I start thinking about Thanksgiving desserts sometime around June. Even when there will be no more than six of us for the holiday dinner, I’ll make four pies. There can never be too much pie.
For avid bakers, the holiday season is our Super Bowl. In the spirit of make-ahead, you can freeze desserts in preparation for holiday meals. If you do the work now, you can reap the benefits later.
With all of the apple varieties that are abundant now, it’s a good time to make and freeze a spare pie. For fruit pies, baking directly from the freezer can help keep an unbaked bottom crust from getting soggy.
Dried fruit makes a heady, rich filling, especially when it’s a mix. Just about any dried fruit benefits from a bath in brandy, be it for a day, a week or a month; cinnamon and strips of orange zest will make that filling even tastier. Let the boozy fruit – reminiscent of mincemeat, without all the work – sit on the counter until it’s time to make a pie, or make and freeze small tarts to have on hand for when it really gets cold.
I’m not above wanting to make a showstopper dessert. Inspired by thoughts of the almond pastry filling called frangipane and a preference for pecans, my “pecangipane” is kissed with honey and bourbon. Sliced pear halves snuggle into it and are showered with cranberries and crystallized ginger. It’s pretty, it’s fancy and it is perfect for a special meal. Even better: You can make the filling and crust in advance and freeze them, or you can assemble the whole tart and freeze it in advance.
Freeze now, bake later. Now is the time to get a holiday jump-start on Thanksgiving and beyond. One benefit of having dessert covered: You’ll have so much more time to debate brining, roasting, smoking or grilling that turkey.
Cathy Barrow is the author of “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving” (W.W. Norton, 2014). She blogs at www.mrswheelbarrow.com.
Pecangipane Pear and Cranberry Tart
Make Ahead: The filling can be wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap and frozen for several weeks. Defrost completely before assembling the tart. The sweet-crust dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. The assembled, unbaked tart needs to be frozen at least 8 hours and up to 1 month. It’s best to eat the tart the same day it is baked.
3 cups pecan halves
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark honey
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup bourbon
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ripe Bosc pears
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, diced
Filling: Place the pecans in the food processor or a high-powered blender (such as a Vitamix).
Combine the granulated sugar, honey and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is bubbling at the edges. Pour directly over the pecans; puree until the mixture is smooth. Add the bourbon and blend again. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer to cool. The filling is now pecangipane, which can be used right away or wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap and frozen for up to several weeks.
Crust: Combine the confectioners’ sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium speed for several minutes, until lightened and fluffy. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
On low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating each one until well incorporated and stopping to scrape down the bowl after each addition. Add the flour and salt; beat on low speed just until combined. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to 2 days).
Unwrap the dough; place it between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll it out to round that’s 14 inches in diameter. Take off the top piece of wrap; invert the round of dough into the tart pan and shape it in, making sure to keep the side walls sturdy and evenly thick. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
When ready to assemble, peel the pears, then cut them in half and core them, arranging the pears cut sides down on the cutting board. Make thin, horizontal slices almost all the way through each pear half. Cut the lemon in half, then squeeze the juice over the pears (to keep them from discoloring).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the dough-lined tart pan, then use the tines of a fork to dock the bottom of the dough all over. Line with parchment paper and then fill with pie weights, dried beans or pennies. Bake (middle rack) for 10 minutes, then remove the pie weights and parchment; bake 10 minutes or until the crust is very lightly browned.
Add the butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and egg to the pecangipane in the bowl; beat on medium-low speed until thoroughly incorporated. Spread the pecangipane across the bottom of the tart. Arrange the pears, cut sides down, over the surface of the pecangipane.
Stir together the cranberries, the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and crystallized ginger in a small bowl; scatter this mix over the top of the tart.
Place the assembled tart, uncovered, on a level surface in the freezer; freeze for at least 8 hours, then wrap the frozen tart carefully. Place a layer of parchment over the surface to protect the fruit, then wrap in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Label the top of the foil with the contents and directions for baking.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the tart from the freezer, unwrap and place on the baking sheet. Bake (from a frozen state; middle rack) for 55 to 60 minutes, until the sugars are bubbling, the pears have taken on some color and the crust is a light golden brown.
Cool 3 hours before serving or storing.
Per serving (based on 14): 660 calories, 8 g protein, 85 g carbohydrates, 33 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 48 g sugar
Yield: 12 to 14 servings.
Boozy Dried-Fruit Tart
Make ahead: The dried fruit needs to macerate for at least 24 hours and up to 1 month. The assembled, unbaked pie can be frozen for up to 1 month in advance. The baked tart can be held at room temperature for up to 3 days.
1 pound dried fruit
1/2 cup inexpensive brandy
Wide strips of zest and juice of 1 medium orange
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Flour, for the work surface
2 disks of refrigerated pie dough (enough for a double-crust pie)
Heavy cream, for brushing
Combine the dried fruit, brandy, strips of orange zest and the cinnamon stick in a deep, 1-quart bowl or jar. Cover and soak for at least 24 hours (and up to 1 month), turning the fruit occasionally.
Drain the fruit, reserving the brandy and discarding the cinnamon stick. Dice the fruit and orange zest by hand or pulse quickly in the food processor.
Whisk together the orange juice and cornstarch in a medium saucepan until smooth. Place over medium heat; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened a bit. Remove from the heat and whisk in the brandy. Add the diced fruit, stirring until well incorporated. Cool completely.
Lightly flour a work surface. Roll out one of the disks of pie dough to a round that’s 11 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer to the tart pan; press lightly against the sides and bottom. Fold over and tuck in the dough overhang, pressing lightly against the side of the tart pan to form a sturdy, thicker edge. Fill with the fruit mixture.
Roll out the remaining disk of dough to a round that’s 11 inches in diameter. To form a lattice, cut the round into 10 strips of equal width; drape or weave them over the filling as you like. (Trim off and discard excess dough at the edges and press to seal.) Or use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes in the 11-inch round of dough and arrange them over the filling as you like. Make sure the dough shapes just touch each other and there’s enough space between them for the filling to bubble up and for steam to escape.
Place the tart, uncovered, on a level surface in the freezer; freeze for 8 hours, then wrap the frozen pie carefully: Place a layer of parchment paper over the surface, then wrap the pie first in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Label the top of the foil with the contents and directions for baking.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the tart from the freezer, unwrap and place on the baking sheet. Lightly brush the top with heavy cream. Bake the still-frozen tart (middle rack) for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees; bake for 35 minutes or until the juices are bubbling and the crust is golden brown.
Let the tart cool for at least 30 minutes before serving, or cool completely before storing.
Per serving: 410 calories, 4 g protein, 54 g carbohydrates, 17 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 23 g sugar
Yield: 8 servings (makes one 9-inch tart or four 4-inch tarts).
Zesty Apple Pie
Make ahead: The filling needs to macerate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to overnight. The assembled, unbaked pie can be frozen for up to 1 month. The baked pie can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days.
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 pounds mixed apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons (about 12 cups)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
Flour, for the work surface
2 disks of refrigerated, homemade or store-bought pie dough (enough for a double-crust pie)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Heavy cream, for brushing
Coarse/pearl sugar, for sprinkling
Whisk together the granulated and brown sugars, the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, black pepper and cornstarch in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Add the apple slices and lemon juice, tossing until evenly coated. Stir in the bourbon, if using, until well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 3 hours before filling a pie.
Lightly flour a work surface. Roll out one of the cold dough disks on the floured surface to a round that’s 12 inches in diameter. Carefully drape it into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate, letting the excess dough hang over the sides. Spoon in the filling, along with any of its accumulated liquid. The apples will be piled several inches above the rim of the pie plate. Dot the surface of the filling with the butter.
Roll out the remaining dough disk on the same surface to the same width. Before draping the dough over the filling, use a cookie cutter to stamp out shapes for venting, if desired; or, once the dough is draped over the filling, simply slash 3 vents in the top crust. Crimp the pie dough edges (top and bottom crust) at the rim.
Place the pie on a level surface in the freezer and freeze uncovered for 8 hours, then remove it and carefully wrap the now-frozen pie in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Label the top of the foil with the contents and directions for baking.
When you’re ready to bake, position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 425 degrees. Remove the pie from the freezer, unwrap and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the top of the pie with a little cream, then sprinkle it with coarse/pearl sugar. Bake (lower rack) for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees; bake for about 45 minutes or until the pie juices are bubbling. If the crust gets too dark, tent it loosely with foil.
Cool completely (for at least 2 hours) before serving or storing.
Per serving (based on 10): 320 calories, 3 g protein, 46 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 23 g sugar
Yield: 8 to 10 servings.