Rose Levy Beranbaum's Top 5 Thanksgiving Pie Tips

November 22, 2013

Welcome to Blooper Week, where we'll be polling various cooks and food writers -- as well as the Food52 staff -- about their biggest Thanksgiving bloopers and their essential tips to avoid future disasters. 

Today: Legendary baker Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of 8 cookbooks plus next year's The Baking Bible, saves us from Thanksgiving pie flops.

Top 5 Thanksgiving Pie Tips from Food52

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I suspect people think I was born baking, but far from it. It's perhaps because I grew up so entirely ignorant of the process that I became so detail-oriented and also like to share the tips that empower others so that they never feel the helplessness I experienced when starting out with zero info!

My disaster story: I was 19 and making my first pumpkin pie for my New England husband. I had only ever made a cherry pie with Cookstock cherry pie filling before. I was not expecting to like anything with pumpkin and sure enough it tasted dreadful.

"How can you like this?" I asked. "It tastes like a barnyard." He quite agreed, asking me what I put in it. "Pumpkin of course," was my reply. "What else?" he asked. You get the rest. I had that little idea that there was a difference between pie filling and a canned pie ingredient. Now pumpkin pie is one of my favorite pies. Amazing what a little brown sugar, cream, egg, and spice can do for pumpkin!

Top 5 Thanksgiving Pie Tips from Food52

The classic pies for Thanksgiving are pumpkin pie and pecan pie. Each is wonderful by itself but the combination of the two can be a welcomed variation, in fact, I've created a pumpkin pecan pie for my upcoming book The Baking Bible. Apple pie is another favorite seasonal pie and is often found, in its varying forms, on the Thanksgiving dessert table.

More: 8 new twists on the classic Thanksgiving pies.

Top 5 Thanksgiving Pie Tips from Food52

Here are my top 5 tips for Thanksgiving pie baking:

1. To keep a pumpkin pie from having a soggy crust, press cookie crumbs into the crust after lining the pie plate. Process together about 1 ounce (2) gingersnaps or other cookies and 1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) pecans until fine crumbs. Use the back of a spoon or your fingers to press the crumbs into the bottom of the crust and about 1/2 inch up the sides.

2. Bake the pie directly on the floor of the oven or lowest rack on a preheated baking stone or baking sheet. If you use a glass Pyrex pan, you can see when the bottom gets brown (about 20 minutes) and then raise the pie to the middle level. (Note: The crust border should not be too raised or extend past the pie plate when baking so close to the heat source at the relatively low temperature required for this pie as a large border will droop and break off.
3. Pumpkin pie is a custard, so avoid overbaking to prevent it from cracking. To test for doneness, insert a knife halfway between the center and the edge and if it comes out clean, it is done.

4. When making pie dough, freeze or chill all the ingredients well before starting to achieve a flaky texture. If the butter starts to soften or the dough becomes sticky, instead of adding too much more flour, slip it onto a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until it is firm again before continuing to roll it.

5. Apple pie is ideal to make ahead and freeze. If baked from the frozen, the bottom crust has a chance to start baking before the juicy apples thaw and bakes for a longer time than usual. This helps to ensure a crisp bottom crust. You will need to add 25 to 45 minutes to the overall baking time, depending on the amount of filling.

What are your secrets to perfect Thanksgiving pie? Let us know in the comments! 

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Rose Levy Beranbaum
    Rose Levy Beranbaum
  • Sunday@FIve
  • Soozll
  • juleeclip
  • Pegeen
I am the author of The Cake Bible, and 10 other cookbooks. My next book, Rose's Baking Basics, will be published in Fall of 2018. You can visit me on my blog which has created a baking community from all over the world.


Rose L. November 23, 2014
sorry- am in the midst of book tour and now home for thanksgiving! re the apple pie. if you use my recipe in either the Pastry Bible or the Baking BIble, which involves concentrating the apple's juices after they sit with the sugar mixture you will get a crisper bottom crust. I like freezing the pie as the bottom crust gets a head start before the filling even begins to thaw! I use a glass pie plate the first time i bake in a new oven so that i can monitor how brown the bottom crust is getting. i bake it either on a preheated baking stone of on the floor of the oven for the first 20 or so minutes until the bottom crust browns and then raise it to a higher rack. i don't find the need to add extra cornstarch or thickener to a pie intended for freezing.
Sunday@FIve November 16, 2014
I had a pumpkin pecan pie about 20 years ago,pure heavenly decadence- and have never seen it since. Cant wait to make yours!!!!
Rose L. November 25, 2013
Only commercial pecan pies have a glossy surface. you could achieve this by painting the top after baking with melted apricot or apple jelly but it will change the flavor a bit. Curdling, however, is another story and the result of over-baking. Pecan pie filling is a custard. When it starts to bubble around the edges and shimmies slightly, when moved it is ready to take out of the oven.
Soozll November 23, 2013
Question about pecan pie filling. Why does it curdle and what is that awful crystalized mass that sits on the top of the pecans sometimes? I see pictures of thick, smooth, translucent filling beneath the layer of shiny pecans. How do they get such a perfect slice while mine slumps and curdles and crystalizes on the pecans?
Rose L. November 23, 2013
I concentrate the juices of my apple pie before baking which helps greatly to keep the bottom crust from being soggy. I let the apples sit in the sugar spice mixture for at least 45 minutes and then drain them and reduce the syrup in the microwave or on the cooktop before adding them back into the apples which have been tossed with the thickener.
Pegeen November 23, 2013
Thank you for the great tips, Rose!
juleeclip November 22, 2013
I really wanted to make my pies ahead of time this year (one apple, and one grape), but had a bad experience two years ago freezing an apple pie a week out and baking from frozen. The pie was super watery, even after cooking. So, unfortunately this year I will be doing my pies the day of...
Lex November 16, 2014
Question about apple pies to Rose ( or others)... I too had super watery frozen to baked pie... Do I need to up the starch if I freeze?