As someone who considers herself a Frequent Pie-er, I was surprised to find that I did not know the origin story of pie until recently. After a few hours of Googling (and let’s be honest, distracted Facebook scrolling), I settled down and read a top-to-bottom history of pie.
It seems pie has been consumed by people since the time of the Romans. Although it turns out, Julius Caesar was not enjoying a slice of bourbon chocolate pecan pie, but rather, pie for Mr. Caesar and his pals was more of a “meat wrapped in a reed” kind of experience.
As time went on and word spread, people began stuffing more things inside of pastries, and eventually these pies landed in America, thanks to a very popular Transatlantic Cruise in 1620.
Over time, the pie fillings of choice began to expand, and savory and sweet pies were enjoyed. It seems by the 1800s, bakers and eaters alike were completely on board with pastries filled with fruits, nuts and any ingredients that satisfy one’s sweet tooth.
It’s 2021, and although pie has remained a dessert staple, specifically during the holidays, I think we are beginning to see a resurgence in the popularity of pie in our everyday lives.
People have taken to tying up their apron strings, digging out family recipes, and once again filling pastries with mounds of apples, heaps of chocolate pudding, or bushels of berries.
Baking a pie does not need to be difficult and, in fact, I believe it should be an experience that brings you joy, which is why I have a few best practices for you to use the next time you decide to be a part of pie history.
Best Practice No. 1:
Make Your Own Crust
I believe it was FDR who said the famous phrase “the only thing we have to fear when making a pie crust is fear itself … and not keeping our butter cold.”
He obviously knew what he was talking about, because in all of the times I have taught people how to make pie dough that yields a super flaky pie crust, there seems to be two things that hold them back: fear of failure and not knowing how cold their butter should be throughout the dough-making process.
In response to the fear of failure, this will be addressed at the end of Best Practice No. 4.
“And for the butter?”
Pull it directly from the refrigerator when you make your pie dough and move quickly through your pie dough recipe. You want to keep the butter as close to the temperature it was inside of your refrigerator for as long as possible.
Best Practice No. 2:
Cold Pie, Hot Oven
If you are able to, bake your pie in a metal or foil pie pan. This will allow you to freeze your pie crust before filling it with your pie filling of choice.
Putting a chilled, homemade pie crust into a hot oven (that means give it time to pre-heat!) will help your crust be super flaky. Keeping your butter cold at all stages is important for flaky pie crust.
Note: Do not place a glass or ceramic pie pan in the freezer before baking it. The transition from extreme cold to extreme heat can cause your pan to shatter or crack.
Best Practice No. 3:
Bake with the Seasons
We live in a world where everything is at our fingertips at all times, but when it comes to baking a pie, I like to follow Mother Nature’s lead.
In Georgia, our peaches are sweet and juicy at the height of summer, so save your peach pie recipe for when the key ingredient, peaches, are at their most perfect.
Of course, if you are a planner, you can find those seasonal ingredients during their height and preserve them for enjoyment any time of year.
Best Practice No. 4:
Keep Pantry in Stock
You never know when you might get the urge to bake a pie, which is why I recommend keeping certain pantry staples in stock at all times.
Unsalted butter, granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, coarse kosher salt, nuts (pecans and walnuts are great), syrup (corn or maple), a variety of seasonally appropriate fruits, vanilla ice cream, and vodka.
From the butter to the fruits, each of those ingredients can be combined to make a pie that would make any pie baker proud. When you are ready to serve your pie, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, and of course, if the pie is not quite what you hoped it would be, that is what the vodka is for.
-By Lauren Bolden, a self-taught pie baker who has spent the past five years working to spread joy through pie.
Maple Walnut Pie
Being from Georgia, I grew up eating pecan pie. The combination of sweet, Karo Syrup and hearty pecan pieces is a Southern staple. This maple walnut pie has got to be pecan pie’s Northern cousin. Sweetened with maple syrup and filled with earthy walnuts, this pie goes perfectly with a cup of hot coffee … no matter where you are from!
Components of the Pie
• Use your favorite pie crust recipe and roll it out in a 9-inch pie pan. Keep refrigerated.
• Maple walnut filling.
Ingredients for filling
• ¼ cup light brown sugar
• ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
• 1 cup pure maple syrup
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon coffee extract
• 3 large eggs, lightly beaten/mixed
• ½ – ¾ cup walnut pieces, chopped halves or pieces
In a large bowl, combine light brown sugar and coarse kosher salt. Whisk together until combined.
Pour in maple syrup. Whisk until combined.
Pour in melted butter, vanilla extract and coffee extract. Whisk until combined.
Add eggs. Whisk until combined.
Add chopped walnut halves or pieces. Stir with a spatula until combined.
Assembling and Baking the Pie
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Remove the 9-inch pie pan containing the pie crust from the refrigerator.
Pour the maple walnut filling into the pie crust. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and place on the middle rack of your oven.
Bake for approximately one hour. The pie is finished baking when the center is set and the crust is golden brown. Add additional time as needed.
Remove the pie from the oven, allow to cool on a baking rack for approximately two hours, and then keep the pie refrigerated until ready to serve.
This pie will last in your refrigerator for up to seven days.
Note: This recipe was adapted from “The United States of Pie” by Adrienne Kane.