USA TODAY Network
The story of the picture-perfect holiday pie is similar to the story of Chicken Little — not many want to make it, but everyone wants to help eat it. Unlike baking bread from scratch, preparing the holiday pie is not as hard as it seems.
While the crust is often a challenge, it is not impossible.
If you aren't up for the challenge, you can find pre-made crusts or no-bake crusts, but think of the sense of accomplishment you will feel after mixing, rolling and baking a golden, flaky shell.
Pick a pie filling and a crust and get in the kitchen. If you have a favorite recipe, modify it with another crust. Try something new, make a mess, experiment, but most of all have fun. In no time at all, your pie will be the hit of the party and your skills will be the talk of the dinner table.
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Twist on Tradition
Sometimes people prefer traditional pies such as cherry, apple, pecan or pumpkin. But why not mix it up a bit?
Decedent Chocolate Pecan Pie and Ginger Pumpkin Cheesecake are the pies to try. A pecan pie is often a favorite, but add a little chocolate and a creative crust and you can bake a tasty twist on the traditional. Pumpkin is perfect, but if you add the flavor of cheesecake, your guests are going to go through the roof singing your praises.
Decadent Chocolate Pecan Pie
1 9-inch prepared pastry crust
1 cup chocolate morsels
3 tablespoons milk
4 eggs, slightly beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup dark brown corn syrup
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cup pecan halves
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line pie plate with crust. Partially bake crust 7 minutes. Remove and set aside. Immediately reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Heat and stir chocolate morsels and milk in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Pour chocolate evenly over crust; set aside. Mix slightly beaten eggs with remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Slowly pour mixture over chocolate layer.
Place a ring of aluminum foil around edges of crust to prevent over browning. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until filling is puffed, but center is soft enough to move, like gelatin, when shaken gently. Tent pie with foil if crust browns too quickly. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 10 servings. Prep time is 15 minutes and cook time is 60 minutes.
Recipe courtesy of McCormick
Ginger Pumpkin Cheesecake
8 ounces gingersnaps, finely crushed
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese or Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
¾ cup light-brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine gingersnap crumbs, butter and sugar. Press into bottom and sides of 9-inch spring-form pan. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Beat cream cheese and brown sugar with electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add next four ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake 50 minutes or until lightly browned on top and almost set.
Remove from oven and cool completely in a pan on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Run knife around inside edge of pan and release sides. Place on a serving plate and garnish with whipped cream and pecan halves. Makes 12 servings. Preparation time is 20 minutes, cook time is 65 minutes and chilling is two hours to overnight.
Recipe courtesy of McCormick
When a baker is tired of the pumpkin-apple-pecan trio, it's time to take a step up. A seasoned pie baker looking for a challenge would be satisfied making lemon meringue or key lime pie. It will take pie-baking skills to the next level. While it might be a challenge to make the peaks on a lemon meringue pie, it's not impossible.
Guests will appreciate the chance to try something daring, different and fancy.
Lemon Meringue Pie
2 cups sugar, divided
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups cold water plus 1/3 cup cool water, divided
½ cup lemon juice
5 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons butter
1 to 3 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 9-inch pie shell, baked and cooled
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Lemon-peel twists, optional
Mint leaves, optional
In a large saucepan, stir together 1½ cups of the sugar, 1/3 cup of the cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in the 1½ cups cold water and the lemon juice until smooth. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks until well blended. Stir into sugar mixture until blended. Add butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil, stirring constantly, one minute. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon peel. Pour hot filling into pie shell.
In a large mixing bowl at high speed, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add the remaining ½ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are glossy and stand in soft peaks. (Rub just a bit of meringue between thumb and forefinger to feel if sugar has dissolved.) Into small saucepan, sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Add the remaining 1/3 cup cool water. Let stand 1 minute. Stir well. Bring to boiling, stirring constantly. Let cool a few minutes. Add to egg whites, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, beating constantly. Beat in vanilla. Spread meringue over hot filling, starting with small amounts at edges and sealing crust all around. Cover pie with remaining meringue, spreading evenly in attractive swirls.
Bake in preheated 325-degree oven until peaks are lightly browned, about 16 to 18 minutes. Cool on wire rack, about 30 minutes to one hour. Serve immediately or refrigerate uncovered until serving. Garnish with lemon-peel twists and mint leaves, if desired. Refrigerate any leftovers. (When pie is refrigerated, beads may form on meringue. Gently touch beads with tip of folded paper towel until absorbed.) Makes six to eight servings.
Recipe courtesy of American Egg Board
Key Lime Pie
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons white sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup key lime juice or ¼ cup lemon and ¼ cup limes juices
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cream of tartar
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix graham crackers crumbs with sugar and melted butter. Press into 9-inch-pie plate and bake for five minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
If using bottled key lime juice, measure ½ cup of juice. If using fresh fruit, into a measuring cup, squeeze lemons and lime to get ¼ cup juice from each.
Separate two of the eggs, placing two egg whites into a mixing bowl. Reserve the yolks in another bowl.
To the yolks, add one whole egg, ½ cup juice and sweetened condensed milk. Mix well. With clean mixer blades, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry, adding cream of tartar after about 20 seconds. Fold whites into filling mixture. Pour filling into partially baked crust. Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until set. Let cool at room temperature, then freeze four hours to overnight.
Right before serving, whip cream to form stiff peaks. Serve decorated with whipped cream and lime slices. Makes eight servings.
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com, submitted by Irene DiCaprio
If you are a first-time pie baker and don't know where to start, a traditional standby is a good idea. Some people are afraid of the extremely rich pecan pie, but it isn't hard. And even using a neck pumpkin for homemade pumpkin pie takes about 15 to 20 minutes to prepare the filling.
Try a basic such as pumpkin, pecan or apple. The crust is the key, but if you aren't confident in making it from scratch, premade crusts are available in the baking or cold-food section at the grocery store.
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup dark corn syrup
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (or more) pecan halves
In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt until well blended. Evenly arrange pecan halves over bottom of pie shell. Carefully pour egg mixture over pecans. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven until knife inserted halfway between center and outside edge comes out clean, about 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on wire rack, refrigerate leftovers.
Courtesy of the American Egg Board
If you are tired of pie crusts sticking to the counter, try a variation. Some cracker or crumb crusts still require rolling, but the finished product will be so much more unique and tasty. if you keep your hands off the dough as long as possible, rolling it is a breeze. After mixing it, chill it. Form it into a round disc and roll it from the inside out, never back and forth.
Nutty Pastry Shell Single Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup ground pecans or other nuts (about 2 ounces)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
1 egg yolk
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water, divided
2 teaspoons lemon juice
To prepare the crust: In a large bowl, stir together flour, pecans and salt. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are the size of small peas. In a small bowl, stir together egg yolk, 3 tablespoons of the ice water and the lemon juice. Add to flour mixture, mixing lightly with fork until dough just sticks together. If necessary, add remaining 1 tablespoon water. Using lightly floured hands, press into ball.
On lightly floured surface or pastry cloth, rolling from center to edge, into ‰-inch thick circle about 10 inches in diameter. Place rolling pin at edge of dough and loosely wrap dough around rolling pin. Lift dough-wrapped rolling pin and center dough on 9-inch pie pan or plate. Carefully unroll dough. Fit loosely into a 9-inch pie pan or plate, pressing gently to cover bottom and sides of the pan. Trim edge and flute as desired. Prick bottom and sides of dough with fork. For pie pan, bake in preheated 450-degree oven. For pie plate, bake at 425 degrees. For filling which will be baked in pie shell, bake until lightly browned, about five to six minutes. For filling which will not be baked, bake until golden brown, about eight to 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Nutty Graham Cracker Shell Single Crust
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 4 ounces)
½ cup ground toasted almonds or other nuts (about 2 ounces)
1/3 cup butter, softened
¼ cup sugar
Stir together cracker crumbs, almonds, butter and sugar until evenly combined. Press firmly over bottom and up sides of 9-inch pie pan. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven eight to 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Gingersnap Pie Shell Single Crust
2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies (about 36 cookies)
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup melted butter
In a medium bowl, stir together cookie crumbs and sugar until well blended. Stir in butter. Press onto bottom and sides of 10-inch pie plate. Make 4-inch band of triple-thickness aluminum foil long enough to go around a plate and overlap 2 inches. Wrap foil around edge of plate, crimping lightly around rim to shield edge of crust.
Recipes courtesy of the American Egg Board
Best-Ever Pie Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
½ cup water
In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water until mixture forms a ball. Divide dough in half, and shape into balls. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Roll out dough on a floured counter. Don't overwork it. Use as directed in pie recipe. Makes two crusts.
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com