Apple Pear Pie with Oat Streusel + 5 Unique Fall Pie Links

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My mother was prettiest in the fall: her milky white skin, blue-gray eyes, auburn hair, easy smile and perfect profile more beautiful in the diminishing autumn light competing (unbeknownst to her) with the glory of the burgundy, yellow and copper leaves, both awe-inspiring and short-lived.  Like the leaves, the best part of her shown brightest before the dreary winter settled in.  She understood this cycle of her life, allowed it, succumbed to it.

And so, as a child, I breathed her in, filled my lungs with her happiness and carried it with me through the long, intense winters, wet springs and steamy summers.

I love fall, she said with her hands wrapped loosely around the steering wheel of our blue Ford Taurus station wagon, her long fingers and perfectly manicured nails dancing to a song on the radio.  The car window cracked a few inches allowing the crisp air to rush in and mix with her perfume.  (Mama’s best smell.)

Me too, Mama!  Her three ducklings cheered almost in unison, eagerly anticipating caramel apples covered in peanuts, bulbous pumpkins and warm cider.

She smiled, briefly checking herself in the rear-view mirror.  

What are you looking at Mama?  You haven’t disappeared…not yet.

The mother I clung to like a barnacle adhered to the hull of a ship, returned year after year, fall after fall, until she didn’t.  It wasn’t sad.  She made a choice.  Maybe we had outgrown her or she us.  The weight of a divorce, three children growing away from her too fast, a life she wasn’t sure how to repair.  And if I were to ponder why, why, why, the answer would still baffle me.  It is easy to choose happiness when you are not unhappy.

Occasionally, I see glimpses of the mama I remember in the mother I have now: an easy smile when we celebrate my older son’s October birthday as he delights in her perfect birthday gift (Air War Battle Drones! Cool, Mimi!); decorating paper bag Halloween lanterns for our front porch with our girl, happily accepting a sticky kiss from our chubby pumpkin costumed toddler.  I store these memories of her, hold on to the glimpses of happiness I see today, if only to retrieve them when winter comes again.

Apple Pear Pie with Oat Streusel            

Apple and pears, lightly sweetened and baked to perfection topped with a buttery, crunchy oat streusel 

recipe adapted from Epicurious

Pie Crust recipe adapted from Nothing In The House

Serves 8

Ingredients for filling:

3 pounds Cortland apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces

2 lbs pears (I used Bartlett)

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

good pinch of kosher salt

Ingredients for pie crust:

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 + 1/2 sticks very cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 large egg, cold, lightly beaten

1/4 cup ice-water

1/2 tablespoon cold apple cider vinegar

Oat Topping:

3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon allspice

7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

1/2 cup old fashion oats

Directions for crust:

*Pre-heat your oven to 400F*

Grab a large mixing bowl and whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Add the butter chunks and mix with your fingertips making sure pea-size chunks of butter remain.   Using a small bowl, whisk together the cold egg, water and vinegar.  Add the liquid to the flour/butter mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.  It should be a bit shaggy.  Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour before rolling out.  The longer you let it chill, the better.

When ready to bake, lightly flour a piece of parchment and place dough on paper.  Cover with another piece of parchment paper and roll to a 12 inch round.  Remove parchment paper and press crust gently into pie dish.  Turn dough overhang under and crimp the edges.  Chill in the fridge until ready to use.

Directions for the filling:

Toss all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl.  Set aside and prepare the topping.

For the topping:

Blend the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, allspice in a food processor.  Add the butter and pulse until a dough forms that resembles wet sand.  Add oats and pulse briefly.

Stir the filling and add it to the prepared pie crust.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the pie.  Place pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (to catch spills.)  Bake until top is golden brown, about 40 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 350F and bake for another 50-60 minutes.  *If the top is browning too quickly, cover pie loosely with foil.*  Cool pie on a wire rack for at least an hour before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature as is or with scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

*Pie will last loosely covered in foil at room temperature for a few days.*

5 Unique Fall Pie Links

Apples and fall go hand in hand, but why not switch things up and focus on pears for a bit? Head to Joy the Baker for her bourbon pear crumble pie.  I can’t wait to try this!

Looking for a twist on pumpkin pie?  Head to Love and Olive Oil for a s’mores pumpkin pie recipe that sure to make everyone smile.  Also, check out my pumpkin pie bars.  Pie in bar form = easy serving to guests.  Insert fist pump here.

Bruleed butternut squash pie.  Are you curious?  Me too.  Head to Lemon Fire Brigade for the recipe.  And while you are there check out caramel apple blackberry pie.

 

Pumpkin Pie Bars + 5 Not A Pie Desserts For Thanksgiving!

 

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We threw a “pre-holiday” party last weekend.  Local friends came over for drinks and conversation sans children.  Chatting and drinking with friends we only see at soccer games, school pick-ups/drop offs and fundraisers felt like a luxury.  A luxury? Yes.  Most of the time we see each other harried, running off to the next activity, chatting briefly before a little person tugs on our arm, it’s time to go…again.  As if we are on a treadmill without a stop button, we just keep going.  Saturday night we stopped.  We drank and laughed and ate.

Before long friends left to relieve sitters.  We happily enjoyed our final sips and bites before taking on the mess in our kitchen.  I didn’t mind cleaning up this mess.  There is something beautiful about a post party mess, as if, bits of people are left behind, their energy still enveloping the room.  After we cleaned the last glass, swept the last crumb and recycled the final beer bottle; we collapsed into bed.  It was a perfectly unusual Saturday night for me and Bubba.

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Pumpkin Pie Bars with Baked Press In Chocolate Crust

I made these bars for our “pre-holiday” party. The bars are similar to a traditional pumpkin pie, spicy and comforting, but with a slight twist: the crust is chocolate and requires no rolling!  This simple, press-in chocolate crust is much easier to make than a traditional pie crust, so you won’t feel inclined to tear your hair out or chug a bottle of Malbec!  Also, the whole dessert can be made up to two days in advance! 

Makes 12 large bars or 24 mini bars

recipe adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients for Baked Pressed In Chocolate Crust

2 1/2 sticks of cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 tablespoon of water

Directions For Crust:

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving about 2 inches of overhang on the long sides. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars at medium speed for a few minutes, 2-3.   With the mixer on low-speed, beat in the sifted flour, unsweetened cocoa powder and salt.

Place the dough in your prepared pan and press it evenly over the bottom.  (The original recipe suggests covering the dough with plastic wrap and pressing with the bottom of a measuring cup.  This sounds like a great idea, but I forgot to do it. Your fingers will work well too!)  Refrigerate the dough in the pan until firm.

Bake the crust for about 30 minutes.   The cocoa powder will make it difficult to tell if it is cooked perfectly, so be sure to remove the pan from the oven at 30 minutes or when the surface looks dry.  Allow to cool completely before filling.  While the crust cools, prepare your pumpkin pie filling.

Ingredients for Pumpkin Pie Filling

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon + more for dusting

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree

One 12-ounce can evaporated milk

Prepared whipped cream

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 425F.  In a small bowl whisk together the sugars, all of the spices and salt. Set aside.  In a medium bowl whisk together your eggs.  Whisk the sugar mixture into the egg mixture.  Next, add your pumpkin puree, evaporated milk and vanilla extract.  Whisk until very smooth.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake for about 10 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 350F and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until the filling is set.  It should not jiggle!

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.  Cut into bars, large or mini, and serve with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

I suggest making the bars a day head and storing them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  The flavors are more pronounced a day later.  Serve them chilled or at room temperature.  Also, add the whipped cream just before serving or have guests add their own whipped cream.  Enjoy!

5 Not Pie Desserts For Thanksgiving

Looking for a lighter pumpkin cake to serve after the big holiday meal?  Head to Food 52 for Alice Medrich’s Lighter Pumpkin Cake recipe.

Tired of pies and cakes?  Try a crisp.  A pumpkin pear crisp! Bon Appetit has the recipe for you.  Check it out!

Not worried about eating all the calories you need for a week in a day?  Then head to Sacramento Street for Amanda Fredrickson’s Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting.  Wow!  I must make these!

After a big, heavy meal it is nice to have a light and refreshing dessert…sometimes.  Martha has a recipe for cranberry-port sorbet that sounds like the perfect palate cleanser.

I’ve mentioned Zoe’s maple cream snickerdoodle bars before and I am mentioning them again.  I am obsessed and need to make them asap!