Plenty of Pie Recipes from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan
When my book on Southern cakes came out in 2007, two main
thoughts buzzed around in my brain. One was exultation over
having finished a major work project, and having done so with so
much pleasure and with a resulting book which thrilled my heart
(and still does to this day!). The other was a mix of curiosity
and excitement, over the possibility of continuing my journey
down the Southern culinary path, exploring the kindred topic of
To my delight, my editor at
Chronicle Books agreed that this would be a delicious idea, and
as soon as I’d given a good send-off to Southern Cakes, I was
back at work in the kind of endeavor I adore: being a detective
on the subject of old-time, old-school, historical, classic and
off-the-beaten path recipes, the scoop and how-to on traditional
dishes, once which have a life of their own.
I loved the research, a mixture
of flipping through cookbooks, history books, magazines, travel
brochures, menus and memoirs; of gathering notes and clues,
creating folders and then breaking them out into ever more
folders as a particular pie became a concept, a theme, a chapter
or a lead on another kindred pie. I interviewed cooks,
waitresses and farmers’ market vendors, historians and family
elders, as well as fellow food writers, chefs and bakers who are
bringing the old ways along into the twenty-first century, as
well as reinventing heirloom dishes in deliciously modern ways.
Southern Pies shares many
things with Southern Cakes: the handsome and eminently cook-able
format, with generous pages with a handsome finish and handy
cover flaps for marking a recipe you want to try; inviting
photographs of many of the pies; chapters which gather the pies
into sections based on seasonal ingredients and signifigance;
regional specialties; antiques and heirlooms, many of which are
unfamiliar but by no means gone from the repertoire; and single
subjects including custard pies, chocolate pies, and piecrusts.
I adore the photographs by the
distinguished food photographer Leigh Beisch and her team, and
the handsome and elegant design by Chronicle’s Anne Donnard.
Pies range from the simplest (Egg Custard, Pumpkin, Brown Sugar,
and 3 kinds of Chess) to a few dowager empresses that call for
some time and dedication (Black Bottom; Chocolate Angel; and
Scuppernong Meringue); from beloved standards (Pecan; Pumpkin;
Sweet Potato; and Buttermilk) to fascinating try-me! Pies, old
and new (Bean Pie, Shaker Lemon Pie; Green Tomato Pie; and
Muscadine Grape Hull Pie).
The piecrust chapter provides 5
recipes and a piecrust-making #101 section, offering details and
advice on that particular craft. For those of you who would love
to make pies but either dread, fear, or find it a bother to take
that on, this is a time where piecrust-skills are an option but
not required. Prepared piecrust options abound in the grocery
store, including ready-to-fit-in-the-pan pastry circles, frozen
pie shells, and frozen dough ready for thawing and rolling out.
I hope that these options make it possible for you to jump in
and start making pies from this book, as the quintessential
aspect of Southern pies for me is what fills the crust, not the
crust on its own. My passion is for the plush custards, the
apple chunks tumbled with cinnamon sugar and dotted with butter
before being tucked in with a pastry blanket and baked; the
fillings flavored with lemon, coconut, cocoa and sorghum syrup.
A magnificent, flaky and golden crust provides great pleasure
and wins applause, but for me and my kitchen, it’s an inside
story; I’m always in love with what fills the crust and gives
the pie its name, whether that is peach, pear or coconut,
rhubarb, lemon or chocolate pecan.
Come on into the kitchen with
me and try your hand at some of these memorable and lovely
Southern pies. Whether they’re old-timers from your childhood or
brand new temptations from modern chefs, you’ll find a lot to
love here, and I hope you will enjoy trying them out in your
kitchen and sharing them at the table with people you love.