The Austin Chronicle

Pie Squared

Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, October 26, 2018, Food

When I get a new cookbook, I go through it with a stack of sticky notes at the ready to mark all the recipes I want to try. It's always a good omen when the book looks like it's been hit by a confetti bomb, colorful pieces of paper popping out of the top and sides.

Such was the case upon my first pass through Pie Squared, the new cookbook from Cathy Barrow, the writer behind the "Bring It!" column for The Washington Post. Pie Squared is a collection of creative and ambitious-yet-approachable recipes that, in aggregate, argue that just about any dish can be turned into a slab pie. Here are creative, large-format pies, from biscuits and gravy with a Ritz cracker crust to giant strawberry and chocolate Pop-Tarts, alongside classics like chicken pot pie and pumpkin chiffon pie.

The first two chapters are instructive, from latticework tutorials to troubleshooting different types of crusts (the recipes call for everything from classic all-butter crusts to hash brown crusts), setting the home cook up for success. The two recipes I tested, chicken pot slab pie and peanut butter slab pie, were clearly written and easy to follow. The chicken pot pie put a twist on the traditional mirepoix, with leeks subbing in for onion to add a creamy richness to the flavor profile. The peanut butter slab pie was a breeze to make, and the addition of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne to the filling made for a complex, sophisticated dessert that even picky kids will enjoy.

Barrow argues that making pies in slab form makes pie-making more accessible, demystifying Granny's dark culinary arts. I tend to agree, and I definitely plan to work through all the recipes I flagged. It's entirely possible that artichoke dip slab pie may become my signature potluck dish.

Pie Squared

by Cathy Barrow
Grand Central Life & Style, 336 pp., $28

Barrow will present “Pie for All! A (Very Sweet) Cooking Demonstration” at 12:30pm Saturday, Oct. 27, in the Central Market Cooking Tent, and sign Pie Squared at 1:30pm in the Adult Signing Tent on Congress.

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