Thanksgiving dessert is spelled P-I-E. It wouldn't be right to have Thanksgiving dinner without pumpkin and pecan pies. An apple pie expands our holiday choices. These favorites have a common bottom crust, so I like to make all three ahead and freeze them.
The frozen crusts are ready to fill and bake the day before or early morning of Thanksgiving. I bake the pecan and apple pies the afternoon before Thanksgiving. Then early Thanksgiving morning, I make the pumpkin filling and let it bake while I get the turkey ready for the oven.
The apple and pecan pies will keep overnight under a loose cover of plastic wrap. The pumpkin pie baked early Thanksgiving morning keeps until time for dessert.
I find it is a great help for those at the feast to stretch their legs a bit between the meal and dessert by taking their dishes into the kitchen and clearing the table. Assign those kitchen tasks to get the leftovers refrigerated as soon as possible and clear the table. You can whip the cream and get the coffee going.
CLASSIC PUMPKIN PIE
With the crust already made, this pie filling stirs up in minutes. You can wait until Thanksgiving morning to bake it so it will be nice and fresh. This is the famous Libby's Pumpkin Pie recipe always featured on the can of pumpkin.
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can pumpkin (15 ounces, be sure to use pureed 100 percent pumpkin, not premade filling)
1 can evaporated milk (12 fluid ounces) (not sweetened condensed)
1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
Whipped cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
Pour into pie shell.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve as soon as possible the same day or keep refrigerated. Top with whipped cream before serving.
Cook's notes: I like to situate the crust on the lower middle oven rack pulled out enough to allow me to pour in the filling. This makes it easier not to slosh the filling out into the floor or onto the oven door in transporting the liquid-filled pie. Pour slowly to keep it from splashing out of the crust. Carefully push the rack back into the preheated oven.
APPLE CRUMBLE-TOP PIE
This is my favorite apple pie, and with peeling left on the apples, it retains a pretty pink color and rustic texture. I began making this pie some four decades ago with golden delicious and Granny Smith apples. With the arrival of Pink Lady apples with their sweet, tart, crisp nature, I began using them in this pie with great results.
1 (9-inch) unbaked pastry shell
5 to 6 crispy sweet apples (Pink Lady), sliced thin with peeling intact
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
Make pastry shell. Adjust oven racks if necessary before heating oven to 400 degrees. Pie will bake on lower middle shelf.
Core apples and cut in half lengthwise beginning at stem end. Lay apple on side and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place slices in large bowl. Toss with lemon juice. Mix sugar and cinnamon together and pour over apple slices, stirring until slices are well-coated with sugar and cinnamon mixture. Transfer apples to pie shell, piling them high as they will shrink some during baking.
Make crumble topping: Mix sugars and flour together and cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over apples to cover surface. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes total. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then lower heat to 350 degrees to complete baking. If the outside crust begins to brown too much, lasso the edge of the pie with a foil collar so apples will complete cooking without burning the crust.
Cook's note: You can use other varieties of apples with similar qualities; create a Golden Delicious Pie, a Gala Pie, a Granny Smith Pie -- you get the idea.
-- Adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe
SHIRLEY BELLMON'S PECAN PIE
This pie filling is so simple and very special. It was the recipe used by Shirley Bellmon when husband Henry Bellmon was the governor of Oklahoma in the early 1960s.
Gail Bellmon Wynne of Enid, Okla., shared her childhood memory of pecan pies for the Junior Welfare League's "Stir Ups" cookbook. "When Daddy was governor, mother served pecan pie for dessert," she said. "She would bake one or two dozen and store them in the pantry. When you opened the pantry door, it would knock you out." It was 13 years later before Gail ate a piece of pecan pie. Of course it was made from this recipe; it is the best.
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup pecans, whole
Make pie shell and chill or defrost if