Autumn Spiced Carrot Pie is one of three pie flavors developed by Briana Carson of Crave Pie Studio for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. STYLING BY BRIANA CARSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

3 pies that might surprise your holiday guests

For Thanksgiving and beyond, try these ‘familiar but elevated’ flavors

Briana Carson of Crave Pie Studio was in her late 40s before she ate a pie with a baked-from-scratch crust. “It literally changed my life.”

Carson didn’t grow up in a family of bakers, so the pies she’d eaten had all been from the grocery store. But then, her father’s wife came to Thanksgiving with a freshly baked apple pie, and Carson thought, “This is the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.”

Fast-forward through Carson’s time in culinary school as she prepared to leave her corporate career. Part of the program required her to bake an apple pie from scratch. “Now I knew what a real pie should taste like. I practiced different formulas for the pastry, different combinations of apples. I baked dozens of pies and gave them away. And what people told me was how much joy they got from those pies.”

So after falling in love with pie, Carson fell in love with sharing pie. Deciding there was a business opportunity in pie, she rented space in a commercial kitchen and started baking pies and selling them at fall festivals and the Suwanee farmers market. In July 2012, she opened her first shop, a painted red brick storefront on Duluth’s Main Street.

“I love the vision Duluth’s city planners have for downtown. It’s very walkable and there’s a charming town square where they hold concerts. I love that my shop is located in the heart of the community, on Main Street, where a pie shop belongs.”

Briana Carson, shown at her Crave Pie Studio in Duluth, displays three flavors she developed: Brown Butter Chess Pie (from left), Autumn Spiced Carrot Pie and Bourbon Maple Custard Pie. STYLING BY BRIANA CARSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

In December, she will open her second shop, in Alpharetta’s new City Center development. “It’s another place I think a pie shop belongs. I have a following in Alpharetta and Milton, customers who drive all the way to Duluth to purchase our pies. This seems like a natural progression.”

The first pie recipe she developed for her new business? Maple Pecan. Her husband Greg, who is from Georgia, insisted she offer a pecan pie. She added the maple as a nod to her own New England roots.

It takes a village to prepare 200 pies each day. Her team includes two bakers, Gen White and Courtney Mahady, who worked for Crave Pie, left for corporate jobs, and are now coming back to the pie business. “We have apprentice bakers, too, which is what Gen and Courtney were. I call them the ‘Mom Squad’ because they are women with older children who can come and help out when we need them. Altogether, it’s a cast of about 10.”

Carson loves sharing her love of pie with others, and she loves developing new pie flavors. She’s not abandoning the pies her customers have come to expect — Chocolate Bourbon, Lemon Chess, Dutch Apple — but she also wants to offer pies that are new and different. “That’s the part that keeps it creative and fresh for me.”

For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she developed three pie flavors she calls “familiar but elevated.” You’ll find these on rotation at the shops through fall.

Briana Carson rolls out the crust for one of her pies. STYLING BY BRIANA CARSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

CRAVE PIE TIPS FOR GREAT PIES

When making pie dough, keep ingredients very cold. Chill flour and butter in freezer and use ice-cold water.

When working with pie dough, work quickly. Return dough to refrigerator to chill, if needed, and then continue to roll out. Tears in the pastry can be patched with scrap pieces of dough instead of rerolling and overworking dough.

Use as little flour as possible when rolling out pie dough. Added flour will be absorbed into pie dough, and will end up making the crust tough. Use a bench scraper tool to lift dough off counter instead of adding excess flour.

After lining the pie plate, put unbaked pie in refrigerator or freezer to chill before putting into a preheated oven. The cold pastry entering a very hot oven will cause the fat to melt, and steam will create air pockets and layers of flakiness in the cooked pie crust.

Try to resist the urge to slice your pie as soon as you take it out of the oven. Baked pies, especially fruit pies, need time to cool and rest before they are sliced. For that perfect slice that holds its shape, cool your fruit pie 2-3 hours to allow the juice to reabsorb into the fruit where it belongs, and not be wasted in the pie pan. Other baked pies should be cooled at least an hour, or until no longer warm to the touch.

WHERE TO FIND CRAVE PIE

A fire that started in a neighboring restaurant closed down the Duluth Crave Pie location in October. While repairs are underway, Briana Carson and her team will be bringing pies to pop-up shops throughout the city. Visit Crave Pie on social media for where to find Crave Pie as well as information on events and pie happenings: instagram.com/cravepie/, facebook.com/CravePieStudio/.

RECIPES

The great thing about pie? It can all be done ahead. Make your pie dough and refrigerate or freeze it. Bake your pie shells and refrigerate before filling and baking. Bake your pies a day ahead and refrigerate before serving. No last-minute work except maybe whipping up a little cream.

Save time later by preparing dough for a freshly made pie crust up to three days ahead. STYLING BY BRIANA CARSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography
Basic All-Butter Pie Crust
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for flouring work surface
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water, or as needed
  • In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and cut into flour using your fingers, a pastry blender or two knives. Work with butter until each piece is no larger than a pea. Gradually add ice water and stir together until mixture forms a dough. Do not handle the mixture too much and do not add too much liquid. Divide the dough into two disks, wrap well and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled before using. May be made up to 3 days ahead and kept refrigerated.
  • When ready to use, remove 1 disk from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Beginning in the center of the disk, roll evenly outward, turning the dough and maintaining a circular shape. Use a bench scraper to lift the rolled dough into the pie pan. Press the dough into the pan beginning in the center and working outward. Around the edge of the pie pan, tuck excess dough under to form a thicker rim and use your fingers or a fork to crimp the edges. Refrigerate pie pan until ready to bake.
  • To blind-bake a pie shell (pre-baking the pie shell until done): Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line the crust-lined pie pan with a piece of parchment paper. Fill with pie weights, dried beans or dry uncooked rice. Bake 20 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Remove parchment paper and pie weights and return to oven until crust is baked through, about another 10 minutes.
  • To par-bake a pie shell (pre-baking the pie shell until just firm): Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line the crust-lined pie pan with a piece of parchment paper. Fill with pie weights, dried beans or dry uncooked rice. Bake 12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Remove parchment paper and weights. Fill according to recipe.Makes 2 (9- or 10-inch) crusts.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 8 servings per crust: 188 calories (percent of calories from fat, 56), 3 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 12 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 120 milligrams sodium.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Briana Carson of Crave Pie.

Bourbon Maple Custard Pie, developed by Briana Carson of Crave Pie Studio, uses maple syrup as a sweetener. STYLING BY BRIANA CARSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Bourbon Maple Custard Pie

Custard pie is fine, but Briana Carson of Crave Pie adds a whole new level of flavor with maple syrup as a sweetener. Want to gild the lily? Use one of the bourbon-barrel aged maple syrups now on the market.

If you don’t have a brulee torch, you can still make a caramelized sugar topping by covering the edges of the pie with foil and sprinkling the top with sugar, then running it quickly under the broiler, just until the sugar begins to bubble and turn brown.

Bourbon Maple Custard Pie
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (9-inch or 10-inch) fully baked pie crust (see Basic All-Butter Pie Crust recipe)
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together cream and egg yolks. Add maple syrup, 1/4 cup sugar, bourbon and salt. Whisk again. Pour into prepared pie crust and bake 40 minutes or until center is set. It should still be jiggly but not sloshy. Remove from oven and cool. Refrigerate at least 90 minutes until ready to serve.
  • To create the bruleed top, sprinkle pie with remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Use a torch to caramelize the sugar. Serve immediately. Serves 8.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 540 calories (percent of calories from fat, 63), 6 grams protein, 44 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 38 grams fat (22 grams saturated), 272 milligrams cholesterol, 282 milligrams sodium.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Briana Carson of Crave Pie.

Brown Butter Chess Pie, developed by Briana Carson of Crave Pie Studio, wins even more fans with its bourbon whipped cream topping. STYLING BY BRIANA CARSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Brown Butter Chess Pie

Browning the butter for this pie takes a traditional Southern favorite up a notch. Impress your guests even more with a bourbon whipped cream topping.

Brown Butter Chess Pie
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 (9-inch or 10-inch) par-baked pie crust (see Basic All-Butter Pie Crust recipe)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat until milk solids have separated and turn golden brown. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  • In a measuring cup, combine milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cornmeal, flour and salt. Whisk in cooled melted butter, eggs, milk mixture and vanilla. When well blended, pour mixture into par-baked pie crust. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. The filling will have a thin, crisp top and may crack. Cool pie and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Can be made ahead and frozen.
  • When ready to serve, beat cream, powdered sugar and bourbon until cream forms soft peaks. Serve on top of or alongside pie. Serves 8.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 658 calories (percent of calories from fat, 51), 7 grams protein, 74 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 37 grams fat (22 grams saturated), 211 milligrams cholesterol, 425 milligrams sodium.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Briana Carson of Crave Pie.

Autumn Spiced Carrot Pie, developed by Briana Carson of Crave Pie Studio, can displace a pumpkin pie or a sweet potato pie on your Thanksgiving table. STYLING BY BRIANA CARSON / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Autumn Spiced Carrot Pie

Sure, you could serve sweet potato or pumpkin pie, but surprise your guests with this roasted carrot pie. Just as delicious, it’s sweet potato pie’s sophisticated cousin.

The filling in this recipe is very generous and may be just a bit too much for a 9-inch pie shell. Bake any extra filling in a ramekin and enjoy it as a cook’s treat.

Autumn Spiced Carrot Pie
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled
  • Vegetable oil, to lightly coat carrots
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon vanilla, divided
  • 1 (10-inch) par-baked pie crust
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and 1/3 cup mascarpone, room temperature
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Arrange carrots on a rimmed baking sheet and add just enough oil to lightly coat each one. Bake 20 minutes or until carrots are tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly
  • Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
  • In the bowl of a food processor, combine carrots, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Process until smooth. Add eggs, 3/4 cup cream, milk and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla, and process until completely blended. Pour into par-baked crust and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until set. The edges should puff slightly and the center should be jiggly but not sloshy. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly. Pie may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or frozen for a month.
  • When ready to serve, make topping by whipping remaining 1 cup cream until it just begins to thicken. Add powdered sugar and remaining tablespoon vanilla. Continue whipping until cream forms soft peaks, then fold in mascarpone. Spoon or pipe on top of pie and serve. Serves 10.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 366 calories (percent of calories from fat, 62), 5 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 25 grams fat (12 grams saturated), 128 milligrams cholesterol, 235 milligrams sodium.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Briana Carson of Crave Pie.

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