Savor the South–Pie

Pie, A Savor the South Cookbook by Sara Foster, UNC Press 2018, cloth $21.00, 168 pages

I do 45 minutes of cardio five days a week, because I like to eat. I also try for 45 minutes of muscular structure work, which is toning, realigning and lengthening. If I’m prepping for something or I’ve been eating a lot of pie, I do two hours a day, six days a week for two weeks.

Gwyneth Paltrow

So, she sounds like fun.

Whatever. I consider pie-making to be a basic life skill–like riding a bicycle or driving a stick shift.

And nothing rewards the time taken to develop the skill like pie. Store-bought pies are too sweet, their fruit fillings are mostly goo and the crusts are chewy and tasteless. By comparison, the crusts are flakier and the fillings are snappier in a home-made pie.

This book, part of the estimable Savor the South series, will set you up to hone your pie-making skills. Eventually, you may get as good as Sara Foster‘s aunts who didn’t need a recipe, “–they just mixed, rolled out pastry, and baked to perfection.”

Foster recounts Southern pie traditions–crusts made with lard in a region where pigs were plentiful, and flavors like chess pie, developed from pantry staples–cornmeal, vinegar, and eggs. But she also points out that pies are international–tarts, galettes, empanadas, spanakopitas, crostatas.

Before you start, Foster offers about a dozen pages of advice. Sounds not-so-easy-as-pie, but it’s the kind of stuff you likely already know, like the read the recipe through, or the kind of stuff you might not have picked up from a pie-baking aunt, like how to use leftover crust trimmings. And after you choose to forge ahead, you can always check back and discover how to make a meringue that doesn’t weep or avoid a soggy-bottom crust. Her best advice is to, “Make lots of pies. That’s how you learn.”

Even though the chapter on  crusts is the last one in the book, you should think about them first. There are choices and it’s kind of like pairing pasta with sauce–it becomes instinctual after a while. Foster includes the classics like an Everyday Flaky Piecrust and shortbread-like Pate Brisee. There’s a slightly sturdier crust for hand pies, and a home-kitchen-friendly Rough Puff. She uses nutty spelt flour, dark and enticing chocolate wafers, and surprising Saltines.

The fillings range from seasonal, like ripe peaches that barely need any sugar, to “anytime pies” filled with chocolate, buttermilk, coconut, custards, and nuts. There are a few standards like Banana Cream Pie or Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie, but most of the recipes have a twist. You can guess what Plum Frangipane Galette or Spiked Sour Cherry Pie might taste like, which makes you want to bake them. Or there are recipes that you can only imagine, like Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach Pie with Saltine Crust or Sweet and Salty Peanut and Pepsi Pie, which also makes you want to bake them.

Put your mind and fork to it and you’ll never again settle for supermarket pie.

About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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