Pure And Simple Holiday Pies

IN THE KITCHEN

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Celebrate the season with the fresh baked aroma and delicious flavor of a homemade pie. When made from scratch, a pie is a simple way to make any holiday meal special.

Treat your family and friends to a festive pie made with the finest ingredients -- real butter for a light, flaky crust, along with flavorful spices and ripe fruit or rich chocolate for a supreme filling.

With these pure and simple recipes, a homemade pie is well within your baking abilities -- no matter what your level of baking expertise.

The three featured pie crusts -- press-in, rustic and fancy -- vary in their degree of difficulty, from beginner to advanced. Simply choose the version you feel most comfortable making, select a corresponding pie filling, gather your ingredients and start baking.

  • Beginner pie makers will find the "press-in" pie crust easiest to make -- simply mix together ingredients and press into a pie pan. (See Candied Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie recipe.)
  • Those with moderate baking skills will find the "rustic" pie crust ideal -- after the pastry dough is rolled out, simply use your hands to shape it around the filling to form an artisan-looking crust. (See Cherry Apple Pie recipe.)
  • For the advanced baker, the "fancy" pie crust makes an elegant presentation -- place the rolled crust into a pan and fold the edge of the pastry under, crimping with fingers, to create a fancy fluted edge. (See Chocolate Peppermint Pie recipe.)

Chocolate Peppermint Pie

Makes eight servings.

1 (9-inch) pie crust (press-in or fancy)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup pasteurized egg product

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 cup white chocolate chips, melted and cooled

1/2 cup (20) peppermint candies, crushed

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Pie Crust:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place or press dough into 9-inch pie pan.

Prick pastry with a fork. Line bottom and up sides of crust with foil and add dried beans or pie weights. Bake 15 minutes, remove foil. Bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until crust is golden. Remove to wire rack; cool completely.

Filling:

In bowl, beat together butter, cream cheese and sugar. Combine egg product and whipping cream, gradually add to butter mixture while beating, scraping bowl often. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reserve half of mixture in small bowl. Add cooled white chocolate to remaining half of mixture; beat well. Stir in crushed candy. Spread in baked pie crust; chill 10 minutes.

Return reserved butter mixture to bowl, add cooled semi-sweet chocolate; beat well. Spread over white chocolate layer. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

For additional holiday pie recipes and pie-baking tips, visit www.butterisbest.com.

Candied Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie

Makes eight servings.

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

2 tablespoons flour

3 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur (optional)

1/2 cup sour cream

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust (press-in or fancy)

Candied Hazelnut Topping:

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon Frangelico liqueur (optional)

3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup hazelnuts, peeled and chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In bowl, stir together pumpkin, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, flour, eggs, liqueur and sour cream; mix well. Pour into pie crust, fold narrow strip of foil over edges of crust to prevent over browning; bake 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make topping. In bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and liqueur. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in hazelnuts.

Remove foil from pie and sprinkle with topping. Bake 15 to 20 minutes more or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Cherry Apple Pie

Makes eight servings.

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups Fuji, Gala or Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced

1 cup dark sweet or tart cherries*

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust (press-in, rustic or fancy)

5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Streusel Topping:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In bowl, stir together sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Add apples to cinnamon-sugar mixture; mix thoroughly. Add cherries and lemon juice; mix thoroughly. Place mixture in pie crust; dot with butter.

For topping, stir together flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly; sprinkle over apples and butter. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, until crust is golden. Remove to wire rack and cool.

  • May use fresh cherries with pits removed; frozen cherries, thawed and drained; OR canned cherries, drained.

Butter Pie Crust (three ways)

Makes one (9-inch) pie crust.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon vinegar

5 to 6 tablespoons ice water

In medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar and salt.

Using pastry blender, cut butter cubes into flour mixture until pieces are pea-size.

Sprinkle vinegar over flour mixture, tossing with fork.

Sprinkle water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over flour mixture, tossing with fork each time until dough is moistened and crumbly.

Continue recipe with specific pie crust directions below.

Press-In Crust:

Press crumbs firmly on bottom and up sides of 9-inch pie plate.

Rustic Crust:

Gather dough into ball, flatten into disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Roll dough into 12-inch circle; place on ungreased baking sheet. Place filling in center of crust. Bring pastry up and 2 to 3 inches over filling, overlap or pleat and gather folds in dough; gently press together where necessary.

Fancy Crust:

Gather dough into ball, flatten into disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Roll dough into 12-inch circle. Gently fold crust into quarters, center over 9-inch pie plate and unfold. Ease crust into plate. Trim pastry, leaving 1-inch overhang beyond plate edge. Fold crust edge under and crimp or flute edge using fork or fingers.

Recipes and photos from Family Features Syndicate

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