Today I am starting my column by giving thanks for the 52 years I was blessed with having one of the most influential women in my life — my mother. Mom was born on July 4, 1911, and left us on November 18, 1997 after a brief illness.
Mom graduated from school at the age of 16 after completing 11 years of school, as required in those times. By the age of 21, she had married my father, bought a farm, built a house, barn, a chicken house and was raising hogs and cows along with growing truck crops for market.
Did I forget to mention my parents throughout the years had nine sons and two daughters?
They have hired farm hands throughout the spring, summer and fall months.
What a wonderful family life we had — the most complaining I ever heard her say was, “How many more can we feed at the table, ‘cause company is coming or get them fresh eggs from the hen house for breakfast or I will eat after everyone else has eaten!” Laura Hudson Hitchens was not a woman to back down from whatever life handed her — she made the most out of a little and asked for nothing in return from anyone. I can never fill her shoes, but I have never given up trying.
Mom loved to cook anything, and she never really had a favorite food to cook, but her desserts were loved by everyone as she made the best pie crust ever! And those biscuits came in a close second! Let’s make some Thanksgiving desserts today!
FOOL PROOF PIE CRUST
Mix 4 cups flour with 1 3/4 cup shortening, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Set aside. Beat together 1 egg, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Beat well and then begin sprinkling the dry and wet ingredients together. Turn ingredients together with a fork. Chill 15 minutes or longer in the refrigerator before working into pie crust. Remove from the refrigerator and break into portions. Work the dough on a floured surface until smooth and proceed to roll out into the appropriate size crust you need.
EASY PIE DOUGH
Cream together 1 cup shortening with 1/2 cup boiling water. Beat well. Add 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix lightly and roll out on a floured surface.
Mix 2 cups pumpkin with 5 tablespoons flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spices, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Add 3 cups of milk. Beat egg whites and fold into the mixture last. Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for the first 15 minutes and then 350 degrees until toothpick inserted comes out clean — maybe 20 to 25 minutes.
SWEET POTATO PIE
Combine 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes with 2 cups evaporated milk, 4 eggs, and 2 1/4 cups sugar. Beat at a high speed and then add 2 teaspoons lemon extract, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Then mix 1/4 teaspoon baking powder with 1 tablespoon milk and add to potato mixture. Add 1 cup coconut, if desired. Mix well and put in two 9-inch baking pans (pie pans) and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare pastry for one two crust 9-inch pie. Place one crust on the pie plate. Mix 4 cups peeled, diced pared tart apples with 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup half and half. Mix well and pour into the unbaked pie crust. Cover with the remaining crust and cut slits in it, seal and flute the edges. Bake until the crust is brown, and juice begins to bubble — 50 to 60 minutes. You can place small strips of foil around the edges of the crust, before baking, to keep edges from burning. Remove foil for the last 15 minutes of baking. You can also add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
OLD FASHIONED MINCE PIE
The mincemeat pie, better known as the Christmas pie, has been made in England at holiday times since the Middle Ages. Farmers used to make their own mincemeat but now we simply open the jar. My parents used to make their own mincemeat but that is another column one day.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place one unbaked pie crust on a 9-inch pie plate. Mix one jar, 28-ounce size, prepared mincemeat with 1 1/2 cups diced pared tart apples. Pour the apples into the mincemeat, mix well and then pour this mixture into the pie crust. Cover the top with another unbaked pie crust. Flute edge and seal. Cut slits into top crust and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
NO ROLL PIE CRUST
Put in a large bowl 3 cups flour, 2 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup vegetable oil, and 1/3 cup milk. Mix gently to combine. Divide in half and place each half of dough in a regular 9-inch pie pan. Pat out gently Push pastry up the sides and form a nice edge with your thumb and finger. Prick pastry on the bottom to prevent bubbling of the pastry during baking. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven with your favorite filling or bake empty — let cool and add your favorite filling that does not need baking.
NEVER FAIL CRUST
Combine 5 cups flour, teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 2 cups shortening until coarse crumbs. In a measuring cup beat 1 egg lightly with a fork and add enough water to equal 3/4 cup. Add 1/4 cup vinegar and slightly beat with a fork again. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just to make a ball. Roll out shells for your pies. I found that with this recipe if you place the shell in the pie pan and freeze slightly then the shell does not shrink during baking.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Beat together, in a large bowl, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup Bisquick, 2 tablespoons butter, softened, 2 eggs, one 13 ounce can evaporated milk, 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Beat until all ingredients are well beaten and smooth. I use a blender which does a better mixing job. Pour this mixture into the pie plate and bake until a knife inserted comes out clean — about 50 to 55 minutes. Serve with whipped cream. Hint: taste the mixture before baking to see if you desire a heavier pumpkin taste, then stir in more pie spice.
IMPOSSIBLE SWEET POTATO PIE
In a bowl or blender, place 4 eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 cups sweet potato (cooked, skinned, mashed), 2 cups evaporated milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/2 cup sifted white flour, a pinch of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 stick of melted butter or margarine. Blend until smooth and pour into two 9-inch greased pie plates. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until set. Serve with whipped cream if desired.
This is a favorite pie of many and easy to make. In a blender, mix together 4 eggs, 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 2 cups milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 can flaked coconut. Pour into two 9-inch pans, lightly greased. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until set. Delicious.
For crust: 1 cups (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp, 1/2 cups packed brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.
For filling: 1/2 cups (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, 1 cups packed dark brown sugar, 1/3 cups honey, 2 tbsp. bourbon,2 tbsp. heavy cream, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract, 3 cups pecan halves, roughly chopped.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat 9- by 13-in baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment, leaving an overhang on two long sides; spray parchment.
To make crust, using an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and gradually mix in flour until small clumps form. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Using a fork, poke holes all over then bake until light golden brown, 20 to 25 min. Let cool while making filling.
For filling, in a small saucepan on low, combine butter, sugar, honey, bourbon, heavy cream and salt. Increase heat and bring to a boil; boil for 2 min. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, then fold in pecans.
Pour mixture over baked crust, return to oven and bake until nuts are golden brown and edges are bubbling, 25 to 30 min. Let cool completely in the pan, then use overhangs to transfer to a cutting board and cut into pieces.
APPLE PEAR CRISP
1/2 cups old-fashioned oats, 3 small Gala or Empire apples, peeled and chopped, 2 medium pears, peeled and chopped, 1 tbsp. water, 2 tsp. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/2 cups dried cranberries, 1/3 cups chunky, sweetened peanut butter, 3 tbsp. whole wheat flour, 1/4 cups fat-free whipped cream.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the oats in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Toast them 5 to 8 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once halfway through.
In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the apples, pears, water, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes or until sugar dissolves and fruit softens. Remove from the heat and stir in the cranberries. Divide the mixture among 6 shallow 12- to 16-ounce baking dishes.
In a medium bowl, combine the oats, peanut butter, and flour. Rub the mixture between your fingers to form small clumps then sprinkle it over the fruit mixture in the baking dishes.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned and bubbling. To serve, top each crisp with 1 tablespoon of whipped cream.