Feature

Five Ideas for Great Holiday Pies

By Emily Hilliard, Nothing In the House

The holidays are one of the best times of year for baking, in my opinion. Citrus is in season, cranberries are readily available, and parties and celebrations with family and long-lost or not-so long-lost friends call for a bit of decadence in the form of nuts and chocolate, caramel and whipped cream. Here is a selection of five relatively easy pies made with seasonal ingredients (for the most part) for your holiday dessert tables.

Orange Shaker Tarts

Shaker Orange Tarts

With citrus season starting in December, oranges are commonplace on many holiday tables. The Shakers, a religious sect known for their frugality, simplicity, and quality craftsmanship are credited with the creation of what we now call Shaker Lemon Pie. In the early 1800s, lemons were quite expensive, so out of thrift, they developed this recipe that uses the whole lemon–rind, pith, and juice (okay, but no the seeds)– to create a delicious tart-sweet, marmalade-like pie filling. This orange tart version is a little less tart, a little more marmalade-like and very pretty with the brilliant orange & yellow of the rind.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie

Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie

Every year for Christmas my uncle gives us a box of Turtles–that classic chocolate-caramel-pecan candy that do, in fact, resemble a turtle. This Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie has the Turtle’s winning combination with a classic pecan pie filling and bottom chocolate layer, all in a flaky, buttery pie crust. The bittersweet chocolate cuts a bit of the over-sweetness that pecan pie can often have; a sophisticated welcome change from all those holiday sweets. I like mine with a bit of bourbon-whipped cream.

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Cranberry Lime Galette

Cranberry-Lime Galette

Galettes, or rustic freeform tarts, are one of my favorite things to make because they are relatively simple in ingredients and preparation, really showcasing the fruit in both flavor and appearance. Cranberries are also one of my favorite fruits to bake with, as their tartness, like sour cherries and Granny Smith apples, is very conducive to flavorful pies. This Cranberry-Lime Galette then is one of my favorite new tarts to make for the holidays with its bright red color with flecks of green apples. Make sure to get a piece where the crust overlaps the cranberry filling–it’s one of the best bites you’ll ever eat.

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Nutella Pie

Nutella Pie

It’s winter. And when you’re into (somewhat) seasonal baking and fresh ingredients are your game, it can be a challenge. However, the cold season can also provide a great excuse for using “non-perishable” items for pie fillings such as Nutella. Nutella is already a cheater’s ingredient, being the auspicious pairing of two delicious things–hazelnut and chocolate–that I daresay are greater than the sum of their parts. The decadent Italian delight is versatile enough to be spread on your morning toast or late-night crepe, stuffed inside a doughnut, or poured in a pie crust.

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Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze

Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze

It is my little pie baker’s secret that I am not all that into apple pie. I won’t turn down a good one, mind you, but it’s just not one of my favorites. But apple pie is often the test of a pie bakers skill, so instead of shunning it, I instead try to find ways to make the classic dish a little more personally appealing. This Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze is just the thing to get me excited about America’s favorite dessert, and adds that little something special that this time of year calls for. I recommend using Northern Spy apples or another tart heirloom variety, but if you can’t find those, chose apples that are tart, firm, and flavorful.

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Meet the Author

Emily Hilliard

Emily Hilliard is a folklorist, writer, and baker currently living in Washington D.C. She writes the pie blog Nothing-in-the-House, and just released the cookbook “PIE. A Hand Drawn Almanac” with illustrator Elizabeth Graeber.