I am going to tell you something that I hope doesn’t cost me my job as an editor who’s salary hinges on you making our recipes: do not make pie dough from scratch for Thanksgiving, especially if you’ve made it less than a handful of times this year.
Before you get upset, just know that I'm not to blame for this idea. This smart advice isn’t even mine! In fact, it comes from Claire Saffitz, the author of "Dessert Person" and the newly published "What’s For Dessert." I recently listened in on a panel of professional bakers that Saffitz was on, and she made the case for not making pie dough from scratch this Thanksgiving, especially if you are a person that doesn’t make pie dough from scratch throughout the year. She said, “Pie dough is not difficult to make per se, but it’s finicky. I’ve made hundreds of pie crusts this year and even for me, it turns out different each time.”
She's referring to pie crust make with pie dough that's chilled, rolled, shaped into a pan, chilled again, and usually pre-baked. There are just so many things that can go wrong when you're making pie dough from scratch. You can accidentally overwork the dough causing it to become tough like cardboard. The butter might melt while you mix the dough—possibly the worst mishap. It can crack while you try to roll it. It might get stuck to the counter. The crust might crack or shrink in the oven. Soggy crust? Gasp! (Are you stressed out yet?) These are offenses that will lead to a sad pie on arguably the biggest pie day of the year.
As Saffitz put it, “If you’ve never played football before, would you want your first game ever to be Thanksgiving day football?” Similarly, if you don’t ever make pie crust from scratch, why attempt to make it for Thanksgiving? Don't run the ball if you know you're going to fumble! Even if your family loves you enough to applaud your failed efforts, they’d prefer a delicious pie.
This doesn’t mean you should skip pie or dessert altogether! Here are some options:
1. Make a Pressed Pie Crust
You can make a pressed pie crust with zero baking skills. It doesn't get any easier than this: finely crumble cookies or crackers—Graham crackers are a popular option—with melted butter and then smush the mixture into your pan. Bake it until it's crunchy and holds together. The pie filling goes right on top. Here are some of our favorite recipes that call for a pressed crust.
- Banana Cream Pie
- Apple Pie Bars with Crumble Topping
- Peanut Butter Pie
- Pecan Pie Bars
- Mint Chocolate Cream Pie
- Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
2. Use Store-bought Pie Dough
I support you buying pre-made pie crust from your grocery store. I'd recommend doing a trial bake before Thanksgiving to make sure you're happy with it. We've tested a few store-bought pie crusts and have our favorites.
3. Think Beyond Pie
Though pie is requisite for Thanksgiving, I'd be happy to indulge on other festive desserts too. Here are some of the recipes I'm eyeing for this year: