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?!
FEAST: WHY YOU DO THIS TO ME!?!?
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.
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.