The plate

For many the pie is the thing this time of year — so we visited East Durham Pie Company to help you begin your Thanksgiving prep

Pie season | Thanksgiving Prep with East Durham Pie Company


It’s that time of the year. You sketch out your Thanksgiving menu, inevitably bookended by pumpkin pie. If you’re not an accomplished baker, you’re already sweating—or delegating. But with the recipe below, you’re poised to deliver a standout dessert that pairs the beloved pumpkin flavor with the richness of malt, cradled by a buttery crust that just might elicit a fist-pound from your grandma. The secret? “Plan ahead,” says East Durham Pie Company’s Ali Rudel. “Make time to chill your ingredients and allow your dough to set. Patience is the most important thing.”

Ali Rudel is especially thankful this Thanksgiving. In summer 2015, she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer at the age of 27. “I was very lucky,” she says. “I had a treatable cancer, one most people walk away from.” The diagnosis didn’t stop her from launching East Durham Pie Company a month after surgery. In fact, it propelled her. “I was at a point in my career where I really wanted to do something different,” she explains. “I had been thinking about doing this for a long time. It was my diagnosis and subsequent successful treatment that pushed me to make a go of it.”

Ali’s fascination with pie baking started when she was a barista at Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn, New York, then a fledgling pie and coffee shop and now one of the most famous in all of New York. “I was one of their first employees and worked my way into the kitchen to learn from them,” she says, speaking of the shop’s owners, sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen. “It’s something I’ve loved ever since.”

She and her husband, Ben Filippo, moved to Durham in 2011. “We were starting our family and wanted to be in a place where we could have a closer connection to agriculture.” Ali served on the board at Benevolence Farm, got involved with local food and agriculture groups in the Triangle, and then managed the Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market. In her spare time, she made pies for friends, and eventually started selling them. Local, seasonal ingredients have always been the centerpiece.

“Seasonality is what pie is all about,” she says. “It’s about making use of fruits and vegetables you have on hand. I use local dairy and eggs, and whatever produce is in season locally. In my recipes I tend to go light on sugar and spices, because I strongly believe that if I’m using good quality produce I want to be able to taste it.”

In October 2015, she officially launched East Durham Pie Company, continuing to fill personal orders but also supplying spots like Cocoa Cinnamon and Bulldega and doing pop-up pie shops at places like Ponysaurus Brewing. This past summer, she launched a Kickstarter campaign to move her pie-baking business, currently operated out of her certified home kitchen, into a storefront. Her goal was to raise $20,000. She raised $24,266.

The next step is to open a pie shop in Old East Durham, where Ali and her husband Ben, the executive director of the nonprofit Preservation Durham, live with their two daughters. “It’s an old mill village that’s been depressed for a while now. But it’s really diverse, and we know a lot of our neighbors. There’s this desire for a communal place where people can go to grab coffee and something to eat, and we want to create that.”


Malted 
Pumpkin Pie

Dough

1¼ cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 stick butter, very cold

¼ cup ice cold water

flour for dusting

Egg Wash

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

Filling

2 cups pumpkin puree

¾ cup whole milk

¼ cup heavy cream

3 eggs

¼ cup malt powder

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon kosher salt

In a large mixing bowl use a pastry cutter to whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter into centimeter-size cubes. Toss the cubed butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is coated, and then using the pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Continue cutting until the butter is largely incorporated, with a few scattered pieces that are pea-sized. Add the water, and using a bench scraper, fold in until there are no obvious wet parts. Using your bench scraper, cut the water into the dough, bringing dry parts into moist parts until the dough is uniformly moist. If at any point the dough becomes warm or the butter starts to melt, place the entire bowl in the fridge and allow it to chill (about ten minutes). Using your finger tips so as not to melt the butter, bring the dough together. You shouldn’t knead the dough but rather, apply just enough pressure to bring it together. It should be moist but not tacky and shouldn’t be crumbly. If it’s tacky, dust it with a little flour, if it’s too crumbly to form you can add a teaspoon or so of water. Form it into a half-inch thick disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Let it chill in the fridge for at least two hours, or better yet, overnight.

Remove dough from the fridge and dust your work surface lightly with flour. Roll dough into a large, roughly 13-inch circle. It should be about the thickness of a corrugated cardboard box. Place it into a deep dish 10-inch pie tin and cut the excess dough using kitchen sheers so that there is 1½ inches of overhang. Roll and crimp the edges and place in the freezer until frozen solid, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the frozen crust with tin foil, pressing the foil over the crimped edges to cover completely, and fill the bottom half inch of the dish with pie weights. Place on a sheet pan and bake for fifteen minutes. Remove from the oven and pull the foil back to expose the crimped edges, rotate the pan 180 degrees and place back in the oven to bake for another 15 minutes. Remove the foil and pie weights and allow the crust to cool completely on a wire rack. It should be a pale golden color.

Drop the oven temperature to 325 degrees. In a medium size mixing bowl beat eggs until frothy, then mix in the pumpkin, milk and heavy cream and set aside. In a small bowl combine brown sugar, spices, malt powder and salt and stir into the mixture.

Beat together the egg and water until well combined and using a pastry brush, brush the crimped edges of the pre-baked crust.

Fill the crust and bake on a baking sheet for about 50 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees about 30 minutes into baking once the filling has begun to set around the edges. The pie is ready to come out when the filling has puffed on the edges and is completely set in the middle. Allow to cool completely before serving.


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