Ever since the early Romans' first rendition of pie—goat cheese with honey in a rye crust—this culinary classic has been a favorite. Medieval Italian diners feasted on savory mixtures of beef, raisins, and spices baked in a crust. Sixteenth-century Brits fashioned the first fruit "pasties," transporting the pie during the 17th century to America, when settlers brought their recipes to the colonies. By the time the Pennsylvania Dutch perfected the art in the early 18th century, the beloved pastry had become an American tradition.
Simpler than soufflés and more traditional than tortes, a freshly made pie has become the mark of a great baker. Simpler than soufflés and more traditional than tortes, a freshly made pie has become the mark of a great baker, and the gold standard for the end of a meal. Yet pie baking does not need to be intimidating. The secret is in fresh, seasonal ingredients, and in following a few simple tips.
First, start with a reduced-fat crust to trim calories and fat. Fill the crust with an assortment of fall's luscious, healthy fruits: crisp apples, juicy pears and figs, tart cranberries, and heart-healthy nuts—using organic, whenever possible. Leave peels on for extra fiber, and sweeten the mix with honey, date sugar, maple crystals, or unrefined cane sugar instead of empty-calorie white sugar. Top off your creation with low-fat organic ice cream, frozen yogurt, or refreshing soy ice cream. The five simple, healthy recipes here will make baking as easy as pie.
Raspberry Pear Pie
Serves 8 / Autumn's harvest of Anjou, Bosc, and Bartlett pears gets a colorful lift from juicy raspberries. Make sure pears are ripe, but still firm, for the best results. Get recipe.
Apple and Cranberry Lattice Pie
Serves 8 / Brimming with juicy apples and tangy cranberries, this lovely pie is best served fresh out of the oven— à la mode is a must! Get recipe.
Serves 8 / This super-simple Southern favorite has a rich, creamy texture with a minimum amount of fat. A scoop of pomegranate ice cream completes this unusual and beautiful dessert. Get recipe.
Pomegranate Ice Cream
Serves 6 / Bottled pomegranate juice is available at many specialty stores and supermarkets. To make your own, place pomegranate seeds in a blender and pulse gently to just break the juice sacks, but not enough to pulverize the seed pits. Pour into a strainer set over a bowl and press the mixture with the back of a spoon to extract as much juice as possible; discard the pits. Four medium, ripe pomegranates should yield about 1-1/2 cups juice plus 1/2 cup seeds. Get recipe.
Hazelnut, Cranberry, and Pumpkin Pie
Serves 8 / Studded with hazelnuts and brilliant cranberries, this pumpkin pie is a colorful break from the traditional version. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a cup of chilled eggnog. Get recipe.
Serves 8 / Juicy figs laced with fragrant spices star in this pie, memorable for a taste that is savory rather than sweet. Serve it as dessert, or try it with dollops of goat cheese and a sprinkle of toasted walnuts as a novel appetizer. Get recipe.
Light and Flaky Crust
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie crust / This flaky, moist crust has less fat than a typical crust, but no less flavor. For best results, make sure the butter is very cold. Get recipe.