A Guide to Fall Pie Fundamentals
As fall officially begins, the nation partakes in a collective culinary shift. Coffee orders transition from cold brew to espresso; comforting casseroles and slow-cooked stews replace light salads and chilled soups come dinnertime. Most significantly of all, the market produce selections switch from tart summer berries to apples, sweet potatoes and other hearty fall crops that pair so nicely with rich fall spices.
Here at Food Network, we feel there’s no better way to usher in the fall harvest than with a celebration of seasonal pies. These are a few of the flavors we’re anticipating most — apple, pumpkin and sweet potato — plus a few variations on each.
The Filling: Apple
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, sure. But toss the sweet-tart fruit with butter, sugar, lemon juice and fall spices and it becomes less of a preventive health measure and more a work of art. We can’t see any harm in piling them, sliced, into a deep, buttery crust either. What you decide to do with the decorative top layer is entirely up to you, but here are some popular variations.
You can always spot a Dutch Apple Pie (pictured at top) by its streusel topping — a crumbly combination of flour, butter, sugar and chopped walnuts, which is easier to assemble than the topping of, say, a Lattice Crust Apple Pie. But if you’re up for the lattice challenge, by all means, ready your pizza cutter. You’ll need it to achieve the uniform strips of dough.
With its crisp hills and golden valleys, the blanket-like top crust that’s characteristic of Deep-Dish Apple Pie is sure to impress at your first fall soiree. Even soft and gooey cinnamon rolls can stand in for a traditional top pie crust, as evidenced by Food Network Magazine’s Cinnamon Bun Apple Pie.
The Filling: Pumpkin
It’s the flavor everyone yearns for near the end of summer and then pounces on the very second after Labor Day. Trendy, sippable variations on pumpkin are all well and good, but we’re keenest on the velvety, slide-your-fork-through texture of classic pumpkin pie.
The creamy, spicy filling in Food Network Kitchen’s classic Pumpkin Pie (pictured above) gets great body and fullness from beaten eggs and half-and-half before it’s poured into a buttery pie-crust dough. If you’re not afraid of spice in your desserts, a gingersnap crust might be more your speed. You can even create a more interesting textural canvas by adding sweet shredded coconut to the crust.
If you’re still hung up on summer and not yet ready to take the plunge into comforting fall baking, then this Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Pie might be just the thing to ease the transition.
The Filling: Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is just as characteristic of fall as strawberry-rhubarb is of summer. Like pumpkin, it marries well with maple, spirits and spice, but using sweet potatoes results in a denser, creamier texture.
If you’ve never had sweet potato pie before, we understand why you might be imagining a fibrous, mashed potato-like filling. Maple-Bourbon-Sweet Potato Pie (pictured above) and others of its kind is similar to custard, thanks to the addition of cream, butter and eggs. Some prefer their pecan pie smooth, but topping it off with candied pecans and sweet shredded coconut never hurt anyone.
The Filling: Pecan
Sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla combine to create the custard-like filling for this Southern staple. If you like a pie with lots of crunch, this one is probably your favorite, as every square inch is studded with crunchy pecans and set in a classic pie crust with crisp golden edges.
Trisha Yearwood prepares her classic Pecan Pie with a combination of granulated sugar and brown sugar, which guarantees maximum sweetness with deep, molasses-like flavor notes. Ree Drummond takes a similar approach by using white and brown sugar; she also adds a little bit of white vinegar to her pie crust, because the acid allows the crust to stay extra tender. If you’re pressed for time, there’s no shame in using a store-bought pie shell, as Sandra Lee does in her Bourbon-Pecan Pie recipe. Note that she produces robust burnt-caramel flavor by using all brown sugar, caramel sauce, bourbon and vanilla extract to create her custard filling.
The Filling: Cream Filling
If you’ve always felt that fall produce is an unsatisfying stand-in for summer berries and stone fruit, then cream pies may be your only solace.
Granulated sugar, egg yolks and flour lend this traditional Cream Pie (pictured above) its signature sunny-yellow hue. You can even throw some sliced bananas into the mix, for more sweetness and density.
For a pie with maltier flavor, try Food Network Kitchen’s Butterscotch Pie, which gets its depth from Scotch whiskey and vanilla extract.