Make This Stunning Gelt Pie to Celebrate Thanksgivukkah
Raspberries and chocolate come together in this sufganiyot-inspired dessert.
There’s a reason why many weddings feature sky-high cakes and holiday houses are constructed with gingerbread cookies. Those pastries are pretty easy to build with. But pie crust? Not so much. Home baker Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin quickly learned why when she started to experiment with the art of pie construction in early 2016.
“My friends in the industry told me you don’t see a lot of it because of how pies change so much in the oven,” Clark-Bojin explains. “When you carve out details, they puff up and get distorted. Because of the browning, things change color. Any time people would get fancy with pies, they wouldn’t turn out how they wanted.”
She made it her mission to tinker and experiment, developing techniques to properly shape pie dough without sacrificing texture and flavor. Her hard work is showcased in Pies Are Awesome, a baking book that features 28 pie art designs centered around holidays and life occasions.
Employing her background in fine arts, the Vancouver-based baker began researching early pie artisans from the Renaissance. Clark-Bojin sketched out designs in notebooks, which are now filled with “hundreds of pie sketches, more than I could bake in 10 lifetimes,” she says. Her first a-ha moment arrived when she made a pie shaped like the Predator.
“That was a couple months into my pie-baking journey,” she remembers. “I realized that I could make pie dough behave like clay if I used egg white or something with a protein as a blending medium. Instead of 2D layers, I could get real depth.”
Her creativity began to really take off and she started posting her designs on Instagram, first capturing the attention of family and friends, and soon a much wider audience. The Food Network and Today show came calling and she realized how connected people feel to pie.
“I’ve spoken to people all over the world about pies,” she says. “Pie is kind of the great equalizer, one of the few things that is ubiquitously good. No matter where you live, people remember getting something baked with love.”
Realizing how connected the dessert is with special occassions, she decided to organize her book by holidays, including pie construction tutorials for everything from Lunar New Year to Day of the Dead to Diwali. Plus, there are ideas for baby showers, birthdays, and, yes, weddings to go beyond the traditional three-tiered cake.
Another way she went outside the box was to create a pie inspired by Hanukkah, which begins on November 28 this year. Her Gelt Pie takes the flavors of a traditional sufganiyot (a type of jelly doughnut) and combines it with images from the gelt chocolate gold coins used in dreidel games.
“Whenever I do something for Jewish culture, I call my cousin who lives down the street from me,” Clark-Bojin says. “She is my cultural consultant and let me know that raspberries are a pretty traditional ingredient.”
Clark-Bojin uses an all-butter pie shell recipe and, once it’s baked, pours a thin layer of chocolate on the bottom and lets it set. For the filling, she reduces fresh raspberries with water and instant clear gel on the stove until it’s boiling and thickened to a jam-like consistency. Then she throws in another cup of raspberries and sets it aside to cool.
“Make sure the filling is completely cool, otherwise the dough will absorb the moisture and it will get all gummy and yucky,” she advises.
The next step is to pour the cool raspberry mixture into the baked pie shell, dust with sanding sugar to give it a “bit of a sparkle.” Finally, Clark-Bojin’s signature is to top the entire thing with a dough medallion in the shape of a gelt coin and add gold foil topping as the pièce de résistance.
Though the final result certainly is a work of art, Clark-Bojin wants at-home bakers to feel reassured by her book. “I don’t want people to look at pie art and feel in any way intimidated,” she says. “I fail as much as I succeed. I want them to understand that the whole point is having fun and creating joy.”
Gelt Pie Recipe
- The Base Pie: The traditional sufganiyot has a raspberry filling, but as long as you choose something “red” and add a decorative crimp you’ll get the same effect.
- The dough: Any dough will work for this pie design. This example uses an all-butter crust—as you can see it is a little puffy after baking, but the basic shape is retained
- Red sanding sugar
- Pasteurized egg white (or almond milk if making a vegan pie)
- Vanilla extract
- Brown gel food color
1. Cut out your circle, interior shapes, and six strips of dough the length of the circle’s diameter. Use your ruler to cut the strips.
2. Coat your disk in pasteurized egg white and paste down the strips. If you are feeling fancy you can weave them together, or simply overlap them.
3. With a fondant sculpting tool or toothpick, mark little score lines around the perimeter of the pie to emulate the edge of a coin.
4. Score the lines for the decorative menorahs. Go around the circle, first scoring all of the center lines, then all of the bottom arms.
5. Now fill in the remaining arms.
6. Give the disk a vanilla wash, making sure the mixture seeps into all the cracks, then bake at 400°F for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Use a cake lifter to place the cooled disk onto your base pie, and finish it off with red sanding sugar.
7. If you are using a particularly puffy dough or a dough prone to spreading, freeze your disk decoration overnight before baking to help retain harper details.
8. If you have small Hanukkah-themed cookie cutters or stamps, you can use them to create the decorations around the circle instead of hand scoring the menorah design.