Photo Credit: Excerpted from Cheryl Day's Treasury of Southern Baking by Cheryl Day (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2021. Photographs by Angie Mosier.

Apple or pumpkin? Pie or crumble? Do you keep things classic or try out something new? There are a lot of decisions to make when it comes to constructing the perfect Thanksgiving dessert selection, so for this year’s Milk Street RadioThanksgiving Special, we wanted a baking expert to help settle our most pressing holiday questions.

We couldn’t think of anyone better than Friend of Milk Street Cheryl Day, co-owner of Savannah’s Back in the Day Bakery and author of the new cookbook Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking. We opened the phone lines to her and Christopher Kimball to offer tips, solve your kitchen mysteries and lend some culinary inspiration. Check out some of Day’s top advice below, then listen to the full episode for more.

On her favorite Thanksgiving pies
I always make a very simple sweet potato pie. But if I want to gild the lily, sometimes I add meringue on top. But most often, I will do a simple, perfectly baked sweet potato custard pie with a flaky crust and serve it with Chantilly cream or whipped cream flavored with booze. Then, something I've been doing lately that's a little bit more adventurous is a cranberry crumb pie with orange zest and spices in it. Finally, my husband Griff loves an apple pie. My version of it has rose water. I macerate the apples the night before. That way, they become really juicy. Then, I pour off some of the juice and I cook that down right with a little butter to make a caramel-y goo that gets poured on top of the apples. I love it as a double-crusted pie, although Griff really loves anything with a crumb topping as well.

On how to ship baked goods to friends and families across the country
At our bakery, we ship cookies every other day, all over the country. So you bake your cookies, let them cool, then you wrap them in plastic wrap very, very well. And then you put them in the freezer, at least overnight. Get yourself some of those silver insulated bags, and then you put your cookies in there and just make sure that they're wrapped up really well, either in bubble wrap or these insulated freezer bags. Those ship beautifully. For these gifts, you're definitely gonna want to ship them up to two to three days at the most. And when they arrive, they are perfection.

On adding cheesecake to the Thanksgiving menu
I make a tres leches cheese cake that is delicious. It has buttermilk and condensed milk. You also frost it with whipped cream and top it with strawberries. It’s absolutely delicious. It will never fail you. Maybe we can start a new tradition in your house this holiday.

On holiday baking with spices beyond cinnamon
I want to make you a spice lover. There are so many great spice lines out there. I love Ceylon cinnamon. And a spice company like Burlap & Barrel has the most beautiful spices, just all around. But if you decide that cinnamon absolutely isn't for you, I love to mix a few spices together. I love using cardamom, cloves, and ginger, but nutmeg is my absolute favorite. I think a mixture of a pinch of two or three of those, will definitely evoke those memories and feelings of the holidays.

Quotes have been edited for clarity.

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