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 shocking: They make tarts here, not pies. I did end up getting an Emile Henry piece that looks suspiciously like a pie dish but which was labeled “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 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, I know, but it is 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 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 a certain social networking site 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, and it is otherwise filled with good advice. Yes, there are some retro concoctions that 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” introduces a cranberry and apple pie, the creation of a New England pie baker, a woman who once baked 25 of them. She served it with cheese slices. But there are plenty of no-brainers 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.
Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook is out of print but available used here. I found mine on the curb on W. 47th St. in Manhattan.