Saturday, March 4, 2017

Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life

"I can't imagine any other food that symbolizes as much happiness and love."

My Grandma Frankeny was a pie maker extraordinaire. When I was a little girl in the fifties and sixties, my family ate Sunday dinner with my grandma and grandpap every week. Those were meals, folks. Roasts and mashed potatoes and chicken and corn and green beans. Oh my. But best of all were the pies. Grandma Frankeny always made pies. Pies plural. Always three or four or five or six big lovely pies. She specialized in pecan pies, regular, of course, but also lots of little odd variations like chocolate pecan and pecan cream and banana pecan, as she and Grandpap raised pecans on their hundred-acre ranch here in Texas. She could make any sort of pie, and the pie just seemed to flow from her fingers, effortlessly. 

When she and Grandpap passed away, we grandchildren were all given the opportunity to select something of Grandma's to keep. I chose her recipe box. I was a little saddened to see that lots of her pie recipes were not there or were incomplete (she'd had a stroke some years before her passing) but I loved going through all the recipes I found there. I try to keep her tradition going by baking a pie whenever I can, on holidays, on special occasions, and even, now and then, for Sunday dinner.

Her savory pie, a chicken pot pie, has to be one of her best. My mom often would bake up one of these for each of her children after we left home and married and surprise us by delivering it for our supper. 

"Pie is a comfort and balm to many a weary soul."

Do you see why I couldn't help myself when I saw the cover of Art of the Pie at BookExpo in Chicago last year? I never do this, but I contacted the publisher and asked to read and review (and bake up) this book. Pie seems to be in my genes, in my heart, in my soul. 

And the publisher sent me a copy at the end of last year. I've been lingering over this book ever since.

"...whether we are baking, sharing, or eating pie, we seem to tap into something that is much greater than the sum of its baked ingredients."

In her introduction to this fabulous new book about pie making, Kate McDermott shares all the pie secrets she's accumulated over the decades she has spent making pies. I love her rules of pie making and life, especially number one: "Keep everything chilled, especially yourself." So wise.

I've now tried out a savory pie recipe, Chicken Pot Pie.

It was right up there in taste and appearance with my grandma's chicken pot pie. And that's saying a lot.

I had to also try a sweet pie recipe, the Quintessential Apple Pie.

Keep it cold, McDermott says. The dough. The bowl. And your hands.

Look at that crust. I used the half butter, half shortening. Best, McDermott says, is half butter, half lard.

Four kinds of apples: Fuji, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Jazz

McDermott says you don't have to peel the apples. The peel adds to the flavor. And, oh my, was there flavor.

Just out of the oven.

"Made with hands and heart, pie is love, and love is best when shared."

This book is the perfect book for any pie maker, beginner or advanced. You can be happy just reading about making pie, I think, even if you never get farther than that.

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  1. I'm so impressed! Pies (in my opinion) are kinda tricky. I love that you selected your grandmother's recipe box. I think she'd be so flattered! And this blog post is also a great way to honor her - thx for sharing.

  2. Your post made me hungry for my Mam-Maw's pies! Your lattice-topped apple pie looks scrumptious. Sounds like Art of the Pie is a treasure trove of pie recipes and advice.

  3. I love pies! And this book looks awesome. I rarely make savory pies ... I wonder why.

  4. Loved the story about your grandparents! And I love the fact that she made lots of different pecan pie varieties. For me, anything is improved by adding pecans. What a treasure to have her recipes! Your apple pie looks marvelous. My husband loves chicken pot pie. I should try to make him one, but I'll admit that pie crust is a bit scary for me. Ha!

  5. Sounds and looks wonderful. Love the lattice work on the apple pie. Such fun.

  6. My husband let me know after forty-something years of becoming an expert cake baker and baking many special cakes for him that he was, "really a pie man." This was a skill I never mastered, but I guess there's a first time for everything. The pies I bake for him now are Comstock filling and a Pillsbury Just Right pie crust. This satisfies the pie man in him.

  7. My mom baked pies pretty often, out of her red and white covered Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook, which my nephew inherited with pride. She used the scraps of dough to make little tarts, adding jam or chocolate chips or even just butter and cinnamon sugar. If you came home from school to a tart pan, you got to have a few for a snack and knew pie was coming for dessert!

  8. Funny mother used to make the most wonderful apple pies, & I always used to take one to work on a Saturday Morning and it never lasted long, the lads relished it. I've longed for a apple pie ever since she passed away. maybe I should have a go and make one.

  9. Deb, Your description of weekly dinners with your grandparents remind me a lot of our dating years. DH's parents always had family gathering on Sundays after church. His two older brothers didn't live nearby so it was an extra treat when they were home for the weekend but even when it was just him and me sitting around the table for Sunday dinner was warm, homey feeling that I miss to this day. My MIL was a world class pie maker, too. She always had a pie or two for dessert and if you looked in her freezer then you'd surely find a apple pie at all times. They had several apple trees so they had an ample supply for pie making and canning. I picked up the pie making tradition many years ago but the art of pie crust making didn't flow instantly from my brain to my finger tips like it seemed with my sweet MIL. I didn't retreat and kept at it. To this day, I still consider myself a novice and can't hold a candle to my MIL legendary pie making skills but the end result is always tasty. I like to think she'd be proud of pies. :) BTW, your pies look fabulously delicious! I have my fork and am ready to travel! :D See ya soon! lol

  10. My grandma used to make pies on Sundays, I especially loved apple pie ! I never baked, but I cooked, now I just heat up, lol !

  11. This is such a tempting post, I could eat it... :)
    Happy WW!

  12. This looks yummy. I love apple pie, reminds me of the ones my grandma always made us.

  13. Great photos of how to bake a pie :)


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