From the moment I heard Karen Thornton of The Peche talk about the stacked pie in her family history, I was hooked. This weekend she is a presenter at our fifth annual Big Potluck in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and I used her talk— “Stacking Up Your Past: Creating a Culinary Legacy”— as an excuse to finally bake one.
After years of hosting our Potlucks in the July heat, we decided to move the event to fall where it made sense for Karen to talk about her genealogy research as it related to recipes—specifically staked pies. And I would bake a stacked pie to show. A fall one with apple and pecan. Plus a custard one for a little cream on top.
As I contemplated this venture, I saw the potential problems clearly. There was the awkwardness of stacking and cutting three different textured pies. But the biggest challenge was how to get the pies out of the pan and into the stack.
Coincidentally, as I was selecting wares for The Big Potluck, I spied our sponsor Anolon’s 9.5-inch loose base tart pan. Here was a nonstick tart pan that would create neat pies that would potentially come out of the pan easily and stack neatly. Excitedly, I placed an order for three, and when I was told they’d arrive the following week I offered up my Fedex number. Sharon and Maggy were coming in for the weekend and I wanted to make the pies when we were all together. Just in time for the weekend, the pans arrived Friday afternoon.
As I made a triple batch of dough Saturday morning I worried that with all the metling butter bits, my fillings—at least the gooey pecan and runny custard—would leak through the crust and through the seam of the removable bottom. My fears were realized. Right on cue as the butter in the crust melted the custard dripped onto the oven floor. It was a hilarious mess, but we were a little disheartened.
But I was not defeated. That night as I lay awake in bed, I made a plan. The next morning I got up and prepared an oil-based crust, replacing coconut oil for the vegetable. Pressing the dough into the pan, I made sure there wasn’t a single hole or crack. Fingers crossed, I set the pan on the oven rack, poured in the filling, and closed the oven door. It worked. The custard pie set up beautifully, and I was on my way.
I moved on to pecan and apple, and as rocky as my start, my finish was smooth. The Anolon pans made beautiful, stackable, easily removable pies. I was happy Maggy and Sharon were with me to witness this beautiful creation, which inspired a host of other flavored stacked pies we saw in our future. We also realized that with the addition of a pumpkin layer, this pie would solve the age-old problem of “Which pie should we make for Thanksgiving?” The answer this year can be, “All of them!”
And a hundred years from now when my great-great grandchildren decide to investigate their past, I hope they stumble upon this recipe.
- 4½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup room temperature coconut oil
- 9 tablespoons water, more if necessary
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- Pinch salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch salt
- 1½ pounds crisp apples, like Granny Smith
- ½ pound soft apples, like McIntosh
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1⅓ cup whole milk
- ⅔ cup granulate sugar
- 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Mix flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a food processor.
- Add coconut oil; pulse to completely incorporate.
- Add water; pulse until dough forms little clumps. Remove dough from processor and press to form dough into one large ball, adding additional droplets of water, if necessary.
- Divide into 3 equal portions. Working one at a time, press each portion of dough over bottom and up the sides of three 9½-inch tart pans with removable bottoms; set aside.
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat butter, brown sugar, syrup, and salt in a medium saucepan until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Beat eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl and slowly whisk in a half cup or so of the hot sugar mixture. Whisk egg mixture back into the remaining hot syrup. Stir in pecans.
- Set pie shell on oven rack and pour pecan mixture into the pan, making sure not to overflow it. Bake until pie is set, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven, cool to room temperature, and remove from pan.
- Mix sugar, cinnamon and salt; toss with apples. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it looks and smells pale nutty brown. Add apple mixture; cover and cook until they soften and release their juices about 7 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until juices thicken to a light syrup, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
- Meanwhile, whisk cornstarch and vanilla in ½ cup of water; stir into apple mixture until it thickens, less than a minute. Transfer apples to a jelly roll pan to cool to room temperature. When ready to bake, adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Pour apple mixture into one of the pie shells and bake until crust is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven, cool to room temperature, and remove from pan.
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl, and then whisk in milk. Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a separate bowl, then whisk into milk mixture. Set pie shell on oven rack and pour filling into shell, making sure not to overflow it. Bake until custard has set and crust is golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven, cool to room temperature, and remove from pan.
- When read to serve. Set pecan pie on a cake stand; set apple pie on pecan pie, and custard pie on apple pie. Serve!