Cook off the beaten track with these unique Thanksgiving desserts


Pumpkin pie, while delicious, is an expected Thanksgiving dessert recipe with no surprises. Yet the fall season is filled with delicious produce other than pumpkins. For example, apples, especially varieties with tart and complex flavors, are great for baking. For this upcoming Thanksgiving, why not prepare something off the beaten path? Why not surprise your guests and family with some creative flavors? Instead of pumpkin pie, bake apple pie in a smokehouse. For something other than pie, maybe an elegant French apple cake with crème fraîche is more your style. To help you out, The Manual enlisted the expertise of two chefs, each with their own unique cooking styles, to share their favorite fall dessert recipes.

Smoked Dutch Apple Pie Recipe

Smoked Dutch Apple Pie

From Hey Grill Hey

Susie Bulloch is a highly experienced grillmaster, recipe maker, Guinness World Record holder, Food Network personality and the founder of the Hey Grill, Hey food blog. She’s also a strong advocate for breaking stereotypes, especially in the male-dominated arena of grilling.

The classification of this pie as Dutch apple pie is due to its crumb filling (mixture of butter, flour and sugar). According to Bulloch, this apple pie is technically not smoked. Instead, baking a pie in the smoker will create a more delicious overall bake for your baking. Additionally, fire baking is actually the traditional method of baking pastries since the gas oven is a modern invention. One bite and you will see why using this cooking method is superior to standard baking.


For the crust:

  • 8 tablespoons very cold salted butter
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • .5 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of ice water (more if needed)

For the apple filling:

  • 5.5 cups cooking apples (peeled, seeded and cut into 0.25 inch slices)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 0.25 cup dark brown sugar
  • .5 cup granulated sugar
  • .25 cup all-purpose flour
  • .5 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 0.25 teaspoon nutmeg

For the crumb filling:

  • .75 cup all-purpose flour
  • 0.25 cup granulated sugar
  • 0.25 cup dark brown sugar
  • .5 cup salted butter (softened)


  1. Prepare the pie crust. Cut the cooled butter into cubes and put it back in the fridge while you prepare the flour. In a large food processor with a steel blade, place the flour, salt and sugar. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter to the flour and beat the food processor until the butter is reduced to pea size (12-15 times).
  2. Start the food processor and while it is running, pour ice water into the feed tube until the dough begins to form a ball. Stop the food processor as soon as the dough begins to form (there will still be a lot of unincorporated pieces of dough in the mixer bowl).
  3. Place on a floured board and press the dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. While the dough is in the refrigerator, preheat your pellet smoker to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use any wood you like, but I recommend the apple. At this higher temperature, you won’t get too much smoke flavor from the grill. If you wish, you can bake in the oven. I recommend moving your oven rack to the lowest shelf.
  5. Unroll the dough and place it on a floured surface and roll into a 12 inch round. Carefully transfer to a 9 × 3 inch deep pie pan and crimp the edges. Return the pie pan to the refrigerator while you prepare the filling and filling.
  6. Combine all the ingredients for the pie filling in a large bowl. Mix gently with a rubber spatula to distribute the ingredients without breaking too many apples.
  7. Stack apples in prepared pie shell and set aside.
  8. In a separate bowl, combine the ingredients for the breadcrumb filling. Use a fork or cookie cutter to distribute the butter evenly.
  9. Sprinkle breadcrumb filling evenly over apples.
  10. Place the pie in your preheated smoker, close the lid and bake for 60 minutes. If the edges of the pie shell are starting to darken too much, you can cover the edges with foil.
  11. Remove the pie and let cool before serving.

French apple cake recipe

Plated French apple cake sprinkled with powdered sugar on the table.

(By Pastry Chef Cati Molnar from Robert Et Fils.)

Robert Et Fils is a fine dining French restaurant in Chicago with a focus on sustainability. It’s an elegant cake, chock full of fresh fall apples, it’s a Thanksgiving staple.


  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • .75 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1.5 cc of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of dark rum
  • .5 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted, lukewarm
  • 4 large apples, peeled, thinly sliced


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch round or square cake pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the flour and baking powder and set them aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with 0.75 cups of the sugar and salt until light and fluffy (this takes about 2 minutes by hand).
  4. Add rum and crème fraîche and whisk until well blended.
  5. Add the flour, then the melted butter, whisking until just combined into a smooth, even paste.
  6. Gently fold in apple slices until coated with batter.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons of sugar and another pinch of salt.
  8. Bake 45 to 60 minutes or until set and lightly browned. The cake can flow slightly in the center as it cools.
  9. * Brandy, whiskey or bourbon can replace rum. For an alcohol-free option, use 4 teaspoons of vanilla extract and increase the crème fraîche to 0.5 cups.

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