For a while, it had seemed like the holidays had lost value, as if, with all the schoolwork and stresses of everyday life, there wasn’t really any magic left in getting together for the holidays. For a few years there, I, the oldest cousin on both sides of the family, felt a little disenchanted with the whole enterprise. The anticipation had left, the time spent pondering dishes to be cooked had departed, and in losing the anticipation, the whole thing had disappeared.
But within the last few years I’ve realized that I don’t mind a little lost time. Thanksgiving is still a day when I don’t have to think about anything except for whether I should be helping to cut pie or whether three movies in a row is perhaps too much. The magical awe of childhood has departed yet I’ve come to appreciate the holidays themselves even more.
I guess I’ve also reached that point where you start enjoying the holidays not for what they do for you, but for the happiness they inspire in your younger relatives. A highlight of this Thanksgiving was playing hide and go seek with my twin cousins Alistair and Caroline, both three. Watching as Alistair ran back and forth, between the living room and the dining room, to climb on his mother’s lap and vouch that a snake was chasing him was a highlight. My brother was the snake, and then the dinosaur, and then the sloth who repeatedly got him laughing and slipping through the hallways.
Yes, this year the holidays are simpler, but I’m happy for it. I know I’m not missing anything anymore.
This year, I made two pies, one gluten and the other gluten-free. It was some night around 11 last week that I stumbled upon this pie. The beautiful pictures had me in love with it from the moment I laid eyes on them, so I decided to forgo my traditional pumpkin pie for something a little different. The other pie I found in the most recent Bon Appétit magazine. It was red wine, rosemary, and pear pie. Though I hemmed and hawed about whether I should attempt a gluten-free crust, I became a little fixated on the lattice top and yolk-enriched crust and had to try the real recipe out.
Now I’ve got to say I loved both of them, particularly the sweet potato pie. It’s just sweet potatoes, a little evaporated milk, some eggs and spices that give it a rich texture reminiscent of cheesecake. The spices don’t overpower, and it’s not too sweet, making it so incredibly addictive.
I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving! Here’s hoping you’re not all too full to try some pie, albeit maybe in a week or so…
Sweet Potato Pie
Adapted kinda sorta from Joy the Baker
3 cups gingersnap crumbs (I buy gluten-free gingersnaps and it’s much easier)
6 Tablespoons salted butter
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes, aka 2 sweet potatoes (Joy says medium, mine were probably on the large end)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp coriander (it seems strange but is really good)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter
10 ounces evaporated milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter and mix thoroughly with the crumbs. Press crumbs into a 9.5-inch (9 or 10-inch would probably work fine but you’d have to just be careful with the cooking times) springform pan with the bake of a ramekin or by hand. Bake for 5 minutes, then set aside to cool.
Preheat oven (or just turn it down) to 375 degrees. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into chunks. Set in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and let cook for around 20 to 25 minutes, until very tender. Drain potatoes. Return to the same pot or a saucepan and add brown sugar, spices, salt, butter and half the milk. Mash and cook the potatoes until they have come to a simmer and simmered for five minutes (I may have cooked them even longer). At this point, if you have an immersion blender you can blend the potatoes in the pan. If not, you should puree them in a food processor until they are as smooth as possible. Then, let cool.
Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining milk, eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Whisk into the cooled sweet potato puree. Then pour all into the crust, smoothing the top. Either wrap the bottom of the pan in aluminum foil or set the pie on a baking sheet so it won’t drip. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Then, turn down the temperature of the oven and bake for another 40-55 minutes (it really depends on the size of the pan though). It shouldn’t jiggle too much when it comes out.
Let cool for a couple hours prior to eating. I baked mine the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight which I can only assume improved the texture.
Pear Pie with Red Wine and Rosemary
As written (for the ingredients) from Bon Appétit, November 2013 issue
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks very cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup very cold shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup ice water
2 egg yolks
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 pounds pears, peeled and thinly sliced (I used Bartlett, though the recipe said Comice or Anjou would also work. My only advice is to get firm, but still ripe pears. Mine were as hard as rocks to start, and though not so bad after cooking, they would have been better if they’d been riper)
1 3/4 cup dry red wine
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tsp flour
5 tsp cornstarch or tapioca starch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
Pulse together flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs. Turn into a large bowl. Whisk together eggs, vinegar, and ice water. Drizzle over the dough in two increments, mixing with a fork or your hands between each addition.
Turn onto a floured surface and form pile into two disks. Set the disks atop each other and press together, then separate and pile them together again. Separate a last time and form into 1-inch thick disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap, then set in the fridge for an hour or up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium saucepan simmer 1 1/2 cups red wine, sugar, cinnamon and rosemary until the mixture reduces to about 2/3 cup. Strain into a bowl. Meanwhile, in the same pan, mix thickeners, and remaining red wine. Over medium heat, cook for 1 minute, or until thickened. Slowly (if you do this too quickly you’ll end up with lumps) whisk the wine syrup into the thickeners. Remove from heat and add the salt, vanilla, and butter. Allow to cool while you shape the pie crusts.
Roll the first disk out on a floured surface to 14 inches in diameter. Place in pie pan and trim sides so they overhang by only 1 inch.
Pour wine syrup over pear pieces in a large bowl then turn into crust. Place in fridge while forming the top crust.
Roll out second disk to 14-inch diameter. Cut 12, 1-inch strips. Lay 6 across the top of the pie, and weave the remaining 6 into the top.
Whisk egg and brush over the pie. Sprinkle sugar over. Place pie in fridge for 15 minutes before placing in the oven. Bake in the lower third of the oven on a baking sheet for 30 minutes. At this point you may want to cover the top with foil if it’s browning too much, or rotate it. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 60-75 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool for at least 45 minutes before serving.