the pies i baked

In case anyone’s keeping track, I have not given up on pie. No, sir. In fact, since the Great Pumpkin Pie Disaster, I’ve tried again not once, but twice. (And I’ll be darned if I’m not going to find a way to screw up a few more well-meaning crusts, too. My dear friend Kelley sent me her go-to, and my old roommate Sonja teases me with promises that her grandma’s is the best. We shall see.)

Observing these things, my mom, kind woman that she is, went so far as to assure me she’s got Thanksgiving’s pumpkin pie covered this year. This was after my brother begged her to promise not to let me mess it up. This family of mine, they’re cheerleaders, you can tell.

All these things withstanding, no matter how many signs the universe sends that pie crust is just not my thing, along with skiing, swimming or, let’s face it, any sport requiring a level of coordination, I have not given up. Won’t give up. Am determined to get the hang of this stuff if it’s the last thing I do.

(Pie, are you listening? It’s you and me, and it’s war. And I’m winning this one, OK?)

I might need a minute.

Well, in honor of fellow underdogs across the world, I am happy to tell you, I had a small victory this weekend: a battle won, you could say. After reading Pioneer Woman’s promise about a pie crust being fantastic and wonderful and you-can’t-mess-it-up good, after looking through her step-by-step photos and assuring myself I could do what she did, I tried her recipe. And, are you ready? She was right.

The recipe makes three crusts, which you can freeze or use right away. That’s right. Could it be better?

The first, I made a variation on Emeril’s pumpkin custard pie—key word being variation. Not. Good. The lesson from that disaster was that molasses is rip-your-tongue-out disgusting in pumpkin pies. But also, that the crust wasn’t half-bad. With a decent filling, we might be on to something.

Sunday, I used the other two, one becoming a spinach quiche and the other housing yet another pumpkin pie (if you’re counting, that’s pumpkin-pie try #3). These turned out perfect: flaky, not-too-thick, ideal with both the savory tart/quiche and the sweet pie.

pumpkin pie

You can’t see me right now, but I’m practically punching the air with my fists in sheer joy. It’s Rocky Balboa meets Michael Phelps at the Olympics. Success at last! The recipe for the pumpkin filling comes right off the pumpkin can, so I’ll leave you to find that for yourselves. My only exception was using milk and corn starch instead of evaporated milk, which just made the custard need more time in the oven. Otherwise, it’s a classic. It’s tasty. It’s the one to try.

eaten pie

Now, the quiche? That was my real masterpiece. I didn’t even know I liked quiche. It’s not at all eggy—much more savory and filled with bursts of chopped spinach, cheddar and parmesan cheeses and chopped green onions. It’d make a happy breakfast, a satisfying lunch, maybe even a dinner—or, as I like it, slices for snacks all day long.

spinach quiche

In my opinion, the mark of a good pie crust, beyond my being able to create it, is versatility. I’d like it to be simple, yes. Tasty, of course. But what’s really fantastic is a pie crust you can use when you want to—freeze it today and make it Thanksgiving or next week or whatever—and fill with what you want—be it pumpkin pie or spinach quiche.

masterpiece of a quiche

I made these Sunday afternoon, around 4:30 PM. By 9:00, they were already more than half gone. In my book, that’s a victory. Hear that, pie? One point for me.

Spinach Quiche
Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 1991

Crust recipe from Pioneer Woman Cooks
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 eggs
10 ounces fresh baby spinach, washed, drained and chopped
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. After defrosting the pie crust (15 minutes if it’s been frozen), roll it out on a flour surface to about 11 inches in diameter. Transfer to 9-inch tart pan. Push and trim edges to fit pan neatly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a medium bowl), beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in cream and eggs. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is set, about 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

*Becky & Pumpkin Pie: For those of you who are curious, very ironically, no-pumpkins Becky tried her first Sunday, the same day I made this pie. And this is worth saying: she liked it.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Jacqui

    Huzzah for the win! Kitchen victories are the best!

  2. Rachel

    I think you quiche is so perty lookin!

    good job !

  3. Nick

    I’m in charge of the pumpkin pie this year and I hope I can make something even a fraction as good as that looks.

    Well done!

  4. Adam

    That is not at all how your brother’s comment went down. I believe it was more along the lines of:
    – brother asked if you needed any help with this colossal dinner
    – you said sure and he volunteered to do mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie
    – meanwhile, he’s got a huge craving for pumpkin pie and keeps asking mom to make one
    – mom misinterprets that these requests mean she’s making the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving
    – brother is easy-going and decides to roll with it
    – sister blogs about it and seriously changes the story (read: her pants are on fire)

    In other news, forget the 9pm update–the quiche didn’t make it through the night…

  5. Shannalee

    Thanks, everyone, for the nice comments. Nick–yours will be awesome, I have no doubts.

    Adam: YOU ARE HILARIOUS. I read your comment/dissertation out loud to Becky. Thanks for that.

  6. Lan

    good job! the pictures came out so beautifully. i might have to try out the pie crust recipe, i’m making pecan pie for thanksgiving dinner. :)

  7. Shannalee

    Thanks, Lan! I love pecan pie! Can’t wait to hear/see how yours turns out!

  8. Chessa

    these sound amazing and they sound even better! I LOVE quiche.

  9. Chessa

    lol…I just re-read my comment…I meant to say that they “look” amazing and they “sound” even better. I just got excited from seeing and reading about these delish dishes of yours!

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  11. John the Pirate - Arrr!

    Good post, I like your writing style! I’ve added to my feed reader, and will be reading your posts from now on. Just a quick question – did you design your header image yourself, or have it done professionally? If you had it done by a professional, who was it?

  12. Shannalee

    LOL, Chessa! :)

  13. Shannalee

    John: I designed it myself, so I’m flattered to have you ask. Thanks for reading and subscribing, too!

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  17. Arizona Solar Energy

    I’m pretty sure you can’t do any worse than I did… for thanksgiving I tried pre-made crusts but didn’t get the memo that you have to bake them BEFORE you put the filling in.. all of the crusts were super soggy and no one even touched them. FAIL!

  18. Shannalee

    Sylvia, I think everyone has stories like that, ha! I comfort myself that once you make a mistake like that, you usually don’t make it again. :)

  19. Sherry

    I should have commented long ago when I first tried this recipe…but here I am close to a year? later posting about its awesomeness!! I’ve made the quiche AND crust at least 6 times. Both are sooooo easy and delicious. My mom, who is an avid baker (I’m not) was over one morning and I made this. She gushed about the crust and now only makes this crust herself. The quiche is my husbands favorite breakfast, and the best part is we get to enjoy it for a few days every morning!!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Shannalee

      Yay! Love hearing that, Sherry.

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