Happy Thanksgiving to friends in the US!
I already celebrated Thanksgiving back in October with a very traditional feast combining family favourites such as Mushroom Pancetta Chestnut dressing and Spiced Port Apple Cranberry Sauce along with new additions like Chipotle Corn Chowder and Caramel Pumpkin Pie. The cooking was a bit involved but I thoroughly enjoyed the delicious meal shared with love ones.
For anyone who pay even the tiniest attention to food media, the last three weeks have been non-stop on everything Thanksgiving related. It's difficult not to get caught up in the holiday spirit even though it's not really my celebration so to speak. However, any excuse to feasting is definitely welcomed, especially one which pies hold a place of honour on the table!
Free from family obligations, for me, American Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to experiment with new dishes. I was going to prepare a vegetarian menu but last minute work demands made that infeasible. Once I have my heart set on something, it's difficult not to see it through to fruition. As a compromise (a very sweet compromise), I decided to go ahead with just one dish: Melissa Clark's Harvest Apple-Pear Pie with Cranberries and Rum Raisins.
I have made plenty of double-crust apple pies and probably even more apple crumbles in all these years I spend in the kitchen. Strangely enough, I never once attempted to make apple crumb pie. It always seems like a cop out requiring less finnesse with dough handling. However, after reading Clark's introduction to the recipe in her cookbook In the Kitchen With A Good Appetite, I was smittened. Her recollection of making a pie with twenty ingredients when she was a child was charming and reminded me of my own childhood. Besides, her pie sounds pretty amazing too with a fruity filling of apples, pears, cranberries, dark & golden raisins in rum, all top off with an oats and spice crumb topping.
My standby pie dough is Rose Levy Beranbaum's flaky cream cheese dough. I must admit it is not a fun dough to work with despite how good it tastes. The small amount of liquid in her recipe meant that the dough is crumbly and requires careful coaxing to form a coherant dough without overworking. I am ready to try a new recipe. Clark's version is a dream to work with. It is soft, pliable, needing only minimal rest time, and 100% buttery. When I rolled out the dough, the marbling of butter was beautiful and a foreshadower of flakey crust.
I swapped out the pears with more apples so I had a mix of tart Northern Spy and spicy Russet. I followed the remainder of her recipe to a T and everything worked as anticipated. I only encountered one minor hiccup when topping the half-baked pie with crumb topping. I thought the fruit would cook down significantly but that was not the case. The pie was so tall that it was a precarious juggling act to place the topping on top of the fruit filling. Luckily, it all ends well and I now have a gorgeous spicy apple crumb pie.
Without getting too much ahead of myself, I say bring on the Christmas baking madness! I am ready when you are.