As my dear friend Pat said last week, “My gang wants the same dinner every year.” Our family does too, but we can get by with a change here and there.
By the time I serve dessert, I just want to put my feet up for a while and enjoy a little piece of pie later. I said little, yet there are plenty of folks who have three little pieces of pie: pumpkin, apple and pecan. I try to make all three, of course, or ask my daughter to make her apple pie, which leaves me with two to make.
It has taken me a while to figure this out, but this year I made a rustic apple tart in a lot less time than it usually takes to make the two-crust apple pie. I did not peel the apples. When we did our photo shoot, it was as if necessity was the mother of invention. I had several batches of pastry made for the double-crust apple pie, but with limited time, I did not peel the apples nor did I roll out crusts.
I used a combination of Granny Smith and Gala apples. I quartered and cored them, then made slices just shy of ¼-inch thick. I did the last slicing with a small paring knife right into a bowl until I had about six cups of slices. Then I added the juice of a lemon, tossing the apples until they were well-coated. I tasted one of the slices to find it crisp and sweet even with the lemon juice, which would keep it from turning brown through the baking process.
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You can make these sweet or super-sweet. We prefer a little less sugar than the original recipe calls for. These are great to keep on hand through Thanksgiving and Christmas as they freeze well and thaw quickly. Keep in an airtight container whether in the freezer, fridge or room temperature. They keep well at room temperature for five to seven days and make delicious gifts and perfectly sized bites for post Thanksgiving dinner.
One recipe makes 48 to 60 little tarts, depending on mini muffin size.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese (can use low-fat but not fat-free)
2 tablespoons butter (Braum's, Hiland or Wagon Creek)
¼ teaspoon Salt
2 cups Shawnee's Best All Purpose Flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter (Braum's, Hiland or Wagon Creek)
¾ cup for sweet or 1 ½ cups for super-sweet packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups chopped Oklahoma pecans
• Make shells: Beat cream cheese, butter and salt together until light and fluffy. Add flour and continue to mix on medium low speed just until all flour is incorporated. Refrigerate until dough is firm enough to handle. Form dough into small walnut-size balls and press into miniature muffin tins. Use a tart tamper or round handle to press the shell into the tin making about ¾ inch crust up the sides.
• Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make the filling by blending eggs, butter and vanilla together, mixing well, and then stirring in pecans. Fill shells, leaving about ¼ inch of space from top. Bake on middle rack of preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes until filling bubbles and shell becomes golden.
Cooking notes: Use a small cookie scoop to form balls for shells; this helps maintain a uniform size for these yummy little tarts.
Filling mixture bubbles up during baking, so sometimes it is necessary to run a knife around shell to remove tart from pan if filling runs over top of shell.
Rustic Apple Tart
This is the quickest way to prepare an apple pie — no peeling, just wash, quarter, core and slice. The mixture of Granny Smith apples with Pink Lady, Gala or Fuji is a fresh-off-the-tree-in-season dessert. Use one slab of your favorite pastry — even boxed pastry works, made in a smaller size. I still make enough pastry for a double crust pie, but combining it all into one large rustic tart makes quite an impression. Serves 8 to 12 or more, depending on how you slice it.
6 to 8 apples (equal amounts of red and green) quartered, cored and sliced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk or cream
2 to 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
• Adjust oven rack to middle of oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
• Prepare apples. In a large bowl toss with lemon juice until well coated. Combine sugar, cornstarch, ginger and cinnamon. Sprinkle over apples and toss until they are coated with mixture.
• Roll out slab of pastry on top of parchment paper. Place apple mixture in center of slab, spreading out about 2 inches deep leaving about 5 inches of pastry around the edge. Pull pastry up around and the apples toward the center, leaving a large open area of 4 or 5 inches. The pastry will be like gathered ruffles toward the center opening that exposes the apples inside.
• Blend egg yolk and milk or cream together. Brush the outside of the pastry with egg yolk and cream wash. Sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Place pastry in oven and turn down temperature to 375 degrees. After 25 minutes reduce temperature to 325 and cook for 15 to 20 minutes more until crust is golden and apples are slightly softened.
Cook's note: I find oven temperatures can vary so just keep an eye on the pie. If the crust is golden and apples are slightly crisp, it serves as a delicious reminder of the season.
Oklahoma Honey-Sweet Pumpkin Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin or 2 cups pumpkin puree
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey, warmed
3 large eggs, beaten
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated skim milk or 1 cup whipping cream with ½ cup milk
• Prepare pastry and chill thoroughly. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position.
• In a medium-size bowl, mix pumpkin puree, spices, sugar and honey. Add beaten eggs and milk or milk and cream combination. Mix well. Pour filling mixture into chilled pie shell.
• Bake for 15 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Make a foil collar to protect outer rim of crust from over-browning if necessary while filling bakes. (Tear off a sufficient length of foil, about 2 ½ feet. Fold in half lengthwise and “lasso” it around the edge of the pie quickly after the first 15 minutes of baking.) Bake for an additional 40 to 50 minutes until knife or toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.
For creamy version: Substitute ½ cup Wagon Creek yogurt cheese or thick Greek-style plain yogurt with 1 cup milk in place of the evaporated skim milk.
Souffle version: Separate eggs. Eliminate honey and use ¾ cup sugar. Add yolks to pumpkin mixture. Eliminate all milk and use 1 cup whipping cream. Beat egg whites until stiff, and fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour into pie shell and bake in 425-degree oven for 15 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 375, and bake pie an additional 30 to 35 minutes without adding foil collar. Check pie for doneness. When done, turn off oven and open door to allow pie to cool slowly.
Cook's note: Don't worry if the pie filling cracks, you can cover any variation with a dollop of whipped cream at serving time. Cracks and variations on perfection are confirmation that your pie is homemade with love and attention.