Renaissance Italians dined on mixtures of beef, raisins and spices baked in a crust. Sixteenth-century Brits created the first fruit “pasties,” that found their way to America when settlers brought their recipes to the colonies. By the time the Pennsylvania Dutch perfected the art in the early 18th century, pies had become an American tradition.

A homemade pie has become the mark of a great baker and a popular dessert for the end of a meal. Yet, pie baking does not need to be intimidating. The secret is in fresh, seasonal ingredients and in following a few simple tips:

First, start with a reduced-fat crust to trim calories and fat.

Fill the crust with an assortment of healthy fruits: apples, pears, figs and cranberries and heart-healthy nuts.

Sweeten the mix with honey, date sugar, maple syrup or unrefined cane sugar instead of empty-calorie white sugar.

Top off your creation with low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Easy, You-Can-Do-It Pie Crust

This easy crust with only four ingredients stirs together in minutes and it rolls out perfectly every time. That’s because it’s made with oil instead of butter—also reducing the saturated fat content. This recipe makes one pie shell; double the recipe, if you need both a bottom and a top crust.

1. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

2. In a glass measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil and 2 1/2 tablespoons ice water. Whisk them together until creamy. Immediately pour all at once into the flour and toss with a fork. Form into a ball. Dough will be moist.

3. Wipe your counter with a wet cloth and place a 12-inch square of waxed paper on top. (The wetness keeps the paper from sliding around.) Place the dough ball on top and cover with a second 12-inch piece of waxed paper. Roll out the dough between the waxed papers into a circle slightly bigger than your pie plate.

4. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and invert dough over the pie pan; peel off the bottom paper. If you’re pre-baking the crust, prick the entire surface with a fork.

If you’ve doubled the recipe and are rolling out a second crust for the top of the pie, use new sheets of waxed paper.

Proceed with the rest of your pie recipe.

Gluten Free All Nut Crumb Crust

Makes one 9-inch pie shell

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups finely ground blanched almonds or walnuts or pecans or hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or sweetener of choice
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or butter alternative

Directions

Thoroughly mix together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Using fingers, press dough into a 9-inch pie plate, evenly pressing up the sides. Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet (helps to keep the bottom from burning)

For pies that call for a pre-baked shell, bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool and then fill with desired pie filling.

For baking pies directly in this crust, keep oven temperatures down to 325 to 350°F to prevent burning and adjust cooking times as needed.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

1 pre-baked nut pie crust, recipe above

Filling

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  • 2 ½ teaspoons gluten-free pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Follow instructions above for making the gluten free prebaked nut crust.

Mix together all the filling ingredients.

Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust. Keep the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 50 minutes. The center of the pie should be fairly firm and only jiggle a tiny bit if you shake the pan.

Let the pie cool completely before cutting it.

Apple-Cranberry Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds peeled baking apples, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
  • 2 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crusts, unbaked (recipe above)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl combine apple slices, brown sugar, cranberries and lemon juice. Toss to blend. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour. Let rest while you prepare the pastry.

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Using wax paper roll out one pastry disk to make a 12-inch round. Fit into a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate, leaving an overhang. Spoon apple mixture into shell. Top with the diced butter.

Roll the second pastry into a thin, 10-inch round and, with a fluted pastry wheel, cut into 1-inch-wide strips. Carefully weave dough strips in a lattice pattern over the pie.

Bring dough overhang from bottom pastry up over the lattice edges and crimp decoratively. Brush top with milk and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake pie in the middle of the oven on a cookie sheet for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbly. Cool on a rack and serve warm.

Pear Pie with Crumb Topping

Ingredients

Pie Filling

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (1-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 6 peeled Anjou pears, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crust, unbaked (recipe above)

Crumb Topping

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Position oven rack in the lowest third of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F.

To prepare pie filling:

Combine 1 cup water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Add cranberries, fresh ginger slices and orange zest; return to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat; discard ginger slices. Cool.

Combine orange juice and pears in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Combine flour and 1/3 cup brown sugar in a separate bowl. Add flour mixture to pear mixture; toss to coat. Stir in cooled cranberry mixture.

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Using wax paper roll out one pastry disk to make an 11-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Fold edges under and flute. Spoon pear mixture into prepared crust.

To prepare topping:

Combine butter and orange juice in a bowl, stirring well. Add flour, oats and remaining ingredients; toss. Sprinkle oat mixture over pear mixture. Place pie plate on a baking sheet.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until browned. Cool on a wire rack 1 hour.

Buttermilk Pie

Ingredients

1 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crust, unbaked (recipe above)

Filling

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Ground nutmeg

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Using wax paper roll out one pastry disk to make a 11-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Fold edges under and flute. Place pie plate on a baking sheet.

To make filling:

Whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk together eggs in another bowl until frothy. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla. Gradually whisk the liquids into the dry ingredients. Pour into the crust and grate nutmeg over the top.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake 40-45 minutes longer. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then in the refrigerator until completely cool, about 2 hours. Serve with fresh seasonal fruit.

Apple-Pear Pie

Ingredients

2 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crusts, unbaked (recipe above)

Fruit Filling

  • 4 large baking apples , peeled, cored and sliced
  • 4 large ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, freshly grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut up

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the filling:

In a large bowl, toss together apples, pears, brown sugar, cornstarch, orange zest, and cinnamon until evenly coated. Let filling sit for at least 5 minutes before assembling pie.

For the pastry:

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Roll out one pastry disk into an 11-inch round on wax paper, as directed above. Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate, leaving an overhang. Spoon apple mixture into shell. Top with the diced butter.

Roll second pastry into a thin, 9-inch round and invert over the filling. Seal and flute the pie edges.

Cover edges of the pie loosely with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 30-35 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

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