The holidays may be all about tradition, but there are delicious twists to some holiday classics that will give you that sense of comfort and satisfaction while updating those tastes to bring them out of the ordinary.

Your gatherings don’t have to be limited to the predictable pumpkin pie. There are plenty of other pie options that your guests will enjoy as well as other ways to incorporate pumpkin flavor—from cupcakes to cheesecake to bars to mousse.

Sweet and Savory Pies

“We make a sweet potato pie that is actually a recipe of Patti LaBelle’s that we use in the shop,” says Chris Monroe, owner of Timbrook Kitchens, located at 17 Ridge Road in Munster. “I feel like sweet potato versus pumpkin has way more flavor in just the natural product itself. With pumpkin you have to put a lot of stuff into it.”

The sweet potato pie is one of several pie flavors that can be ordered for the holidays. Those who aren’t that fond of pumpkin can choose from a dozen different pie flavors—from Key lime to almond pear ginger to pecan butterscotch schnapps glaze.

And pie doesn’t have to be just for dessert. He also makes savory slab pies to be served as appetizers in such flavors as red pepper, goat cheese and mushroom; and pulled pork and mozzarella. “We also do sweet potato cheesecake with a ginger snap crust. It’s very creamy and has a really nice texture,” he says.

Small but Mighty

Allison Ferconio, owner of Pie Eyed, located at 1600 119th Street in Whiting, says she enjoys the flavor of pumpkin in the form of pumpkin cheesecake with bourbon whipped cream, or a pecan pie for her preferred holiday dessert.

Ferconio suggests individual-size desserts for large gatherings as well as cookies or pies. For the holidays, 6- and 9-inch pies can be ordered in pumpkin, pecan, apple and butterscotch. With pumpkin being “the pie of the pilgrims,” Ferconio says it’s that tradition that helps it retain its spot as the assumed and most popular holiday dessert.

“Pecan pie is a holiday staple,” Ferconio says. “We tell ourselves that enjoying the decadence of the gooey filling is okay because the diet starts the first of the year.”

Decadent Detours

Designer Desserts has been in downtown Valparaiso at 56 West Lincolnway since 2004. A self-taught baker and artist, owner Adam Wiltfang specializes in custom wedding cakes and cupcakes and he suggests cupcakes as good option for large gatherings.

“I love the idea of a non-traditional holiday dessert. Something completely unexpected, yet it still has that feeling of comfort food,” Wiltfang says. “For example, we took three of your favorite holiday desserts and combined them into a cake/pie torte. Layering a butter pecan cake filled with a chocolate bourbon pecan pie, a pumpkin spice cake filled with pumpkin pecan crunch pie and a caramel apple cake filled with an apple pie. It is something that reminds you of the holidays but offers a twist on the standard pie.”

Some of his suggestions for non-pumpkin pie flavors are downright scrumptious. “Alternate pie flavors, usually for a large gathering, you don't want to veer too far from the expected treats, but adding a little something extra is always a plus, like chocolate and bourbon to a pecan pie with an orange zest infused crème anglaise; or adding cranberries and even raspberries to an apple or peach pie gives an added flavor boost. Or even something as simple as making your favorite holiday pies but in mini individual sizes, using a small pie or muffin tin. This way, guests can try a variety of flavors without feeling guilty.”

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