The many faces of pie

Not that pies have ever really been out of fashion (maybe for just 5 minutes around the year 2000 when everybody dropped their carbs like a – well, like a hot potato).  But this summer, it has sometimes seemed as though every other book that landed on my porch was a pie book.

Maybe it has to do with the rise in Cute Little Bakery books, those spunky, sweet confections that regularly pop out of little shops in Brooklyn.  Maybe pie is just DIY enough for the cook who enjoys the bounty of fruit at the farmers’ market but can’t deal with sterilizing a million pint jars for jam.

Most pie books have something they’re especially good at – a mouthwatering variety of fillings, good tutorials on crust, charts of pectin content, a multitude of crimping techniques (though last year, after sifting through dozens of books, I still had to resort to YouTube to get a good understanding of how to shape a rope crust).

Yet despite all the books (and I collect them almost as feverishly as apple books), I rarely find myself trying a new filling, and I always seem to be using the same crust recipe – a lard crust from Adrienne Kane’s United States of Pie.  (Before that came out I used Jeffery Steingarten’s crust from The Man Who Ate Everything.)

I never seem to feel like making pie more than once a week, and occasionally I’ll miss a whole season – like strawberry-rhubarb season, which totally passed me by this year.  And now it’s nearly the end of August and the peaches will soon pass by.  But at least our bumper crop of blueberries has gone into its share of lattice pies.

What’s your can’t-miss pie? And did you get to it this year?  (Or are you holding out for apple season?)

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  • darcie_b  on  August 12, 2014

    Rhubarb pie is my go-to sweet pie, but I only made one this year (though I did freeze some rhubarb so I can make some in the dead of winter). In the fall I'll turn to pot pies; I have gorgeous Emile Henry mini pie pans that I love to use for that. I want to get more creative with pies but I too never seem to venture far beyond my comfort zone.

  • Jane  on  August 12, 2014

    I'm not a big pie fan (I know heresy, living as I do now in the US). I prefer tarts with a more cookie type of crust – I like Joanne Chang's pâte sucrée from Flour. About the only time of year I make a pie is for Thanksgiving – last year I made the salted caramel apple pie from the Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book. I thought it was OK – pie lovers in the group loved it.

  • AHowarth  on  August 12, 2014

    In New Zealand pies are often savoury rather than sweet. My favourite pie book is "Pie" by Dean Bretschneider. My favourite pie at the moment is Hearty Tamarillo Bourguignon Pie which won me an office baking competition yesterday.

  • hillsboroks  on  August 12, 2014

    Pie has always been favorite dessert rather than cake and I have been making pie since I was about 12. I just made two Gravenstein apple pies yesterday afternoon as gifts. So far this summer has seen apricot, peach, wild mountain blackberry, rhubarb and boysenberry pies come out of the oven. In the winter there will be savory pies and custard pies. I too have noticed the big jump in pie books the past few years. I used to have to rely solely on Betty Crocker and the Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook but I just counted and I now have 9 books just for pies and tarts and I know that there are many more pie recipes in all the other baking books. The new books are giving me fun ideas of new flavor combinations and I have been trying lots of new types of crusts with mixed success. Each new pie book has something new to teach me so I will probably not be able to resist adding another few to my shelf.

  • TrishaCP  on  August 13, 2014

    Hillsboroks, do you have favorites from the Farm Journal's book to share?

  • hillsboroks  on  August 13, 2014

    Our all-time favorite pie from the Farm Journal Pie Cookbook is the Apricot-Pear Pie from the Out of the Cupboard section on page 168. It calls for canned pears and apricots arranged in an unbaked crust, topped with a very lemony sour cream custard and a dusting of mace. The pie is baked and cooled before serving. Family and friends have loved this pie for 25 years or more. My family now simply calls it Winter Pie and requests it often. Because of the quantity of canned fruit it is not too rich a pie but with the lemon custard it has a wonderful complex flavor. It is also very pretty with the apricots just poking out of the yellow custard. I used to can lots of pears and apricots in a very light sugar syrup when my children were at home but now just do the pears. However I have discovered that a can of apricots from the store works just fine in this pie. This is an unusual pie in that I have never seen one like it in bakeries or baked by anyone I know but it is a very easy pie to throw together in the winter and always brings you compliments.

  • Rinshin  on  August 13, 2014

    My favorites are key lime and lemon meringue pies. I don't particularly like sweet desserts and these work for me as long as sugar is reduced quite a bit.

  • KarinaFrancis  on  August 14, 2014

    I made a crazy rich chocolate peanut butter pie for New Years this year, but tend to put off pie making thinking its a bit too hard for me. So Four and Twently blackbirds sits there waiting for its moment to shine when I get brave enough to attempt one of the many recpies I've bookmarked.
    BTW – hillsboroks, your comments have me drooling. Your lemon/apricot pie sounds amazing!!!

  • hillsboroks  on  August 15, 2014

    KarinaFrancis and TrishaCP the Farm Journal Pie Complete Cookbook is full of old but wonderful pie recipes and it is worth finding a used copy. I purchased my little paperback copy new back in 1980 and have treasured it ever since. The Apricot-Pear Pie alone is worth the price. Amazon has used copies of the paperback starting at $3.36.

  • TrishaCP  on  August 17, 2014

    Hi Hillsboroks, thanks so much for your response. I have a copy of the Farm Journal book that I purchased used, but it has so many choices I wasn't sure where to start. Will definitely take a look at the Apricot Pear pie- thanks again!

  • hillsboroks  on  August 17, 2014

    TrishaCP since you already have the cookbook take a look at the Coconut-Crunch Apple Pie. I have always had a special fondness for coconut and loved this pie. We had 13 heirloom apple trees when we moved here many years ago so I tried many apple pie recipes. We have lost all but three to disease and storms but still get plenty of apples for pie.

  • boardingace  on  August 18, 2014

    One of my favorite surprise categories are all of the cream pies. My husband LOVES them. I grew up having the occasional one at Coco's, so I thought I really didn't like chocolate cream, banana cream, etc. Then I made one from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, and that really changed! I was looking at all of my cream pie recipes (thanks to EYB), and have all of these favorites: Vanilla, Butterscotch, Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Blueberry, Tropical, and Banana :). We still love the fruit pies, but the cream pies are extra special 🙂

  • hillsboroks  on  August 18, 2014

    Boardingace have you ever tried the Cooks Illustrated Coconut Cream Pie? It was first in the May &June 2004 issue and it is the best ever coconut cream pie! The crumb crust is made with animal crackers and unsweetened coconut and the filling has more unsweetened coconut plus coconut milk. Yum yum yum!

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