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Fall's Best Pie Recipes

In the never-ending cycle of boom-and-bust trendiness that moves cupcakes and doughnuts from hot to not to hot again, there is one constant: pie. We scoured the country to find the very best and found spectacular new pie recipes, ranging from a purist's double-crusted apple pie to a creative Mission-fig-and-mascarpone version served in a jar. Also read on for two writers' takes on the perils and pleasures of pie, and the winners of F&W's first-ever Twitter "pieku" contest.


Fall's Best Pie Recipes: The Perils of Pie

Fall's Best Pie Recipes: Old-Fashioned Apple Pie
© Dana Gallagher

The nearest I ever came to poisoning a guest was at a dinner party at which the dessert was pie. Specifically, apple pie—a recipe of my husband's that included chopped walnuts.

Among our guests was a couple. The husband took one bite and shouted to his wife to put down the mouthful balanced at the end of her fork. She was deathly allergic to nuts. One taste would have meant an instant trip to the emergency room.

My husband and I brought her a fresh plate on which to eat the ice cream we'd served along with the pie. The evening was saved. But later, when I reflected on our near-disaster, I realized it would never have happened if the dessert had been, let's say, stewed apples and ice cream topped with chopped walnuts. She would have seen the nuts and been forewarned.

To me this brings up something about the true nature of pie, perhaps the best and worst thing about anything baked in a double crust or topped with a mound of whipped cream. Something is interior and something is exterior, something revealed and concealed. In that way, eating a piece of pie is a bit like getting to know a person: You get past the outer layer and something is, or isn't, delicious.—Francine Prose

slideshow Plus: Nut-Free Dessert Recipes

The Pleasures of Pie

Fall's Best Pie Recipes: Apple Cider Cream Pie
© Dana Gallagher

I am a dessert person to my very core. If a meal is not immediately followed by dessert, then that meal is not over—no exceptions, not even breakfast. And don't even talk to me if all you are going to offer is a piece of fruit. Unless, of course, you are planning to nestle that fruit in a warm, buttery crust.

I don't care who knows it: I love pie, and pie loves me. Sometimes I fantasize that I've been baked into a giant pie and must eat my way out to survive. And the person who baked that pie is always Allison Kave. The owner of New York City's First Prize Pies must have inherited a sweets gene from her mother, Rhonda Kave of Roni-Sue's Chocolates.

Allison's pies, like her Samoa (inspired by the chocolate-coconut-caramel Girl Scout cookie) are original and delectable; some might even call her S'mores pie obsession-triggering. And so I wondered, could Allison teach me how to be a superspecial secret pie genius, just like her? Would I be able to remain focused in a kitchen filled with her freshly baked pies? Also, would she be willing to name a pie after me? Never mind. I'm getting ahead of myself.

For all the pie loving I do, I don't happen to do a lot of pie baking. That's because the crust can be intimidating, and don't you dare tell me otherwise. That's not to say I haven't baked excellent pies—I have—but I have also baked dreadful ones; pies I should have flung into the woods under cover of darkness, and would have if they hadn't been too heavy to lift. I can't spend one more summer day painstakingly pitting sour cherries, worrying that they are going into a crust that might taste like the salty heel of an old cowboy boot.

As Allison taught me how to make her Apple Cider Cream pie, she didn't seem to mind that I was blatantly trying to get some of that First Prize mojo to rub off on me. At our lesson in her "lab" on Manhattan's Lower East Side, she slowed down her deft pie-making fingers so that I, the newbie, could take notes and geek out about the beautiful dispersion of butter she produced, like, without batting an eyelash.

She showed me how to incorporate the butter into the dough, vigorously chopping it into those elusive pea-size lumps with a pair of swiftly moving bench scrapers (a food processor is an acceptable cheat). Two bench scrapers working in butter-chopping harmony—who knew? Using cold, vinegar-spiked milk instead of ice water for a flakier result—clever! If you are gentle with the dough at the beginning of the process, you can boss it around a little after it has rested in the fridge prior to rolling out—sassy! Also, sometimes, Allison even uses ground pretzels in a pie crust—I mean, why couldn't I have thought of that.

The pie I brought to work that day was devoured by my co-workers in under 30 seconds, leaving only bite marks in the pie tin. Even though they knew I had made it with my own hands, a fact that would normally be met with skepticism, they were powerless to resist it, its flavors tricky enough to pin down that I instantly seemed like a more creative individual for having brought it in. I enjoyed letting them be amazed by me, if only for a fleeting moment.

Thanks to Allison, I have become somewhat of a pie maven. As I await the advent of First Prize Pies' sure-to-be award-winning Samantha Bee pie (pretzel crust, something fudgy or caramelly perhaps?), I do so pleasantly drunk with my newfound capabilities, and a hefty dose of cinnamon whipped cream.—Samantha Bee

More Great Pie Recipes:

Fall's Best Pie Recipes: Winning Piekus

Mother said "Don't touch" / But sweet aroma wafted / No hiding red lips. @matthewjennings

Grandma taught mom how / Her pie recipes passed down / I'm the baker now! @ashleyzink

Cake is for birthdays / Cupcake craze will fade away / All pie asks? A fork. @jaelmchenry

Video Party Desserts

Published November 2011
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