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Bake Outside the Box with these Unique Thanksgiving Desserts Recipes

Pumpkin pie, while delicious, is an expected and unsurprising Thanksgiving dessert recipe. Yet the fall season is filled with delicious produce other than pumpkins. For instance, apples, especially the varieties with tart and complex flavors, are perfect for baking. For this upcoming Thanksgiving, why not bake something outside the box? Why not surprise your guests and family with creative flavors? Instead of pumpkin pie, bake an apple pie in a smoker. For something other than pie, perhaps an elegant French style apple cake with crème fraiche is more of your style. To help, The Manual has enlisted the expertise of two chefs, each with their own unique baking styles to share their favorite fall dessert recipes.

Smoked Dutch Apple Pie Recipe

Sliced of Smoked Dutch Apple Pie on a plate.
Smoked Dutch Apple Pie

From Hey Grill Hey

Susie Bulloch is a highly experienced grillmaster, recipe developer, Guinness World Record Holder, Food Network personality, and founder of the food blog, Hey Grill, Hey. She is also a vocal advocate for breaking stereotypes, particularly in the male-dominated arena of grilling.

This pie’s classification as a Dutch apple pie is due to its crumb topping (mixture of butter, flour, and sugar). According to Bulloch, this apple pie isn’t technically smoked. However, cooking a pie in the smoker will create a more delicious overall cook to your pastry. Also, fire cooking is actually the traditional method of cooking pastries given that the gas and electric oven is a modern invention. One bite and you’ll understand why using this cooking method is superior to standard oven baking.


For Crust:

  • 8 tbsp very cold salted butter
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • .5 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp ice water (more as needed)

For Apple Filling: 

  • 5.5 cups baking apples (peeled, cored, and sliced into .25 inch slices)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • .25 cup dark brown sugar
  • .5 cup granulated sugar
  • .25 cup all purpose flour
  • .5 tsp cinnamon
  • .25 tsp nutmeg

For Crumb Topping: 

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


  1. Prepare the pie crust. Cut the chilled butter into cubes and put it back in the refrigerator 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 pulse the food processor until the butter has broken down to the size of peas (12-15 times).
  2. Start the food processor and while it is running, pour the ice water down the feed tube until the dough begins to form a ball. Stop the processor as soon as the dough just starts to come together (there will still be a lot of unincorporated pieces of dough in the mixer bowl).
  3. Dump out 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 whatever wood you like, but I recommend apple. At this higher temperature, you won’t get too much smoke flavor from the grill. If you want, you can bake in the oven. I recommend moving your oven rack to the lowest shelf.
  5. Unwrap the dough and place it on a floured surface and roll into a 12-inch round. Transfer carefully to a deep dish 9 x 3-inch pie tin and crimp the edges. Place the pie tin back in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling and topping.
  6. Combine all of the ingredients for the pie filling in a large bowl. Toss gently with a rubber spatula to distribute the ingredients without breaking too many of the apples.
  7. Pile the apples into the prepared pie crust and set aside.
  8. In another bowl, combine the ingredients for the crumb topping. Use a fork or a pastry cutter to evenly distribute the butter.
  9. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the apples.
  10. Place the pie into your preheated smoker, close the lid, and bake for 60 minutes. If the edges of the pie crust start to darken too much, you can cover the edges with foil.
  11. Remove the pie and allow to cool before serving.

French Apple Cake Recipe

plated French Apple Cake dusted with powdered sugar on table.

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

Robert Et Fils is a fine-dining French restaurant in Chicago with an emphasis on sustainability. This is elegant cake, chock full of fall fresh apples, is a showstopper for Thanksgiving.


  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • .75 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp dark rum
  • .5 cup crème fraiche
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted, warm
  • 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 it with parchment.
  2. Whisk the flour and baking powder together and set it aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with .75 cup sugar and the salt until light and foamy (this takes about 2 minutes by hand).
  4. Add the rum and crème fraiche and whisk until evenly combined.
  5. Add the flour and then the melted butter, whisking until just combined into a smooth, even batter.
  6. Gently fold in the apple slices until they are coated in batter.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tbsp sugar and another pinch of salt.
  8. Bake 45-60 minutes or until set and lightly browned. The cake may sink slightly in the center as it cools.
  9. *Brandy, whiskey, or bourbon can be substituted for the rum. For an alcohol-free option, use 4 tsp vanilla extract and increase crème fraiche to a full .5 cup.

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