American Pie

November 26th, 2009 § 5 comments

Thanksgiving is here, and that means one thing: Pie. Lots and lots of pie.

Of course, to make pie requires pie pans. I prefer Pyrex for double crusted pies, whose shells won’t be blind baked, so that I can visually check the progress of the bottom crust. I had major doubts that I would easily find such a dish in Paris, that is a round dish with smooth slanted sides and (here’s the kicker) a rim, and my doubts were justified as I scoured the shelves at BHV. It’s not so surprising, since they make tarts here, not pies. I ended up getting an Emile Henry piece that looks suspiciously like a pie dish but which was labeled for clafouti. And I bought a rimless pie-ish Pyrex dish that would just have to do.

For all things pie-related, I like to consult the The Complete Pie Cookbook, published in 1965 by Farm Journal magazine. “700 Best Dessert and Main-Dish Pies in the Country,” it touts on the cover. ”Famous traditional pies, plus completely new creations” (!) It sounds quaint, but it’s anything but. These recipes were culled from “prize-winning farm cooks” and tested in the magazine’s kitchen. By “cooks” of course, they mean mainly “women”. Serious homemakers with serious skills, very often a limited budget, and no small amount of pride.

There are no fewer than six pumpkin pie recipes in the book. The first one, “Tawny Pumpkin Pie,” closely resembles the recipe I make (I use cream or crème fraîche instead of evaporated milk, plus a little molasses). The “Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie” sounds delicious. Next year, maybe.

Curiously, none of the pumpkin pie recipes calls for a pre-baked shell. I always blind bake my shells for pumpkin pie, but suddenly wondered if this was not typical. I conducted an informal survey via Facebook which revealed that my aunt, an excellent pie baker, never blind bakes; and a friend who just penned a cookbook was going to try an unbaked shell.  I was still nervous, though, and when Giovanna and David chimed in to say that they always blind baked, I decided this wasn’t the year to be changing things up (in the pie department, anyway).

Still, I love this book. Yes, there are some retro concoctions I will not be making anytime soon, see for example Hawaiian Apple Pie, Red and Green Christmas Pie, or most anything with containing the word “chiffon”. There are also some retro sentiments: “Men praise this two-fruit pie” is how a New England baker introduces her cranberry-apple recipe, best served with cheese slices. But there are plenty that immediately went on the endless “to make” list in my head: Brown Butter Butterscotch Pie, Crunch Top Pear Pie, Black Bottom Vanilla Cream Pie, Double-Good Blueberry Pie.

I’m dying to know what makes it double good.

The most curious recipe has to be Vinegar Pie, a custard filling flavored with cider vinegar. “Ranch-kitchen pie, truly delicious” says the introduction. Truly? I have a hard time believing this pie would catch flies or please men.

But what do I know about that.

The book is out of print but you may find copies online or at used bookstores. I found mine on the curb on W. 47th St. in Manhattan.

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§ 5 Responses to American Pie"

  • Daniel says:

    I had the same trouble finding pie plates in Germany. I used to make pies in a tart forms, but always knew it was just not the same.

    Eventually, I did get a Pyrex one during a trip to Canada on a trip, and then had a friend seek out two metal ones when she went overseas.

    All the pies sound good, except for that Green Christmas Pie. I don’t even want to imagine what might be in it.

  • Happy Turkey and Pie Day !

    That pie looks delicious above, and what a fun cookbook to bake from – but also to read. I’d be all over the Brown Butter Butterscotch Pie for sure. And hey, if the Blueberry Pie is really double good, go for it, no questions asked ! :)

    Meanwhile, I hear you on the pie dish search – a friend here in Switzerland was just telling me all she can find are tart pans too. Looks like you had no problems in the end…

  • Giovanna says:

    I just ordered the Farm Journal Pie Cookbook–with that Brown Butter Butterscotch pie in mind.

    I’m intrigued by the vinegar pie–I’m trying the buttermilk custard shoofly pie (in Nov. Gourmet) this year. Maybe buttermilk custard isn’t that far off from cider vinegar custard?

    Your pumpkin pie looks luscious–molasses–what a good idea. Always a good idea.

  • Barbra says:

    Daniel: the Red and Green Christmas Pie has a graham cracker crust filled with a creamy pineapple filling studded with cubes of lime and cherry gelatin. Wow, right?

    Kerrin: Happy Turkey and Pie day to you too! I’ll let you know next summer if the blueberry is really double good.

    Giovanna: I was looking over the Vinegar Pie recipe and the filling is actually closer to a curd; There is no cream or milk in it. It has a meringue topping which makes me wonder if it wasn’t created as an alternative to lemon meringue pie…

  • [...] recipe I always use.  I don’t know its origins, though it closely resembles a recipe in the Complete Pie Cookbook. I think it’s the one my friend Heather and I used to make at [...]

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