Food writers across the country are seemingly obsessed with sharing their favorite holiday pie recipes and tips: traditional, home-baked, store-bought, doesn’t matter. It’s the time of year cakes have to step aside and let pie have its moment. Full disclosure. I love pie. Sorry Mister Cake, Miss Pie has my eye and most importantly, my fork.
Who better to discuss the virtues of pie than the “Pie Lady” herself? Mary Pint, who serves on the board of directors of the American Pie Council and is perhaps the country’s number one pie enthusiast, met me at Bakers Square where she has been keeping her eye on the pie for 38 years. Again, full disclosure; we ate pie, more than dozen pieces of pie. And, it was apparent one can learn a lot about people from the pie they choose.
What constitutes a pie? According to Mary Pint, aka the Pie Lady, it’s a dish that must have a completely enclosed crust with sides and a bottom crust. It can be sweet, savory, hot or cold. Its origins aren’t exactly American either; pies have been documented since around 2,000 years BC thanks to the ancient Egyptians.
First, let’s get to what makes Mary Pint such an expert. As one of ten children, Mary’s mother often asked her to help in the kitchen and that meant baking pies for the family. In 1973, Mary joined the Pillsbury owned Poppin Fresh Pies, which tens year’s became Bakers Square. Mary’s been traveling the country creating, baking, teaching, judging, and sharing her pie-isms for many years and she says she’s on a mission. Mary’s enthusiasm and genuine love of all things pie is infectious and with good humor.
Mission #1 – Pie can save the economy. Minnesota doesn’t need a downtown casino, it needs a state pie. And for that, Mary says make it the French Silk Pie. The fresh dairy, eggs and butter used could boost the economy by boosting production, adding jobs, and of course, great taste. (Hey, Florida has the Key Lime, right?)
So, if Minnesota gets French Silk Pie, Mary recommends Illinois gets the traditional Pumpkin Pie where more pumpkins are grown than anywhere else.
Mission # 2 – Wedding Pies. Again sorry Mister Cake, the lady wants wedding guests to indulge in sweet, savory, rich delicious pies. Who am I to disagree?
Mission # 3 – Less war, more pie. Mary says eating pie is a conversation. Coffee and pie. Imagine our political leaders sitting down for a piece of pumpkin pie and coffee and talking over differences. Eating pie is not something you cannot rush. Savor each bite and wash it all down with a rich cup of coffee and reach for another.
Back to Pie-sonality. What pie would best describe you? I asked the pie lady to look at some famous names and assign them a pie. Here’s how she sliced it:
Regis Philbin – Custard Pie
He has been in the thick of the things for a long time and like the vanilla used to flavor custard, gives us pleasure and happiness.
Bradley Cooper – French Silk Pie
If you’re going to be the sexiest man alive, you are a smooth rich chocolate pie!
President Obama – Pumpkin Supreme Pie
As our supreme leader of our nation, his pie has two main ingredients that are native to America; pumpkin and pecans.
First Lady Michelle Obama – Harvest Berry
This pie fulfills her required fruit serving of the day.
Marilyn Monroe – Banana Cream
Blonde, beautiful and a classic with a lot of appeal
As the pie lady and I chatted over coffee and pie, people stopped by our table curious about the dozen slices of pie on our table. Each person had a favorite of their own; pumpkin, pecan, apple…..it was clear that people love pie. She also gave me my pie-sonality: Peanut Butter which is a bit of a nut, a lover of Elvis Presley and knows how to make ideas stick. I don’t know about making ideas stick but I sure love learning more about my favorite dessert.
So, let’s get to some practical tips:
Pumpkin Pie easy trick at home: pour your pumpkin pie filling directly into the pie shell while it’s in the oven. No spilling and it allows the pumpkin to rise nice and high.
Pie Crust temperature: Use a food processor to mix your dough. The key to a great dough is to keep your fat (shortening, butter, lard) at 68-degrees. Put your flour in the freezer and shake the water through ice cubes. When you mix the cold water and flour with the 68-degree fat, you prevent it from becoming tough.
Serving fruit pie: before serving, reheat your fruit pie for a flavor burst.
Whipped Cream Tip: put your mixing bowl and whip in the freezer for 30-minutes before using. Use very cold whipping cream and make sure you use fine or raw sugar. Regular sugar will result in a gritty whipped cream.
Recipe: Yummy Pecan Caramel Topping
This nutty drizzle is a perfect garnish for your decadent pumpkin caramel pie.
Brown Sugar – 1 ½ cups
Flour— 3 tablespoons
Sea Salt ¼ teaspoon
Water – 1/3 cup
Heavy whipping cream 1 ½ cup
Vanilla Extract ½ teaspoon
Carmel Flavor ¼ teaspoon
1 cup course chopped pecan
1 Place course chopped pecans on a cookie tray and toast in oven at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes or until golden brown flipping over occasionally. Watch carefully.
Dry blend the brown sugar, flour and salt
Mix dry blended sugar with water in a heavy saucepan. Cover and cook over a low heat until sugar is dissolved about 3 minutes. Cover and increase heat, boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Watch carefully so it does not burn. How turn heat to low and slowly add whipping cream and vanilla, and caramel flavor. Simmer covered at a low heat stirring occasionally until sauce is thick and smooth and desired brown color usually about 5 to 7 minutes again watch carefully so it does not burn. Cool before using.
Add toasted pecans to topping or place directing on to pumpkin pie and drizzle caramel topping over pie.
Want more recipes?
And, just remember, friends don’t let friends eat pie alone. A standard pie cuts into eight slices.