Cooking from scratch at home is one way that we can experience a little bit of the artist in ourselves — without serious stress and soul-searching. Creating your own little work of art, especially in the form of a pie, is very satisfying and rarely gets rejected. In fact, it will almost always draw rave reviews from family and friends.
Making a pie leaves room for personal creativity: in the way you make the crust, what ingredients you use, how you prepare the filling, and how you finish it in the oven. And a simple single-crust pie is always easy to make. Here are a few suggestions for single-crust pies using the ingredients of fall:
Fresh Pumpkin Pie
Purchase a medium-size cheese (or sugar) pumpkin from a farm stand, rinse it off and place it on a foil-lined sheet pan. Roast the whole pumpkin in the oven at 300 degrees for 1 1/4 hours.
While it is roasting, make a pie crust by combining 1 1/3 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in 1/2 cup chilled shortening with a pastry blender and stir in 1/4 cup ice water with a fork. Form the dough into a ball and flatten it into a disc about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Cut the cooked pumpkin into quarters and remove the seeds. Peel off the skin and cut the flesh into small chunks. Process them in your food processor until almost puréed.
Measure 2 cups of the puréed pumpkin into a bowl and stir in 3 eggs. Add 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Roll out the pie dough and fit it into a 9-inch pie tin. Flute the edges and pour in the filling.
Place the pie in a 425-degree oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350 and continue cooking another 45 minutes.
Pear, Apricot, Almond Pie
Make a crust by combining 1 1/4 cups flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in 1/2 cup cold butter cut in small pieces. Stir in 1/4 cup ice water and form a disc. Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate.
Peel and slice 6 cups of pears. (I used a mixture of Bartlett and Bosc.) Toss them with a tablespoon of lemon juice and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter and stir in 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 cup pure maple syrup. Add this mixture to the pears and toss lightly. Slice 1/2 cup dried apricots and add them to the pears along with 1/2 cup sliced almonds. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Roll out the crust and fit it into a 9-inch pie tin. Flute the edge and pour in the pear mixture.
Make a crumb topping by combining 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 cup brown sugar. Cut in 3 tablespoons butter and sprinkle over the pie.
Place the pie on a foil-lined sheet pan and cook at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.
Apple, Cranberry, Walnut Pie
Make a crust by combining 1 1/2 cups flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in 4 tablespoons chilled shortening with a pastry blender. Then cut in 5 tablespoons chilled butter with the pastry blender and stir in 1/4 cup ice water and 1 teaspoon cider vinegar. Form the dough into a disc, wrap and refrigerate.
Peel and cut 6 cups of apples and toss them with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. (I used a mixture of Cortland, Jona Mac and honey crisp.) Add to the apples 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
Roll out the pie dough and fit it into a 9-inch pie tin. Flute the edge and pour in the apple filling.
Make a crumb topping by combining 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 cup brown sugar. Cut in 3 tablespoons butter with a pastry blender and sprinkle over the pie.
Place pie on a foil-lined sheet pan and bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.
Note: I have used 3 different pie crust recipes intentionally. One calls for all shortening, the second for all butter and the third for half shortening, almost half butter and a teaspoon of vinegar. They all worked well and are easy to prepare. It is a matter of personal preference. There are also many variations of ingredients that you can add. Be creative and enjoy the experience.