Technical Cookbook for Moderately Advanced Pie-Makers
Reviewed in the United States on 22 October 2019
If you’ve mastered pie crust, then pie really is “easy as pie”. This book, THE PERFECT PIE: YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CLASSIC AND MODERN PIES, TARTS, GALLETTES, AND MORE will guide you to pie crust mastery--or you can take the easy way out (as I do) and use commercial pie crust from your grocery store’s cold case (e.g.,
Pillsbury Pie Crusts
). Whichever approach you use, this book will provide lots of different--but fairly complicated--fillings for you.
This is actually a technical cookbook for moderately advanced pie-makers, rather than a book for cooks who just want to bake pies that will please the family. I really like the explanations of “Why This Recipe Works” that appear at the beginning of many recipes. For example, the book explains that the filling in a “Skillet Apple Pie” (a recipe for a top-crust-only “pie” that begins on the stovetop and finishes in the oven) can be saucier than the filling in a double-crust pie because you don’t have to worry about a bottom crust’s becoming soggy.
I’m NOT a fan of the “Classic” pie recipes, which add steps or non-classic ingredients to basic apple, blueberry, and pumpkin pies. For example, apple pie uses Golden Delicious (horrors!) apples combined with Granny Smith (just okay) apples; and cooks and cools the filling before adding it to the crust. (My Midwestern mother’s apple pie is hard to beat--it’s made with Jonathan, MacIntosh, Gravenstein, or other firm, tart-sweet apples that are tossed with cinnamon and sugar, then added to a double crust, and baked.)
The “Classic” blueberry pie recipe adds a Granny Smith apple; the pumpkin pie recipe adds canned sweet potatoes and maple syrup, and even prebakes the crust. These recipes aren’t really classics, and I question whether they’re worth the extra trouble.
Sadly, there is no recipe at all for plain peach pie, which is one of the world’s great pleasures. Peaches are used in tarts and “Peach Slab Pie”. The “Why This Recipe Works” section for “Peach Slab Pie” says that double-crust peach pies need precooked fruit and multiple thickeners “to prevent a soupy mess”, and this has NOT been true in my experience. Simple peach pie recipes may come out a little soupy, but they’re delicious and definitely NOT a mess.
Of particular value are the many recipes for custard, cream, and curd pies (e.g., banana cream, lemon meringue, black bottom). The section on regional pies (e.g., “New England Mince Pie”, “Southern Praline Pecan Pie”) is also interesting. However, after reading the fruit pie recipes, I wonder whether these recipes will also be overly complicated for family cooks.
Like most specialty pie-making books, this book shows you how to create a variety of crust-edge designs (braided, crimped, cutout, fork-crimped, rope, scalloped-spoon), and top-crust designs (lattice, cutout, braided strips, free-form lattice, free-form shapes, herringbone).
A more unusual feature is the entire section on “Pie and Tart Doughs”. This includes recipes for chocolate, herb, nut, vegan, gluten-free, cookie-crust, and other pie doughs.
The book has many, many beautiful illustrations of finished pies--all of coffee-table-book quality. Many procedures (e.g., removing the seeds from vanilla bean pods, making and rolling slab pie dough) are clearly explained with step-by-step photos. The book also includes a few pages on troubleshooting pie problems (e.g., crust edges brown too quickly), and it is well-indexed.
This book will make a nice gift for a dedicated pie maker or cookbook collector. However, it won’t replace my go-to family-pie-making books,
Betty Crocker’s Big Book of Pies and Tarts
Pillsbury’s Easy As Pie
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