Quiche, cheesecake, Shepard’s pie, any pie … my kids say I make round foods well. I’ll take the compliment. And it’s true that there is some about this particular shape that I find soothing — something literal, I guess, about coming full-circle.
When talking pies, there is nothing like November. It’s the first month of a real autumn chill — a time when nothing says comfort more than a cup of hot coffee, tea or chocolate and a slice of pie, homemade or otherwise. As Thanksgiving approaches, the makings that go into it become downright ubiquitous: Cans of pumpkin and sweet potato line store shelves, just beckoning to be mixed with pungent spices and tossed into the oven.
An October study by Wisevoter (https://wisevoter.com/report/most-popular-pie-by-state/), a bipartisan educational platform, listed some tasty trivia about pies.
The U.S. pie industry has around $700 million in sales annually.
The two favorites in all 50 states (Washington, D.C., wasn’t ranked separately) are pecan pie (15 states), followed by apple pie (14 states). The five most popular flavors in Maryland are apple pie, blueberry pie, coconut-cream pie, pecan pie and pumpkin pie.
According to the study, one in five Americans has eaten an entire pie all by themselves. And some 32% of Americans prefer no crust on the top of their pie.
Speaking of crust, that’s the key to this quintessential American dessert. Even if you decide not to mash pumpkin by hand or use fresh fruit for the filling, you can still go all-in on the crust. It’s inexpensive, easy to do and not so time-consuming.
Try this fail-safe recipe (courtesy of Claire Natoli, a colleague at the Manhattan Jewish Sentinel in the mid-1990s) to wow your guests this holiday season — from Thanksgiving to Chanukah to New Year’s.
Pie Crust (Dairy)
Makes 1 crust
- ¼ cup salt
- 1 cup flour
- 1 large egg (yolk only)
- 1 stick of unsalted cold butter
- 2 Tbsps. ice water
Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut cold diced butter (dice it first and then put back in fridge until chilled) and mix with pastry blender or hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Blend 1 egg yolk with 2 Tbsps. of ice-cold water.
Blend egg mixture with the flour mixture until it becomes a solid mass.
Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.
Place chilled dough on a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll it out to about a 10- or 11-inch circle, sprinkling with flour, if necessary, so dough doesn’t stick to rolling pin.
Place rolled-out dough in pie or tart pan (you can roll it onto the pin and unroll it carefully into pan). Press gently into pan and/or trim sides.
Bake according to recipe directions.