feast magazine article

I made you all the Thanksgiving desserts.

Pie's the Limit: All the thanksgiving desserts for Feast Magazine.

all the desserts: photograph by Jennifer Silverberg (because I’m not capable of this sort of immense talent but you all know that already.)

Can we talk about Thanksgiving for a minute? Or just November in general? It may be turkey season here in the United States, but it’s baking season all over the world. No one really ever asks me how best to cook a turkey, because frankly, I have no idea.

But sometimes, friends…sometimes people ask me to weigh in on desserts. The reasons for this should be obvious.

Feast did that, this year, and it marks the second time I’ve been asked to write a feature for the November issue. I don’t know why, but I always feel extra honored to write for holiday issues, because it’s a special time of year for food. Last time, I was tasked was making starters, sides and desserts using fabulous local products. Great fun, and I still make many of those recipes for myself regularly. This year, my instructions were simple, yet complex: make all the desserts.

but not pie.

but similar to pie.

but not actually round pie.

use fruit, be seasonal, but DO NOT MAKE PIES.

but make it all pie-like.

So you see my quandary; do you know how difficult it is to think of ways to make desserts similar but not exactly pie, using pie ideology but having the end result be decidedly not pie?!


Obviously I said yes. And off I went.

This one was more difficult than I anticipated. Like, a bunch. By far the hardest feature to really get right. I went into it thinking “this is great! I love baking, and I’m pretty dang good at it; this should be a breeze.” As it turns out, I do love baking, but I enjoy it way, way more when someone else, preferably more talented than I, creates the recipes.

Creating recipes for baked goods? Not enjoyable. Well, it’s enjoyable and rewarding when you finally succeed, but man: it’s agonizing. Here’s why: with savory things, you can generally taste and tweak as you go. A little more of this, maybe add this here, perfect! Done. With baking, you spend a lot of time studying ratios of wet to dry, you mix things together and then…you wait. And if it turns out awesome, yay: you nailed it. If it doesn’t, guess what! You get to do the whole thing over again. 

Would I do it again? Of course I would; I am like a challenge addict. But it’s hard, and I’ll say this: props to all of you who create baking recipes, because you are hardcore.

This is the Cider-Soaked Fig Far Breton, and it is like eating a dramatic custard pillow.

This is the Cider-Soaked Fig Far Breton, and it is like eating a dramatic custard pillow.

So I give you my humble pie-but-not-really-pie baking feature for November. Entitled “Pie’s the Limit” and containing a sing-songy introduction written by me and edited by the superheroes at Feast who make me sound like Nigel Slater (read: amazing and polished), it’s a collection of some further-afield dessert options you may want to consider for Thanksgiving. Or hey; just for regular dessert; you’d be surprised how easy it is to put most of these together. Photographed as always at my home by the lovely Jennifer Silverberg (you should totally follow her on Instagram; you’re welcome), who honestly I don’t know what I would do without. I have made for you:

Sweet Potato Caramel and Nut Tart – I mean, the nuttiest, seediest (but not in a sketchy neighborhood way!) tart around, and with this whole sweet potato background to it that’s kind of indescribable.

Pomegranate-Pear Slab Pie – It’s pink! also, the whole tart and sweet situation is pretty awesome. Obviously the closest thing to actual pie, but the crust/fruit ratio is such that it totally stays together when cut into squares.

Gingersnap Icebox Pie with Lemon-Mascarpone Cream – Seriously, if you’ve never had lemon and gingerbread together, you’re wrong for it.

Spiced Cherry Crisps with Pistachio-Caraway Topping – Because it’s my mission in life to make everyone love caraway as much as I do, and it totally works here alongside wintery spices like cinnamon and clove.

Grape-Frangipane Crostata – it’s roasted grapes and almond paste and I think I’ll just leave that right there.

Cider-Soaked Fig Far Breton with Cider-Fig Glaze – This one is really something: very drama, all dark poof on the outside, all creamy custard on the inside, and studded with figs throughout. a showstopper before and after cutting.

So maybe you invite me to your Thanksgiving this year, in (not quite) pie form? I would love that. or just attempt one of these sometime when it’s cold and rainy, and you feel like baking something. Up to you.

Here’s the feature itself, if you’d like to read it online. If you want to see how it looks all big and bold and in print, Missouri and parts of Illinois and Kansas, you guys can pick it up right now off the newsstand. For the rest of you, peruse the digital issue; I’m towards the back because I’m dessert and dessert is last.

And best.

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  • Reply Willow | Will Cook For Friends November 16, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    When you say you made ALL the desserts, you weren’t kidding! Those all sound incredible — I mean it, each and every one of them have my mouth watering. And I agree 100% on what an agonizing pain in the butt developing baked good recipes can be (it can also be really rewarding, but so often the road to rewarding is paved with tears of “why didn’t it work this time!? I thought it was going to work this time!”), but it looks like you took that challenge by the horns and knocked it out of the park! (Um, I’m not as good at combining metaphors as I am at combining ingredients, but you get the idea.)

    My family is really dependent upon pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, and would probably hunt me down with pitchforks if I made anything else, BUT I am putting those cherry pistachio crisps on my baking list for after the holidays. I, too, love caraway, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to use it in a dessert. Now I must has!

  • Reply Abbe @ This is How I Cook November 16, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Oh My! Kudos to you and Jennifer! You are really killing me here! I hate to say that I just started Weight Watchers. Why this time of year I don’t know, but it might have something to do with a beach vacation in January. In any case these all sound fabulous and you can be sure that they will be lurking in all the inner recesses of my mind!

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs November 17, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    I like pie. And things that are pie-like — I don’t stress about definitions, just get me in the ballpark and I”m happy. 😉

  • Reply Brianne November 18, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Shannon, these recipes are phenomenal! I can’t decide which one is my favorite–they all sound amazing! So many mad props your way, girl. You’ve got skills!

  • Reply Ashley November 19, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Oh my god. You, lady, are too cool and too talented and too rockstar awesome for me to know!!! This is so cool and I want to make and devour every single one of those not-pie desserts because they sound incredible! Particularly that Breton pie. Figs….custard….nom! I’m seriously amazed at you!

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats November 21, 2015 at 9:29 am

    I love every single not-pie that you made for this feature! They all sound irresistibly amazing.

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