Traditional Holiday Pies… But Different
The classics are here to stay, but try these recipes for a subtle twist on your favorite pies.

Traditional Holiday Pies… But Different

Dsc 1412 1 Scaled
Photos by Troy McQuillen

I’ve never been a fan of pies. I’m not sure why. Consistency, texture, and sweetness all play delicate roles in the success of a pie. Instead of copying and pasting online recipes, my wife and I experimented with a few different ones, mixing them up to our taste. To my surprise, I really liked all three of these pies.

When looking for ideas, Martha Stewart is always a reliable place to start; then, Alton Brown has an interesting take on traditional recipes.

We also really wanted to make a pie with chokecherries (because we had a ton) and adapted a blueberry pie recipe to make that work. Chokecherries will probably be past their season now, but we recommend using a chokecherry jam if you didn’t happen to stash any in your freezer.

Cardamom is a unique ingredient in our pumpkin pie recipe. It’s different, which is why we like it.

Please read the recipe in advance. Some steps require upwards of two hours of prep time, plus baking. Enjoy! //

Pie Crust

Makes 2 shells

Pie crust can be tricky, but we had really good luck with the recipe here from Martha.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) cold, unsalted butter (cut into pieces)
  • 6 Tbsp. cold vegetable shortening or lard (cut into pieces)
  • ½ cup ice water (add more if needed)


  1. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt. Continue to pulse, adding butter and shortening, for 10 seconds or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add water in a slow, steady stream just until dough holds together (you may not need all the water), no longer than 30 seconds. Do not overprocess. Squeeze a small amount of dough in your fist; if it doesn’t hold together, add more water.
  2. Remove dough from processor and knead a couple times. Divide in half. Shape into disks, about one inch thick; wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about one hour or overnight.

Dsc 1433Apple Pie

Requires 1 pie shell

Crumble Topping Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (cut into ½-inch pieces)

Directions for Crumble Topping

Mix all the dry ingredients together, then add butter. Work the sugar mixture into the butter with your fingers, rubbing it together until a pea-size crumble forms. You can use two knives in a scissor motion to cut into even pieces. Place into the freezer.

Pie Filling Ingredients

  • 3 ½ lbs apples (about 6 large, 3 different varieties)
  • ½ cup sugar (divide in half)
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 Tbsp. apple jelly
  • 2 tsp. lime juice
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper


  1. Peel and core apples. Cut into slices (¼-inch thick).
  2. In a large bowl, toss apple slices with ¼ cup sugar. Place in colander over a bowl to catch juice. Drain, approximately 1 ½ hours.
  3. Put drained juice in a saucepan on medium heat, cook to reduce to about 2 tablespoons or slightly more. Set aside to cool. 
  4. In a large bowl, toss the apples with remaining ¼ cup sugar, flour, jelly, lime juice, kosher salt, and black pepper.
  5. Heat oven to 425°F.
  6. Roll out one pie shell and line a glass pie pan with the crust. Layer the apples in one by one, starting on the edges and overlapping the ends slightly, working in a concentric pattern. Fill in the bottom and repeat, stacking several layers high. Add apples so the middle is a little higher than the rim. You may not fit all the apples in.
  7. Add the reduced apple drippings to the liquid left in the large bowl (you may have to remove any extra apple slices). Mix together well, then pour over apples in pie pan. 
  8. Carefully add the frozen crumble to the top of the pie, covering as many of the apples as possible. Use your hand to prevent crumble from falling off the edge as you add it.
  9. Place pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 50 minutes. After the crumble looks brown (check after 15 minutes), lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the pie for the duration of the cooking. Don’t crimp it to edge of pan, just lay it on top.
  10. Remove pie from oven and cool on rack for 4 hours. Drizzle with caramel sauce if you prefer.

Dsc 1436Blueberry/Chokecherry Pie

Requires 2 pie shells


  • 2 pints fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup chokecherry puree or jam
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup sugar (only use ¼ cup if using chokecherry jam)
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (cut into pieces)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
  • Sanding sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F with center rack. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place on rack to preheat.
  2. In a medium bowl, gently toss together blueberries, chokecherry puree/jam, lemon zest and juice, sugar, cornstarch, kosher salt, ground cinnamon, and butter.
  3. Roll out pie shell and line a glass pie pan with a pie crust.
  4. Transfer blueberry mixture to prepared pie dish. Brush edges of crust with egg wash. Add top crust and crimp edges. Cut a few vent holes in top. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Our pie includes a lattice top, which was somewhat difficult for the first time. If you want to give it a try, find an online video to see how it’s done. You may need a third pie shell.
  5. Bake on preheated baking sheet for 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until filling is bubbling and crust is evenly browned, approximately 60 to 70 minutes. If it’s browning too quickly, lay a piece of foil over the pie. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Dsc 1423Pumpkin Pie with Shortbread Crust

Shortbread Crust Ingredients

  • 2 oz. unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt (kosher salt)

Directions for Shortbread Crust

Stir butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Add in yolk. Whisk in flour and salt, stir until mixture is dry and crumbly. Transfer to pie pan. Using the bottom of a metal measuring cup, press dough into bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie dish as evenly as you can. Freeze for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake crust until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes, rotating half-way through. Let cool in pie dish on a wire rack

Pumpkin Filling Ingredients

  • *Dulce de leche (see directions below)
    —14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (add more for optional garnish)
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • ¾ tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 15-oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • Whipped cream (optional garnish)

*Dulce de leche: Heat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Set plate in a roasting pan and add enough hot water to pan to reach halfway up pie plate. Bake milk in middle of oven for 45 minutes. Check water level and add additional, if necessary, then continue to bake another 45 minutes or until milk is thick and brown. Remove pie plate from water bath and cool, uncovered. Use it right away while it’s warm but not hot. 


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F with the rack in the middle.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. 
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until combined. Whisk in the pumpkin and spice mixture (from step 2). Gradually whisk in the evaporated milk. 
  4. Whisk in the dulce de leche a little at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Pour the filling into the pie shell.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. The pie will be mostly set but still jiggle a bit in the center.
  6. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Top with the whipped cream and dust with cinnamon, if desired. Serve, or refrigerate until needed.