Make holiday pies special AND easy

By Jean Redstone

We always included pies as part of the dessert portion of most any holiday, but especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Pies are great to anticipate and then to eat and great to serve guests or give as a homemade gift.

But let’s face it, pies from scratch are time-consuming and labor-intensive. If you have more ambition than time, it’s just fine to streamline the pie process by using prepared, store-bought ingredients. Refrigerated crusts rolled out a little thin and dotted with butter are a near equal to the hand-made one that takes a good hour or more to craft and nearly that time to clean up after.

The same for the filling. Let some other entity do the work. Are they THAT much more expensive when you count time in prep and  cleanup?

The good  news is you can customize and personalize a pie easily, pleasing your family and rightfully taking the praises. Here are two topping recipes that are quick, not costly, and that can dress up not just pies (they will be the top layer), but most baked goods, like cupcakes, coffee cakes and layer cakes.

The three pie recipes offer a gourmet upgrade for the traditional apple, mince and pumpkin holiday pies.

cooking pie crumb topping webBROWN SUGAR AND OATS TOPPING

1/2 C rolled oats
1/2 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar, up to 1 cup, to taste

1/2 C walnuts, chopped
1/4 C shortening
1/4 C unsalted butter, cold
3/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients except shortening and butter. When mixed add shortening and work in to mixture until coarsely combined. Add butter and cut into the mixture with a hand-held metal cutter or with two knives until butter and flour mix form coarse, crumby nodules. Spoon topping over pie and bake as usual.  Makes enough for two or more pies, depending on thickness of topping.

 

coooking slice of mince pie webMINCE PIE PLUS

Fancy up the traditional holiday pie with extra taste

prepackaged pie crust

1 jar mince pie filling

1 large apple, cored, sliced

1 small can mandarin oranges, well drained

1/4 C light brown sugar

butter

Prepare pie crusts according to package directions. Place bottom crust in 9 inch pie pan. Dot bottom with a little butter. Spoon in mince meat. Top filling with apple slices interspersed with orange pieces. Sprinkle with sugar. Place second crust on top and crimp. Bake according to directions on the mince filling jar.

cooking pumpkin pie 3 webPUMPKIN PECAN PIE

Pecan pie taste under a creamy pumpkin top

Prepackaged  pie crusts

2 eggs

1 ¼ C light brown sugar

1 C pecans, chopped

3 Tbls butter, softened

¼ tsp vanilla

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie mix)

1 8 oz package  cream cheese, softened

2 Tbls all-purpose flour

1 tsp EACH of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg and ground allspice

Whipped cream or ice cream if desired

Additional chopped nuts for garnish (optional)

Heat oven to 425°F. Prepare one pie crust as directed on the package and place in 9-inch pie plate. In a medium bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, the nuts, butter and vanilla. Spread mixture on bottom of crust. In another bowl, beat the pumpkin, cream cheese and remaining 2 eggs and 3/4 cup brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed. Beat in the flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg.

Spoon pumpkin mix on top of the brown sugar-pecan layer. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F; bake 30 minutes longer or until set. Cool. Garnish with whipped cream and additional nuts as desired. Alternatively, serve warm topped with vanilla, coffee or your choice of ice cream.

Suggestion: Add even more decadence by sprinkling the pecan layer with chocolate chips before baking. You’ll get a chocolate pecan pie layer!

CINNAMON STREUSEL TOPPING

1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves (optional)
2 Tbls cold butter

Mix all ingredients except butter. When mixed add butter and cut into the mixture with a hand-held metal cutter or with two knives until butter and flour mix form coarse, crumby nodules. Spoon topping over pie and bake as usual. Covers one pie.

APPLE CREAM PIE

Add a delicious dimension to an old favorite

pre-packaged pie crust(s)
1 can apple pie filling
1 C sour cream

1 Tbls plus 1 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix sour cream, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Add canned apple filling and mix well.

Follow directions on pie crust package for one or two crusts and place bottom crust in pie dish. Add filling. Top with second crust, if using, or with crumbled topping. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes then reduce heat to 350 and bake until filling bubbles up and crust or topping is golden. Remove and let cool.

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