The Austin Chronicle

Food for Thought: Summer Reading

Reviewed by Virginia B. Wood, June 1, 2012, Food

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pie

Though the appeal of cupcakes does not appear to be waning, pie is definitely the hottest emerging trend of the past year, as the bumper crop of pie books this season bears witness. I've spent plenty of time reading and baking from the books in this list, enough to give readers a little slice of each one.

Pie It Forward: Pies, Tart, Tortes, Galettes, & Other Pastries Reinvented

by Gesine Bullock-Prado (Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, $29.95, 252 pp)

I couldn't wait for this book to arrive and it is my favorite from the entire tall stack of baking books this year. I appreciate that the author is a self-taught baker who loves to teach and is willing to share all of her hard-earned secrets with students in the King Arthur Flour baking classes in Vermont, her online baking community, and readers like myself. Pie it Forward starts with the mastery of basic techniques – crusts, pastry doughs, pastry cream, caramel, ganache – which are the building blocks or components to many recipes that follow. Then she moves on to sweets, such as pies and tarts made with berries, stone fruits, tropical fruits, cream, and meringue, plus pie pops, and fried pies. She also defines pie loosely enough to include recipes for Boston Cream Pie, Gateau St. Honore, and a cheesecake. Moving on to Savories, you'll discover recipes for Cornish pasties, meat pot pies, quiches, and vegetable tarts. I'm currently working my way through the sweet pies, using the delicate sweet tart dough (p.30) as the base for tarts with apricots and plums, the buttermilk-peach pie, and the blackberry buckle pie, thanks to the bounteous supply of early summer fruit.

Handheld Pies: Dozens of Pint-Sized Sweets & Savories

by Sarah Billingsley and Rachel Wharton (Chronicle Books, $19.95, 142 pp)

This little volume celebrates the concept of the individual pie serving, offering up recipes for sweet pies, meat pies, hand pies, pop tarts, fruit tarts, and even pies in tiny Mason jars. In among the recipes for free-formed, structured, and jarred pies, you'll find profiles on artisan pie companies around the country, including the legendary Hubig's from New Orleans, Oh, My! Pocket Pies from Houston, and Mamaw's Fried Pies in Whitehouse, Texas. Nuts and bolts such as basic crust and filling recipes come at the end. So far, the buttermilk-whiskey pie (p.58) baked in individual muffin cups is my favorite from this collection, but I've some pop tart ideas of my own I'd like to try with peaches and blackberries while they're so plentiful.

Perfect Pies – The Best Sweet & Savory Recipes from America's Pie-Baking Champion

by Michele Stuart (Ballantine Books, $25, 224 pp)

National Championship pie maker Michele Stuart owns successful pie shops in Norwalk and Westport, Connecticut. Her award-winning recipes often appear in major newspapers and food magazines. This collection of her recipes is simple and straightforward and comes with helpful tips, like the best way to peel peaches, how to process fresh pumpkin, and the relative merits of fresh or dried cranberries. The award winners in the book are marked with blue ribbons. I'm intrigued by the pineapple crumb pie (p.55) and fully intend to make the Twisted Citrus blackberry pie (p.127) this summer. And I'm just proud enough of my own peanut butter chocolate and chocolate bourbon pecan pies to try her blue ribbon recipes and see how mine measure up.

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