pie

Two pie crusts (refrigerated is fine)

6 cups peeled, thinly sliced apples (Granny Smith or a mix)

3/4 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If using refrigerated crust, bring to room temperature.

Unroll 1 pie crust and place in a 9-inch glass pie plate.

In a large bowl, toss together all the other ingredients and mix well.

Transfer filling to the pie plate. Unroll the second crust and place it on top of the apples, tucking the extra top crust in to the bottom crust edge, pinching together to seal.

Cut slits in the pie to allow steam to vent. Optional: Make a simple egg wash using 1 egg and a little water and brush over the pie. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until crust is brown and apples are tender. About halfway through baking, cover the edges of the crust with foil to prevent crust from getting too brown.

Cool pie on wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and cinnamon.

For a variation: Add 1 tsp. of vanilla extract or 1-2 tsp. rum or bourbon to the filling.

Pecan pie is one of the easiest recipes ever. It uses just a few ingredients, and it doesn’t need anything more than a dollop of whipped cream, or it can stand alone in its gooey glory. Except for the crust, all ingredients can be stirred in a bowl with a whisk or a spoon — no need for heavy equipment.

Pecan Pie

3 room temperature eggs

1 cup dark corn syrup

1/2 cup brown or white sugar

4 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

Pinch of salt

1 to 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

A few pecan halves, for garnish

1 pastry crust

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the crust and set aside.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with a fork or wire whisk until the yolks and whites are blended. Add corn syrup, sugar, melted butter, vanilla and salt and blend well. Stir in the pecans. Garnish top with pecan halves, if desired.

Bake the pie at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until set. The pie will be brown on the edges, and slightly jiggly in the center.

Cool completely before serving with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Pumpkin pie is a staple of the Thanksgiving meal for many households. The point is, we love the cinnamon, clove and ginger spices that flavor what is just an ordinary squash. Even foodies agree there’s no need to buy a pumpkin, bake it, mash it and use it for your pie. What comes in a can in the grocery store is all you need.

Be sure to look for pureed pumpkin and leave the pumpkin pie filling on the shelf. That can be cloyingly sweet and rather gummy. Pick your crust — make your own or buy a refrigerated crust or try a gingersnap or graham cracker crust.

The filling is another easy recipe, and likely on the side of the can of pumpkin, or here, in case you miss it. Again, all you need is a spoon, a bowl and a pie pan.

Basic Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup white sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 can 100% pure pumpkin

1 12 oz. can evaporated milk

1 unbaked 9-inch deep dish pie shell

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl, then stir in pumpkin and the sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

Pour into pie shell and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for 40-50 minutes more, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours and serve or refrigerate. Serve with whipped cream.

If you’d rather use pumpkin pie spice, add about 1 and 1/2 tsp.

If you really want to go old-school, make a simple buttermilk pie. In many homes, the sighs of delight will be loud. It’s just milk and sugar, with butter. What could be better?

Buttermilk Pie

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 Tbsp. loosely packed lemon zest

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pie crust in pan and set aside.

Whisk together sugar and flour in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs and remaining ingredients into flour mixture. Pour into crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50  minutes, or until almost set, covering edges of crust with foil after 15 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool one hour.

Top with berries before serving, if desired.

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