Tis the season to rev up your ovens and start baking. And just in time, The Splendid Table contributor and baker extraordinaire Shauna Sever shared four gorgeous recipes from her new book, Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland. The first two are twists on Thanksgiving classics, pumpkin and apple pies. The last two recipes play off different textures and sweet ingredients to create undeniably decadent desserts. Check them out, and happy baking!
Like cilantro and circus clowns, pumpkin pie can be quite polarizing. Some take a hard pass, whereas others can’t imagine cold-weather holidays without it. I became a late-in-life pumpkin pie convert, especially the homemade kind (no offense to Mrs. Smith), and have grown to love the simplicity and warming spices in an amber slice at the end of a celebratory meal. A swooping, marshmallow-y Italian meringue topping manages to feel as luxurious as whipped cream but is free of fat, which balances nicely with a rich pumpkin custard. Italian meringue holds particularly well, so it can be made several hours ahead of time and transported easily if you find yourself in pumpkin pie duty for a gathering, and you get to wow the crowd as you torch it just before it hits the dessert buffet.
There’s a fine line between apple pie and this recipe. I’ll level with you—I’m not sure there’s a line at all. What it comes down to is how this item is found in Midwestern bakeries: on sheet pans the size of barn doors, slicked with icing, often called an apple slice or apple square, and eaten out of hand midday with no thought about it being dessert. So, this recipe being a pastry and not pie is a state of mind, is what I’m saying. What you get here is a pastry dough that’s more forgiving than typical pie crust, and the ideal ratio of apple filling to crisp pastry, totally sog-proof thanks to that brilliant layer of crushed cereal, which magically disappears during baking.
This recipe has made the rounds, and never fails to impress. It’s all the satisfaction of crisp, sugary, brown-buttery chocolate chip cookies for very little time and effort. Perfect for weekday baking, gifting, compulsive snacking, and making friends and influencing people. Try a variety of chip and nut combinations in the mix—I love bittersweet chocolate chips and pecans, but consider cashews and butterscotch chips, shredded coconut, salted peanuts, and more—this workhorse of a recipe can take it.
When it’s the dead of winter and there are no fresh, vibrant berries or stone fruits to speak of, baking can seem kind of dreary. There are only so many brownies and chocolate chip cookies a person can take. It’s then that apples and pears are the answer. These bars are a little like a Dutch apple pie in slab form, but made a little more interesting with the inclusion of pears, and with absolutely no pie crust making involved. In fact, if you’re a lover of crumble-topped fruit pies, this is the recipe you need in your personal canon—both the crust and topping are made from the same streusel-like mixture, so you get double the dose of crumble here, with a jammy, winter fruit layer in between.
Shauna Sever is a contributor to The Splendid Table and author of Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland.
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