Pump up the volume on your pies

One way to dress up a store-bought pumpkin pie is by decorating it with leaf pastry. To make the leaf pastry, cut the shapes from store-bought dough and bake with the pie the last 10 minutes.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

One way to dress up a store-bought pumpkin pie is by decorating it with leaf pastry. To make the leaf pastry, cut the shapes from store-bought dough and bake with the pie the last 10 minutes.

With all the cooking that Thanksgiving requires, I don't think making a pumpkin pie from scratch is worth it. There, I said it.

And making it from an actual pumpkin? No thanks. I've found that exercise to be unrewarding and a bit of a risk. Not all pie pumpkins are created equal. The difference in water content can change the texture of your pie, not to mention tampering with your disposition. If you must make pumpkin pie, reach for the cans of 100 percent pumpkin puree. Solid pack, says the label.

I suppose if you've got an heirloom recipe that no one can survive the day without, then you've got to prepare it. Same goes if your homemade crust is a blue-ribbon winner. How can you deny guests your famous buttery-flaky goodness?

The rest of us can do just as well with a store-bought, bakery-made or even frozen pumpkin pie. They are often on sale this time of year.

A warning about frozen pumpkin pies: Depending on the size, they'll take 60 to 90 minutes to bake and then another two hours chilling in the refrigerator. Bake the pie the night before, when oven space is more available.

Just because you've handed the pie-baking duties over to someone else doesn't mean you have to give up giving dessert a special flair. Whip your own topping and flavor it with cinnamon and maple or caramel and spices.

The accompanying flavored topping recipes are simple, but we recommend whipping the cream as close to dessert time as possible. When testing the recipes, we made them the day before serving and they had to be whipped again.

Chilling the bowl and the beaters for 30 minutes in the freezer improves the cream's whipping quality. The cream needs to be very cold, too.

Put your own touch on a frozen pumpkin pie with decorative pastry leaves circling the sweet filling). Make the leaves from a sheet of store-bought pie dough. You can use leaf-shaped mini-cutters or cut them free-form with a sharp knife.

When the pie is about 10 minutes from being done, remove it carefully from the oven and place on a trivet on the counter. Brush both sides of leaves with beaten egg and place gently on the edge of the pie. Return pie to oven for remainder of baking time. The decorative leaves will turn golden.

Do not put the raw-dough leaves in the middle of the pie. They will not cook and likely will sink into the pumpkin mixture. Trust us.

Still want to make your own pie? Consider this accompanying recipe for Turtle Pumpkin Pie, which brings a new spin to tradition. To me, that's worth the effort.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8586.

>>easy

Cinnamon-Maple Cream Topping

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 real maple or maple-flavored syrup

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pecan halves or additional ground cinnamon, if desired

In a large bowl, beat whipping cream with electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute or until cream begins to thicken, then on high speed until soft peaks form.

Gradually beat in syrup and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, scraping bowl once, until blended and stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

If using for pumpkin pie, garnish with chopped pecans if desired.

Source: Pillsbury

>>easy

Caramel-Apple Cream Topping

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, allspice or cloves, whichever you have

Additional caramel sauce for drizzling (optional)

In a large bowl, beat whipping cream with electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute or until cream begins to thicken, then on high speed until soft peaks form.

Gradually beat in 1/4 cup caramel topping, the brown sugar and spices, scraping bowl once, until blended and stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

If used for pumpkin pie,

drizzle with additional caramel sauce, if desired.

Source: Adapted from Pillsbury

>>easy

Turtle Pumpkin Pie

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping, divided use

1 graham cracker pie crust

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped pecans, divided

1 cup cold milk

2 packages (3.4 ounces each) vanilla instant pudding

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tub (8 ounces) whipped topping, such as Cool Whip

Pour 1/4 cup caramel topping into crust; sprinkle with

1/2 cup chopped pecans.

Beat milk, pudding mixes, pumpkin and spices with whisk until blended. Stir in 1 1/2 cups whipped topping. Spread over caramel and pecans in crust.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, top with remaining whipped topping, caramel and then pecans.

Makes 10 servings.

Source: Kraft

Pump up the volume on your pies 11/18/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 3:30am]

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