Pie resources

• “Apple Pie: 100 Delicious and Decidedly Different Recipes for America’s Favorite Pie” by Ken Haedrich, The Harvard Common Press, 2002, www.harvardcommonpress.com

• “Pie: 300 Tried and True Recipes for Delicious Pie” by Ken Haedrich, The Harvard Common Press, 2011, www.harvardcommonpress.com

• The Pie Academy, www.thepieacademy.com, Ken Haedrich’s website with recipes, tips, videos

• “Blue Chair Cooks with Jam & Marmalade, “ by Rachel Saunders, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2014, www.andrewsmcmeel.com

• Blue Chair Fruit Co., artisan jams and marmalades, made by hand in Oakland, California, www.bluechairfruit.com

It’s not Thanksgiving dinner without pie.

We know you’ll save room for a slice of pumpkin, apple or pecan pie Nov. 27.

We’d never suggest going without your favorite pie recipe, but how about changing up your baking routine this year with a twist on the classics?

Pie expert Ken Haedrich has written two comprehensive and fun-to-read pie cookbooks (see sidebar), and we’re sharing three of his recipes: Pennsylvania Dutch Sour Cream Apple Pie (with a crunchy pecan topping), Harvest Pie with Autumn Leaves (it’s a melange of apples, pears, diced pumpkin and dried cranberries inside a double crust) and Apple Cherry Pie with Coconut Almond Crumb Topping, any of which would make a grand finale to a Thanksgiving feast.

Haedrich’s “Apple Pie” cookbook (The Harvard Common Press) has 100 recipe variations on America’s favorite pie, along with 10 crust recipes, including basic butter, shortening and oil versions, cheddar cheese pastry, and graham cracker crust, too.

This is a guy who knows how to jazz up an apple pie.

“It’s important to not mess with tradition too much, just play with it. I think people appreciate something a little different,” Haedrich said in a phone interview from his home in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. “The Pennsylvania Dutch Sour Cream Apple Pie is a great pie for Thanksgiving, and there’s no whipped cream needed. It’s in keeping with this whole idea of tweaking tradition a bit. It tweaks apple pie without taking it in an outrageous direction. It’s just a really good pie.”

If you’re an experienced baker and want to make a more adventurous pumpkin pie this year (instead of the recipe on the back of the pumpkin can), you’ll be interested in jam and marmalade maven Rachel Saunders’ recipes.

She’s the owner and founder of Blue Chair Fruit Co. in Oakland, California, an artisan jam company specializing in sustainably farmed fruits of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Apple-Pumpkin Pie in her new cookbook, “Blue Chair Cooks with Jam and Marmalade,” (Andrews McMeel Publishing) is visually stunning with pumpkin slices (like apple slices) instead of puree, along with the subtle addition of homemade sweet tomato jam, golden raisins and freshly ground spices, including mace, which comes from the nutmeg seed.

If you’re too busy to make tomato jam before the holidays, you can buy it from her company, www.bluechairfruit.com.

“I’d never seen a pumpkin pie with sliced pumpkin in it, and I thought it made so much sense. I wanted to inject some unusual spice in the Apple-Pumpkin Pie, and mace boosted the flavors. When I think about that pie, it has a nice, spicy, holiday quality to it,” Saunders said in a phone interview from Northern California.

If pecan pie is a must at your house on Thanksgiving, take a look at Saunders’ favorite pecan pie recipe for a spin on the usual ingredients.

My Pecan Pie gets its sweetness from maple syrup, not corn syrup. Seville orange marmalade, dark rum, coconut, dates and vanilla give the pie its intense flavor and makes it more interesting than the traditional version that’s so sweet it almost melts your teeth.

This is the pie that Saunders told us she will be making for Thanksgiving this year.

“It’s just wonderful because the orange marmalade adds an undernote to the traditional sweetness of pecan pie, and it has maple syrup in it, a very underutilized ingredient. Maple syrup also has acidity to it, and it’s a perfect flavor with pecans,” she said.

Saunders’ “Blue Chair Cooks with Jam & Marmalade” includes more than 250 recipes for using jam in a wide variety of dishes, from breakfast to savory lunch and dinner options, and even cocktails.

“I love to put a little jam in any fruit pie,” she said. It’s something you can try too, with any of your homemade fruit pies.”

If pie making makes you a little nervous, you’re not alone.

Haedrich, a food writer, cookbook author of more than a dozen books and cooking instructor, is so passionate about pie-making that he started The Pie Academy website in 2012 (www.thepieacademy.com). Its goal is to become the top online resource for pie-makers of all levels, from novice to expert.

He knows that anyone can learn to make great pies from scratch, because that’s what he did.

Haedrich, 60, has been making pie for more than 40 years. Because pie-making became second nature to him, he told us he got into the habit of telling people that it was easy.

“But since I’ve been running The Pie Academy for almost three years, I’m getting questions from people who are having problems making pie, primarily with the crust: it falls apart, it doesn’t cooperate, it shrinks.

“So now I take exception when people say ‘easy as pie.’ It’s not. There are basic things to learn, like keeping ingredients cold, using the right surface to roll pastry on and the right pressure with the rolling pin,” he said.

Haedrich also created an online video class called The No-More-Tears-Pie-Pastry Course where anyone can learn pie-making techniques and get hours of instruction at a personalized pace.

“In this day and age, we’re anxious to be instant experts. You’re not going to be when it comes to making pie. Think of it as a journey to enjoy. Be patient with yourself, and be patient with the process,” Haedrich said.

Some home cooks, overwhelmed with cooking the whole Thanksgiving meal, may choose to go with a store-bought pie. Costco, for example, reports that in 2013, during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, its bakeries sold more than 1.5 million pies in the United States, including more than 1 million pumpkin pies.

Haedrich thinks it’s worth the effort to bake a pie at home.

“I get that people are too busy or too overwhelmed at the holidays. If you’ve done everything else on your own, something’s got to give, so maybe you fall back on the $5.99 Costco pie.

“To me, making pie is the same as writing a handwritten note. Not enough people write handwritten notes today, and not enough people make pie. When you do it you’re saying, ‘You mean something to me, you’re special, and I’m doing this for you because I love you.’ And it’s a very different experience than serving Costco pie,” he said.