The holidays can be both a fun and frustrating time to be a baker. Everyone is thrilled to have your skills this time of year, instead of annoyed that you are busting their diet. And there are so many fun holiday flavors: pumpkin, apple, peppermint, warm spices. There are lots of delicious things to make for the celebrations with friends and family.
But the holidays are a time of tradition, and tradition can be such a buzz kill. I often get excited to see a new recipe at this time of year, only to hear from family members: “Oh, but aren’t you going to make ___?” Everyone has the dishes they think must be part of the occasion. (That’s why my Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws will feature many different variations on carbs).
If you give into everyone’s demands for the traditional classics and still make what you want to try, you’ll end up with a groaning dessert table and be totally exhausted. Or you can make the same old pumpkin/sweet potato/apple pie and feel a little bored.
However, my mother always says that baking for company is not the time to try a totally new recipe. The stakes are too high; better to try pumpkin souffle when you don’t have to stress if it goes wrong.
My solution? Try small twists on the classics, things that will make you feel excited to bake something new, but still use the same basic techniques you already know. This recipe for Apple Butter Pumpkin pie is a perfect example of that philosophy.
In its construction, it is very similar to regular pumpkin pie: make a pie crust (or buy the refrigerated pie dough you can just unroll, I won’t tell), partially prebake it, pour in a simple filling whisked together in one bowl, and bake. But the twist of new flavors including apple butter and cocktail bitters, takes this pie up a notch flavor wise.
Of course, I can’t promise that your family and friends won’t decide this is a new classic and demand it again next year. Mine certainly have!
My pie crust recipe includes vodka, a great trick I picked up from J. Kenji López-Alt when he was with Cook’s Illustrated. You can certainly replace that with more ice water, but I highly recommend using it.
One of the reasons pie crusts often fail is because too much water is added. You need to add water to help the dough come together, but too much water can overdevelop the gluten, leading to a tough crust. Gluten won’t form in the alcohol though, meaning you get a moist, easy to roll dough that is perfectly flaky! Bottom’s up!
Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie
Makes one 9 inch pie, approximately 8 servings
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 2 oz of cold lard
- 1/4 cup ice water
- 1/4 cup vodka
Place the cubed butter and lard in the freezer to get really cold for 10-15 minutes. Combine the vodka and the ice water together in a measuring cup.
Pulse the flour and salt in a food processor to combine. Scatter the butter and lard evenly over the food processor. Pulse a few times, until the mixture resembles course crumbs, but still has some larger pieces remaining.
With the food processor running, pour about half of the water-vodka mixture (without any ice) in a steady stream into the feed tube. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together in your hands. If it is still too crumbly, add more of the water-vodka mixture, a few tablespoons at a time, until it holds together in your hand. (With the vodka, you don’t have to worry as much about over hydrating the dough).
Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic to pull the dough together into a ball, then split it into two pieces. Make one half slightly bigger than the other, use the bigger half for this pie. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The other half of the dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface into an approximately 13 inch circle. Roll it back over the pin and gently drape it into a 9 inch deep-dish pie pan. Trim the excess dough so its even all around. Fold the edge of the dough under itself, and crimp as desired. Place pie shell in freezer for 15 minutes until firm.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line pie shell with a parchment paper round, leaving at least a 1 inch overhang. Fill with pie weights (I use dried beans) and bake for 15 minutes. Remove pie shell from the oven, take out the weights, and reduce heat to 375. Prick all over with a fork, focusing on the bottom of the pie. Bake for another 10-12 minutes. Check 1-2 times during baking to ensure the crust isn’t puffing up anywhere. If it is, prick that spot with a fork.
When done, the crust will be just lightly brown. Remove from the oven and brush with a lightly beat egg white. Put back in the hot oven to bake the egg white to a hard finish, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup canned pumpkin purée
- 1 cup apple butter
- 1/2 tsp Angostura bitters (optional)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup evaporated milk
In a bowl, beat the eggs slightly, then whisk in the pumpkin, apple butter, sugar, bitters, spices and salt until well mixed. Add the evaporated milk and beat well.
Pour the filling into the partially prebaked pie shell. Bake for 50 minutes, until the filling is just slightly soft in the center. The filling will firm up as it cools. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve with whipped cream.