Today I bake pies, which makes me feel like the queen of the whole wide world. Once a year, when those babies are cooling on the kitchen table, my husband, Anthony suddenly remembers why he married me.
And the best part of it all is that - since the pie crust shells are ready to go - it's so easy. Most of the time I'll be playing Spider Solitaire, knocking back a well-earned limoncello.
Every year I do the exact same two pies: pecan and pumpkin. In fact, every year I do the exact same meal, which is why I've got this down. My Thanksgiving dinner is pretty much perfect, so why would I mess with that? I'm not saying it's healthy. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter I don't cook "healthy". That's why they call them "holidays".
I start with the pecan pie and then do pumpkin because of the temperature of the oven. The pecan bakes at 375 degrees. The pumpkin starts at 425 and then goes down to 350. Do the math.
These recipes look a little more like real recipes than I usually write, because baking is science. Cooking is an art, and you can play around with it to suit your tastes, but not baking. Baking is chemistry you eat.
I think I got the pecan pie recipe from the back of a package of pecans. It looked weird and, in my experience, recipes that look weird are usually great. This pie is creamy, like the inside of a Caramello Bar, and it's a freaking masterpiece.
1 1/2 cups of corn syrup
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup (half a stick) of butter
1 cup of chopped pecans
3 slightly beaten eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
Dash of salt
Pie crust shell
Put the corn syrup, sugar, and butter in a saucepan and bring it to a boil on top of the stove. Turn down the heat and boil gently for 5 minutes, stirring once in a while. Take it off the heat and let the syrup mixture cool down a bit, maybe 45 minutes. It will form a skin on top, but don't worry. Just stir it until the skin melts. Put the chopped pecans into the pie shell. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, and salt. When the syrup is cool enough (so it doesn't start cooking the eggs), pour it slowly into the egg mixture and beat well. Pour all of this over the pecans. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Or until the center isn't real soupy when you jiggle it. Sometimes that takes up to 45 minutes, so use your judgement. But don't overbake. It'll settle down some when it cools off.
During that 35 minutes, you can get your pumpkin pie ready. This recipe is pretty much straight out of The Joy of Cooking, and if they ever want a cut of my royalties it will be worth every penny.
2 cups of cooked, pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups of whipping cream
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of ginger
1/4 tsp of nutmeg
1/8 tsp of ground cloves
2 slightly beaten eggs
Pie crust shell
Mix all the ingredients together (except, obviously, the pie crust) until well blended. Pour into the pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Then lower the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes to an hour. Once again, check the "soupy" factor when you jiggle the pie and use your judgement. Don't let the crust burn.
Serve both pies with the whipped cream that you're going to whip tomorrow after dinner. Better yet, have your kids (if applicable) whip the cream, since it is an easy, but boring, job and can take up to a half hour. Or more, depending on your karma. This is a good reason to have kids, if you can't think of any other ones. Here's the recipe, in case you're feeling inspired tonight.
Pour four small, or two large, containers of heavy whipping cream into a big bowl. Whip with an electric beater, on a low/medium speed. It will spritz, and there's nothing you can do to stop it, so wear an apron. When the cream can stand up by itself in peaks, fold in a teaspoon of vanilla and 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar with a rubber scraper. Try not to eat it right out of the bowl.
Now, how easy was that?
Is your husband (if applicable) smiling?