Tips from pastry Chef Mooney

From Pastry Chef Erin Mooney

Holiday season home cooks obsess about making sure our main event dishes such as turkeys, hams and beef roasts are perfect. Yet beloved classic desserts such as apple and pumpkin pies often are treated as afterthoughts.

Here are some of my top tips for how you can make sure these side dishes shine.

For pumpkin pie: Too many folks over-baking it. When people see the “jiggle” in the center of the pie, they tend to think it means it is not done, so they keep it in the oven too long and inevitably leave the pie to overbake. The pumpkin pie filling will take on a firmer, creamier texture as it cools, so don’t be scared to keep a little “jiggle” in that pie when you take it out of the oven.

Also, go easy on the spices so they don’t overpower the true star of the pie – the pumpkin.

For apple pie: When it comes to making a picture-perfect and delicious apple pie, follow the pie crust “golden rule” to achieve a deep golden brown color.

Under-baking an apple pie is a very common mistake, so keep your pie in the oven longer than you may expect to ensure that your crust is flakey and crisp, preventing the bottom of the pie from becoming soggy. The perfect apple pie combination is a golden brown crust and a bubbling apple filling as you remove it from the oven. Pies often will achieve the golden brown crust before the apples begin to bubble. When this happens, remove the golden brown crusted pie
and tent it with a piece of aluminum foil. This will let the pie continue to bake the apple filling, without burning the crust.

Lastly, a great way to bring an added dimension to an apple pie is by using three varieties of apples. My favorite apple combination to use is with Pink Ladies, Fujis and Granny Smiths. I suggest cutting some pieces into slices and some pieces into cubes to provide an interesting mix of textures and flavors with the variety of apples.

Erin Mooney is head pastry chef for the two dozen restaurants of Chicago-based Scott Harris Hospitality Group

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