Ahhh Pie! For some, this is the best part of Thanksgiving. There are several options when it comes to pie. Pumpkin is traditional, but many prefer apple, pecan, or cherry. Obviously, the easiest route is to buy a pre-made pie. Supermarket bakeries make wonderful pies. If you want to eliminate all dessert stress, buy a pie (or two). The best part of bakery pies is that they specialize in the “wow” factor and some things, seriously, are better left to the experts.
If it’s important to bake your own pie, a Mostly Home-Cooked version can be a low-stress option. Using a store-bought frozen pie crust eliminates out the most challenging part. For most pies, you add a canned pie filling of your choice (pumpkin, apple, cherry, peach…) to the unbaked crust. If you choose this option, utilizing a pie filling mix, make sure the can is labeled as “pie filling mix.”
There is a big difference between canned pumpkin puree and canned pumpkin pie filling mix – they are NOT interchangeable! The filling mix eliminates adding your own spices. If you don’t do a lot of baking and your spice rack is limited, this is the less stressful option. Canned pumpkin (pumpkin puree) is literally pumpkin in a can. It is not sweetened, with no added spices. It is meant to be a base on which you create the flavors. Canned pumpkin puree is the main ingredient in all pumpkin pie recipes. The same applies to canned fruit versus canned fruit pie filling mix; they are not interchangeable! If you have baking spices on hand, and the extra few minutes, using canned fruit and adding your own spices and sugar is the best option. NOTE: If pecan pie has been requested, I strongly recommend going the bakery route. The stress rating for baking a Mostly Homemade pecan pie is 10!
Option 1: Bakery/store-bought Pie – any flavor (Stress rating: 0 Impress Quotient : 6 – 10)
Advantages: NO STRESS, usually perfect in appearance and taste. Add a Home-Cooked touch by serving with zhooshed up topping (add a couple of drops of vanilla or almond extract to store-bought whipped topping)
Downside: Bakery pies can be pricey. Price and quality are very relative to store-bought pies. A cheap pie will taste like a cheap pie. Take special care when transporting the pie from the store to home to avoid damaging the crust or toppings.
Option 2: Mostly Home-Cooked Pumpkin or Fruit Pie — frozen crust & pie filling mix (Stress rating: 3, Impress Quotient : 8)
Advantages: Frozen pie crusts are great! They bake well and are always consistent in quality. Not fabulous, but worth keeping your stress level in check. I prefer frozen to the refrigerator variety because I don’t want to bother with rolling the crust out and finding a pie pan. Two big stressors! Opt for pie filling mix if your pantry is light on baking spices. NOTE: Although pie filling mix is sweetened and spiced, it’s not “open and bake.” Eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla extract will still be needed to make a pumpkin pie. TIP: A teaspoon of Vanilla and/or Almond extract will significantly enhance all fruit pie filling mixes. Apple and cherry pie requires a top crust (pumpkin does not). The top crust causes me a lot of angst, so I use a crumble topping instead (like you find on apple crisp or coffee cake). Crumble toppings are easy, and the ingredients are staples in most pantries. Serve with zhooshed-up whipped topping.
Downside: The pie crust edges quickly burn. When baking, line the crimped edges of the crust with aluminum foil to protect against over-browning. As the spices are already in the filling, it does error on the bland side. By design, these filling mixes are made to appeal to the general population’s palette. Lastly, unlike store-bought, an assemble & bake pie still requires some organization and effort.
Option 3: Mostly Home-Cooked Pumpkin or Fruit Pie — frozen crust (Stress rating: 4, Impress Quotient : 9)
Advantages: IF you have the necessary pie spices on hand, making your own filling requires minimal additional effort than using the canned pie filling mix, and the difference in the taste is so worth it!! Baking your pie in the morning will get your day off to a great start and let the bubble know that it’s truly a holiday.
Downside: Buying spices that you will only use once.