I am on a QUEST to become a “master pie baker”. That is no joke… Ok – maybe I will never be a MASTER pie baker – but I at least want to be a very good one.
I have taken “pie lessons” with my Grandma Barbra – on several occasions (and even wrote a “CHEW THIS” column piece about one here – https://blaisethebaker.com/2015/01/18/chew-this-comedy-of-errors-apple-pie/) and let me tell you – pies are HAND MADE and HARD WORK. You can not throw some things in a bowl – make a batter (cookies, brownies, fudge) and bake – you have to MAKE the pie crust (yes I am aware you can buy one – but what fun is that!?) and you have to MAKE the filling – and then most times – BAKE the pie! There is a LOT involved. Pie crust, filling, crimping, rolling, etc.
And the crust!? Whew…do you use butter? Shortening? Both? Do you add ice water? Buttermilk? Vinegar and water? Confusing!
And – do not get me wrong – I know there is no “ONE correct recipe”. That is what I love about cooking and baking – the diversity of recipes – and I genuinely appreciate that. But I want to make (and create) some of the best PIES that’s ever hit your lips.
So – on my quest – I have also been hoarding pie cookbooks and reading through them like novels.
So far some that I have been reading –
“Me, Myself, and Pie” By: Sherry Gore. This book is fabulous! Sherry takes readers on a trip through amazingly delicious Amish recipes and stories. Also included are delicious looking photographs of each pie – and let me tell you…I stopped marking recipes halfway through because for one thing – I was out of Post-It’s – and besides, I figured I might as well save time and just write “bake through this” on one Post-It and slap it on the cover. Sherry shares how to “blind bake” (page 10) and also shares her pie crimping techniques (page 12) which I found very appreciative – because I will be the first to admit – I can not crimp. She even covers “wash recipes” – egg wash techniques – on page 14. Comparing the different techniques with different “brownness” of the crust. Let me stop right here. THANK YOU SHERRY!!! That is genius. Just genius. Also genius – is how Sherry talks about different pie plates (page 16) and which ones work best for which pies. Recipes for different crusts start the book off – ️chocolate shortbread crust, chocolate cookie crust, all butter crust, shortbread crust, etc. Even offering a gluten free pie crust and a pretzel pie crust – delicious! I loved Sherry’s story (page 29) – her “pie story”. It really helped the book come to life. And I know what she means about the rubber cement – it has happened to me before too… Ha! What do I mean!? You will have to buy the book to find out… The book contains delicious recipes for “Orange Pie” (page 39), “Lemon Blueberry Cream Pie” (page 48), “Praline Cream Pie” (page 60), “Raisin Cream Pie” (page 67), “Apple Skillet Pie” (page 80), “Concord Grape Pie” (page 91), “Sour Cherry Crunch Pie” (page 100), “Lemon Sponge Pie” (page 123), “Double Chocolate Chess Pie” (page 154), “Bob Andy Pie” (page 170) and even “Blueberry Turnovers” (page 205) and “Pie Parfaits” (page 209). Like savory pies? Quiches? Hand pies? Homemade caramel candy!? Yep – Sherry’s got you covered. I highly recommend this book for those who love great recipes, great stories, and Amish history of their culture and pies. AND the “pie contest” piece she wrote (starting on page 113), was one of the many highlights in this delightful book.
“Vintage Pies” By: Anne Haynie Collins. This is a wonderful book filled with deliciously “old-fashioned” recipes. I loved looking over this book and seeing all of the pies I remembered from my childhood. Pies like “Pecan Pie” (page 35), “Boiled Cider Pie” (page 40), “Buttermilk Pie” (page 47), “Tears on Your Pillow Pie” (page 48), “Stack Pie” (page 54 – possibly one of my favorite pie recipes of all time), “Crumb Pie” (page 66), “Union Pie” (page 84), “Chocolate Cream Pie” (page 102), “Huckleberry Pie” (page 130) and “Mock Apple Pie” (page 148) all bring back delicious memories of watching my Grandma Barbra in the kitchen when I was younger. I recommend this book for those who want to add a perfect collection of old-fashioned and homespun pie recipes. This book is stained (chocolate cream pie) and will continue to get stained because it’s staying in my kitchen. Anne did a fabulous job putting together this delicious book of memorable pie recipes that will sure to be cherished.
“Ms. American Pie” By: Beth M. Howard. I loved this book from start to finish – which is how I read it – like a novel. Beth is a beautifully talented writer (I highly recommend reading her memoir “Love, Loss and Pie”) and her writing, along with the delicious recipes and beautiful photographs combined to make a beautiful – almost perfect – book. The beginning of the book “Make Your Own Damn Pie!” was a personal favorite of mine. She shares her personal journey – and anyone willing to share their journey gets a thumbs up in my book. Beth continues on with her “Pie-Deology” (page 14) and I agree with each and every one. Bravo! I also LOVED the part entitled “My Pie Principles” (page 16). Another part I LOVED!? Yes – I loved this book… Beth’s “Pie Myths, Busted” (page 19). My mouth literally dropped open – three times – when reading her myths – that she busted wide open. EVERYONE on a “pie journey” (like myself) needs to READ THIS! Buy the book – start on page 19… And continue right into page 21 – “Frequently Asked Questions” – also – life changing (at least to me) in the world of pie baking! Something else that changed my pie baking began on page 25. A section all about pie dough. Tips, tricks, tools needed, crusts, lattice variations and crimp crusting techniques – and all with pictures of each step – which I greatly appreciated for ease of use. Just a few of the delicious recipes that fill this book are “Cinnamon” (page 54), “Toffee Pecan” (page 62), “Mississippi Mud” (page 70), “Strawberry Rhubarb” (page 83), “Shaker Lemon” (page 90), “Avocado” (page 107), “Venison” (page 111), “Tomato Basil” (page 131), “French Silk” (page 156), “Banana Cream” (page 160), “Blueberry Crumble” (page 173) and “Pecan Oatmeal” (page 178). OH – and I can’t wait to try the “slab pies” (page 196) – I had not even thought of making a pie like that before! Genius! I highly recommend this cookbook to those who want good quality, simple, delicious, sweet AND savory pies – AND love a cookbook with a delicious story of love, loss and healing. Beth’s book not only warmed my heart and soul – but warmed and filled my stomach. Congratulations Beth on such a deliciously fabulous book!
“First Prize Pies” By: Allison Kave. The first part of this beautiful book is filled with techniques, crust recipes, ingredient lists, tools of the trade and other essential information in making the perfect pie – which I really appreciated. You know – so many pie books just jump right into the recipes. And – I am sure that’s fine for some – but I would prefer some instructors – some tips and tricks – to ensure that for one thing – I know what I am doing – and for another – to help give me the piece of mind that I will end up with (using their recipe) the “perfect” pie. The book is sorted out into different seasons – love this! It gives you a “starting idea” of what to make just by simply looking it up BY MONTH! How genius is that!? March, for example, contains my favorite pie – “Samantha Bee’s Salty Caramel” (page 70). Why!? Delicious combination of sweet and salty and crunchy and indulgent – perfect! Some highlights from the book are – April’s “Avocado Cream” (page 82), May’s “Mint Julep Cream” (page 94), June’s “Hawaiian Delight” (page 106 and amazing!), July’s “Raspberry Vinegar Tart” (page 120), August’s “Banoffee” (page 136), September’s “Candy Apple” (page 144), October’s “Buttercrunch” (page 162), November’s “Sweet Potato” (page 179), December’s “Salty Dog Chess” (page 183), January’s “Oatmeal Molasses” (page 196) and February’s “Elvis” (page 208 – and a personal favorite of mine). And – of course – there are more recipes per month – I only listed my favorite recipe from each month…and that was hard to narrow down. This book had some of the most unique recipes I remember seeing in a pie book… I recommend this book for those who want to learn more about “pie stacks” and want a recipe outside the realms of “classic recipes”. This book thinks outside the box – and I appreciate that.
“The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book” By: Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen. This book. Wow! It completely blew away all expectations I had about what a pie book is supposed to be about in terms of techniques and recipes. This book is filled with delicious looking pictures and way WAY out of the box recipes – which I immediately fell in love with. The book is divided into “seasons” and for each season there are a slew of amazingly delicious and “out of the box” pies. Here are some examples.
Spring – “Rhubarb Custard Pie” (page 79), “Wild Ginger Strawberry Pie” (page 82), “Chamomile Buttermilk Custard Pie” (page 84), “Derby Pie” (page 91), “Apple Rose Pie” (page 94), “Lemon Verbena Raspberry Galette” (page 97) and “Farmer Cheese with Thyme Pie” (page 101).
Summer – “Black and Blueberry Upside Down Pie” (page 111), “Lavender Blueberry Pie” (page 117), “Paprika Peach Pie” (page 120), “White Nectarine and Red Currant Pie” (page 126), “Muskmelon Chiffon Pie” (page 139) and “Sweet Corn Custard Pie” (page 142).
Fall – “Bourbon Pear Crumble Pie” (page 152), “Honeyed Fig Crumble Pie” (page 158), “Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie” (page 161), “Pear Anise Pie” (page 164), “Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie” (page 168) and “Rosemary Honey Shoofly Pie” (page 173).
Winter – “Egg ‘n’ Grogg Pie” (page 185), “Malted Chocolate Pecan Pie” (page 188), “Salt Pork Apple Pie” (page 192), “Black Bottom Lemon Pie” (page 199) and “Green Chili Chocolate Pie” (page 204).
AND listen to these crust recipes… How delicious do these sound…
“Lard and Butter Crust” (page 208), “Animal Cracker Crumb Crust” (page 209 and genius! Why didn’t I think of that!?), “Cornmeal Crust” (page 211), “Pecan Biscotti Crust” (page 214) and “Saltine Crust” (page 215).
I loved this book – and highly highly recommend it for those who want a pie book with “out of the box” delicious recipes… Buy it! You will be so glad that you did.
So – all in all – that sums up my latest “pie lesson / research” information. I am always finding new pie books, new pie techniques, etc. I am well on my way – but from what I have read and from what I have heard – experience matters most. So…I will get there – with just a little more practice.
To buy these books or to find out more information, please click on the links below…
“Me, Myself, and Pie” – http://www.amazon.com/Myself-Pie-The-Pinecraft-Collection/dp/0310335566
“Vintage Pies” – http://www.amazon.com/Vintage-Pies-Classic-American-Todays/dp/1581572646
“Ms. American Pie” – http://www.amazon.com/Ms-American-Pie-Buttery-Recipes/dp/1937994686
“First Prize Pies” – http://www.amazon.com/First-Prize-Pies-Deliciously-Inventive/dp/161769102X
“The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book” – http://www.birdsblack.com/the-pie-book/
The personal views and reviews of this blog are mine and mine alone. Any opinion or thought expressed are strictly my own. More information can be found by emailing me your questions. Shout out and special thanks to The Pinecraft Collection, Sherry Gore, Countryman Press, Anne Collins, Stewart – Tabori and Chang, Allison Kave, Race Point Publishing, Beth Howard, Grand Central Life & Style and Emily and Melissa Elsen for the amazing opportunity to review these wonderful books, as I continue my pie quest.