Here are some deep thoughts about making pies for Thanksgiving. I made an apple and a pumpkin the night before Turkey Day. Give this a read and you may try something different when you make your pies this Christmas. The methods here described are taken heavily from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (see below). Oven temp seems to be where most pies go wrong.
The America’s Test Kitchen irons out the kinks in great detail. I used it for my pre-flight planning, and then took off like a mad aviator with a wing-walker out on a wing with a sticky flap . Sorta par for the course when I try to simplify the heck out of something and see if it still works.
Apple Pie with double crust
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Preheat a baking sheet (drip catcher). If you need to bake 2 pies, you’ll need a smaller jelly roll pan that fits into the oven in portrait orientation (see photo).
After assembling the apple pie with bottom and top crust (both crusts raw), put the pie on the pre-heated baking sheet in the 500 degree oven. Then immediately lower the oven setting to 425 degrees F and bake for 25 minutes (or til top crust is golden). Rotate the baking sheet and reduce oven temp to 375 degrees F. Bake at 375 about 30-35 minutes longer until crust is deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Transfer the pie dish to a wire rack to cool to room temp.
Pumpkin Pie with a single crust
The single (bottom-only) crust is partially pre-baked and hot when the filling is poured in. This will give a flakier, tastier crumb on the bottom of the pie.
Roll the crust and put it in the pie pan. Flute the edges. Freeze it for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Weight the crust with foil and pie weights (or dry beans). Place in oven for 25 to 30 minutes til the crust looks dry but still a light color. Not looking for brown here. While the crust is partially pre-baking, prepare the pumpkin pie filling. Remove the crust from oven, but increase the oven temp to 400 degrees F. Pour the pumpkin filling into the hot crust and return to the oven. Any extra filling that won’t fit into the crust can be ladled in after the pie bakes for 5 minutes and the filling has settled. Bake for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees, or til done. Doneness: pumpkin filling is slightly puffed and lightly cracked around the edges and the center wiggles slightly when jiggled.
America’s Test Kitchen describes a complicated process for the pumpkin filling in which the pumpkin is cooked til hot with the spices and then mixed with the cream, then tempered into the eggs in the blender. That mixture is poured into the pie crust when it’s hot from the oven. The Lazy Primalist is not doing all of that this year. She simply pre-baked the shell, blended up the pumpkin filling ingredients which sat out and warmed up to room temp (not the safest way to do this, but I’m being honest here) and then poured into hot crust. She figured this was an approximation, since if one had tempered hot pumpkin into egg and cream mixture, one’s filling would have been somewhat warm, anyway. In the end, she was foiled again by the oven timer: in a move made many times before, she accidentally turned off the oven midway and the apple pie coasted to a stop. Hey, wing walker, it’s time to come back into the plane and buckle up! Tomorrow is Turkey Day! We’ll eat the pies tomorrow, anyway. They look nice, anyway.
For the full instructions on pies and crusts, find recipes tested by the America’s Test Kitchen folks in this cookbook, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Then you can wing it like me, or follow very detailed instructions on making perfect home-style food.