I love this first line: “Pies awaken wonderful emotion in me.” That’s so true for everybody. Pie is not just tasty, but a nostalgic emblem of hearth and home, usually tied to a holiday. Sadly, I rarely make pie anymore, because I find it too much work to make a proper flakey piecrust, and too difficult to achieve the right texture. I often opt for crumble or pudding instead. Yet this book has made a pie convert of me. For making, I mean, not just eating.
First, to address the crust issue: Many cookbooks offer recipes for the different types of crusts, but I get confused by the French names and lack of description of what it should look like when I’ve made it. (Thanks for nothing Martha.)
This book not only describes the various types of crusts, it breaks it down for you with step-by-step pictures. Pies explains the taste and texture variations you can expect from different ingredients, so that if you want to use lard instead of butter, or whole wheat pastry flour, you will know what to expect in flavor and consistency. You need never fear crust making again.
Beyond the instructional value for traditional crusts and pies, this book is a testament to the gastronomical imagination. The authors offer recipes for pancake and crepe crusts, poundcake and sponge cake “crusts,” or bases, and a brownie crust that will spread evenly without drying out. The Almond Dacquoise Crust made of almond meal and egg whites looks just heavenly, as does the Pecan and Oatmeal Crust. Ms. Fiset has even conceived of a piecrust made of dried fruits held together with milk chocolate! I’m picturing doing the same with candied orange peel, pistachio and white chocolate. Maybe a few dried cranberries for a more Christmas-y feel.
But never mind my imaginings. We have an aptly named Celestial Spell of Grapefruit and White Chocolate, an insanely promising compilation of Puffed Rice and White Chocolate Crust, White Chocolate Mousse, and Grapefruit Cream. I think I might faint. And I’m dying to ask the authors why the Dark Chocolate Tofu Pie on a Peanut Chocolate Crust uses tofu rather than whipped cream, but I think I’ll try it first myself. Expect a very detailed description of both texture and taste soon, including the honest reaction of my tofu-hating teenaged son (who will perform a forced blind taste test.)
Traditional pie recipes are also well represented in Pies. By traditional pies, I mean the very basics: My Mother’s Homemade Apple Pie, Rustic Strawberry Rhubarb, Lemon Meringue, Clafoutis, and Awfully Good Olden Time Cream Pie.
While this book looks perfect for a Christmas present with its great collection of traditional pies, I think you might want to get it in the hands of the bakers and hostesses in your life well before then. I’m going to try the Ginger Flavoured Sugar Pie, the Apple Raisin Pie and the Maple Syrup Nut Crust Pie for the upcoming holiday season.
While I’m not going to argue that pie is health food, I will back up the author’s claim that all their recipes use fresh, natural ingredients. I detest all the cake mix/marshmallow whip/pre-fab crapola that I see a lot of on Pinterest. (With the sole exception of heavenly Skor bits. Pies hasn’t suggested a use for them as far as I can see, but they would certainly be a great addition to some of the melted chocolate crusts.) Speaking of Pinterest, I plan to have a pinning-fest with this book’s gorgeous and plentiful colour pictures.
I also plan to stop in at the Première Moisson Bakery next time I’m in Montreal. http://www.premieremoisson.com/en In the meantime I’m going to get busy rekindling my pie-making skills.
Pies by Josée Fiset and Dominque Boué