AWARD-WINNING APPLE PIE
2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Crisco shortening
4 tablespoons ice water
Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening with pasty blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add water, mix with fork, and form into ball. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate while preparing filling.
6-8 Stayman, Cortland, and Baldwin or Melrose apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
Milk for brushing pastry
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix apples, sugar, flour, spices, and lemon juice together. Divide pastry in half and roll out each half. Line 9-inch pie plate with one half: Fill with apple mixture. Dot with butter, cover with remaining pastry. Seal and flute edges, brush top with milk, and sprinkle with sugar. Make slits on top. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Serves 8.
- Recipe from Dorothy Craig, winner of the Salem Cross Inn apple-pie-baking contest held annually in West Brookfield, Mass.
CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE
'Food writers constantly think about improving on the tried and true, a habit that breeds both genius and folly. When I began thinking about ''improving'' gooey pecan pie, the best I could come up with was chocolate. The result was immensely gratifying, perhaps improved from a chocoholic's perspective, but actually in a class of its own.... Serve with whipped cream, vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Try to make this pie a day ahead for best texture.'
One 9-inch pie shell
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into several large pieces
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Big pinch of salt
3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped toasted pecans
Chill the pie shell for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the honey and brown sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer, stirring, for 1 minute. Turn the heat off, and add the butter and chocolate. Let sit for 10 minutes, then whisk to smooth. Scrape the contents of the pan into a bowl and cool for 10 minutes.
Whisk the salt, eggs, yolk, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then whisk them into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the chopped pecans. Scrape the filling into the chilled pie shell.
Bake the pie for 40 to 50 minutes. When done the pie will puff but may still seem slightly wobbly in the center; that's good. Cool the pie on a rack. The texture improves markedly as the pie sits; several hours is good, but overnight - covered and refrigerated - is best. Serves 8.
- From 'Simple Desserts,' by Ken Haedrich (Bantam Books)
PEPPERY SWEET-POTATO PIE
'Sweet potatoes are interchangeable with pumpkin in most pie recipes, but in my opinion, the sweet potato's slightly more dense and smooth texture makes it superlative - perfect for holding up lots of heavy cream. This version is spiked with a little cayenne.'
1 prebaked 9-inch pie shell
1 1/2 cups pureed or thoroughly mashed sweet potato (about 1-1/4 pounds fresh, weighed before baking, or about 1 pound canned, well-drained)
2 cups heavy cream
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Whipped cream for garnishing (optional)
Prepare the pie shell. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together until smooth the sweet potato, cream, eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cayenne pepper. Pour the filling into the pie shell. (You may have some left over.)
Bake the pie for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F., and bake for an additional 45 minutes, until firm. Test by inserting a table knife into the center. When the knife comes out clean, the pie is done.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Decorate with whipped cream, if desired.
- From 'The Artful Pie,' by Lisa Cherkasky and Renee Comet (Chapters, 1993)