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Dec 12, 2007 07:03 AM

Pie Cookbooks

What are your favorite resources for pie recipes, ideas and/or techniques?

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  1. Rose Levy Berebaum's "The Pie and Pastry Bible."

    10 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      Agree. I really like this book. What I've made from it has been predictably good.

      1. re: JoanN

        I agree completely; I have made a bunch of her pie recipes and they are uniformly excellent. Though actually my go-to crust is from Julia's MTAFC Vol. II-- it never fails me.

        1. re: JoanN

          I have a copy of her cake cookbook (that I got a used copy of from a library discards sale) which has never motivated me to actually make anything, so I never bothered to look at her pie book. I recently did take a look at this book and it really surprised me -- the somewhat pedantic scientist approach worked more for me with pie crust than pies. I *really* like her tips for cooking the pie crust (esp. the bottom crust) well -- this, I think is her single best suggestion. The pies look somewhat appealing, but there is something a tad bit soulless about the devotion to scientific measurements, I find myself recoiling from, in both Berenbaum and Cook's Illustrated. I am not sure why. I have been rounding up all the pie books I can find as of late, so I wanted more suggestions. I made two from Sweety Pies in the last month and, while they were certainly edible, were not as tasty as I anticipated.

          I am at an intermediate level -- I have years of experience making crusts, but they never quite came out as I hoped. Through making a constant supply of pies in the past few months, I have improved my pie crust's flakiness, and I finally made one that was easy to roll out (added about a tsp more water than I had been) -- it came out tidy looking and was easy to roll. So it seems I am learning something.

          1. re: brittle peanut

            Hi PB,
            I hear you about the Cake Bible. I love the Bread Bible, so the Cake Bible seemed like a good idea (I am pretty terrible at making cakes). But I haven't been drawn to any of the recipes-- too fussy. The Pie and Pastry Bible is great, in my opinion. I always make her pumpkin pie and cherry pie and have also made her grape pie, which is interesting. And her key lime pie is awesome, though I do a cookie tart crust with it. I was the same as you with crusts-- they just never came out quite right. I now realize, as you did, that they were too dry which is why I like Julia Child's recipe. You make it in a stand mixer or food processor and it uses a lot of water. For me it's been no-fail. I have started to get into Cooks Illustrated, but I do hear you about the potential soullessness. What pie books do you find the best of those you've tried?

            1. re: brittle peanut

              There are many people who are put off by her didactic style. I happen to like it and think it's particularly appropriate for a baking book where the chemistry and physics of the recipe are so important. But then, I tend to check in with Harold McGee and Shirley Corriher nearly as often as a cooking book. It helps, too, that her recipes always work for me. Really well.

              1. re: JoanN

                About the didactic style -- not to mention that CI and RLB contradict each other all over the place (vinegar in the crust (CI: no, sour taste, no effect on texture, RLB: yes, relaxes the gluten); rolling out on graham cracker crumbs (CI: yes, good flavor, RLB: no, bad flavor)), sometimes they just are too full of themselves. I find that there is something comical about the style, reminiscent of the most preposterous infomercials -- the accounts in CI of their difficulty in making rather ordinary fare (lemon bars, mac and cheese, chocolate chip cookies) taste good really make me laugh. They seem to find everything inedible and astonishingly difficult to make -- reminds me of an infomercial that showed a woman struggling with a vaccuum cleaner, where she ended up all wrapped up in the cords and falling over. Give me a break. Cooking isn't that overwhelming.

                And sometimes the recipes are wacky. I made CI's Baking Handbook's hot fudge pudding cakes and they were so chocolatey it made me feel sick to eat them.

                1. re: brittle peanut

                  Couldn't agree with you more about CI. The recipe that was absolutely the best ever a year-and-a-half ago is today way too something or other and simply unacceptable. (But I still think their now eleven-year-old chocolate chip cookie recipe really is the best ever.) As for RLB, I have three of her books (and have taken a fourth out of the library a few times) and have had nothing but resounding success with nearly all of her recipes. For me, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and I do think RLB delivers.

              2. re: brittle peanut

                brittle peanut, I don't know if you read the other thread, but I said there that I never roll out a bottom crust, I always pat it in the pan.

                Even with that, in my last go-around, the crust was tough, and I can picture myself using a little too much flour and handling it a bit too much.

                It's amazing how temperamental a seemingly easy thing like a pie crust is, but it is. If ever the old adage 'practice makes perfect' applies, here is a good example.

                1. re: brittle peanut

                  I made a pie crust from RLB Pie book that was very detailed and somewhat techinical. I followed the directions slavishly--chilling the flour and the fat in the freezer and everything else she recommended. The pie crust was amazing! It practically shattered when you put your fork to it and it tasted delicious; the crust was like its own component that complimented the filling and not just a shell to hold the filling. I only made the crust a few more times after that. It's time consuming and takes some planning.

                  On the other hand, Marion Cunningham's "Fannie Farmer Baking Book" has a terrific section on making pie crusts. She shows you how to do it by hand without a pastry cutter or with a machine if you want to do that. She's really fast and loose with her directions. She doesn't see a need to chill the pie dough after you've mixed it and she directs you to roll it our right away. It's really a no fuss recipe. It really tastes terrific too.

                  My boss is coming back to the office very soon so I better finish can learn a lot by trying different methods and finding your own way eventually.

                  1. re: raj1

                    raj1, I don't use a pastry cutter any longer, I mix all the ingredients by hand. I do chill the dough while I am mixing the filling, but not for any particular length of time.

                    I guess I am 'fast and loose' with my pie crusts as well. I also don't roll out the bottom crust, as I've shared.

                    99% of the time, my pies come out delicious. 1% of the time, when I'm not concentrating and handling them too much or making some other error, they come out like a lead balloon.

                    Practice, practice!

              3. "Pie" by Ken Hendrich. Its got everything from plain pumkin to a margarita pie, and a lot of useful information.

                2 Replies
                1. re: adventuresinbaking

                  brittle peanut, where are you on the expertise level in making pies?

                  Since I love collecting dessert books, but rarely look to them for advice (well outside of the sugar content of an apple pie from Betty Crocker's cookbook), I rely almost solely on the internet for new and amazing.

                  Heresy perhaps, but I look to Eagle brands and Kraft foods, both dot com, for their pie recipes.

                  The rest of it is just feel and experience. But pies are fun and in the end, usually delicious.

                  1. re: adventuresinbaking

                    I've got this book, and quite like it. The pastry instructions are very clear, and my crusts have improved markedly since using Haedrich. While I have not made many pies from this book, I can say that the slug-o-bourbon apple pie has become our standard - it is EXCELLENT.

                  2. My very very favorite pie book is called "Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook." It has all the basics for pies of all kinds, crusts...fillings....good common sense recipes. It's not wild or exotic, but it has all the neceesities to make a good pie, and a ton of recipes. Apple pies--- 16 different variations, Cream pies ---14, More than 40 crust/pastry recipes.... It covers everything from fruit pies like basic cherry to orange-mincemeat pie...and sepcialities like meat pies and pizza pies...

                    It's like having grandma in a binder.

                    My version of this book is a soft cover, 1981 reprint of a 165 hardcover. I quickly googled and found several versions on Amazon ranging from the original hardcover, to a softcover set which I think my book is included in...they don't show the cover so it is hard to tell....

                    Here is the Amazon link:


                    7 Replies
                    1. re: TrishUntrapped

                      I wanted to make some small corrections to my post above, but for some reason chowhound isn't making them after I type them...

                      First sorry for the typos...

                      Next, the book I have is a 1981 soft cover reprint of a 1965 hardcover book. I have not seen this specific book online. It has a blue cover and a picture of a lemon meringue and two other pies on the front. It may be part of the three book series being offered on Amazon. Amazon only shows one of that set.

                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                        Ooh, this sounds like a nice one to look through -- I found the ISBN for this, 0345297822 and ran a search for it that way. (On Amazon, the title is much abbreviated and I'm sure that's why you couldn't find it.)

                      2. re: TrishUntrapped

                        my mother, the ninja, award-winning pie baker, *swears* by this old-fashioned book. and it does have some surprises in it. every recipe is a winner, according to her. a note to second-hand seekers: the original hard-cover edition has faulty binding that eventually disintegrates & loses pages, i think my mom is on her 2nd or 3rd copy-- so contrary to my usual instincts, i'd hunt for a softcover copy in this case. this book is a gem & i believe it has been out of print for some time.

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          Brittle Peanut,

                          I did a quick little search of that ISBN and still haven't seen a picture of it...but I found what appears to be one copy of this book here, and at $1.99 it is a steal... By the way, my softcover has no missing pages at all. Considering I bought this back in 1981...pretty darn good.


                          Soup Kitten...This is definitely the kind of cookbook that has blue ribbon recipes. Your mother knows her stuff. It has 12 pumpkin pie variations alone.... good, simple, easy to reading.

                          1. re: TrishUntrapped

                            I found a used copy and bought it online -- will keep you posted when it arrives and I have a chance to see it. Thanks!

                            1. re: brittle peanut

                              Well, it arrived very quickly and I have to say, this little book is just packed with pies! It is the one with blue and four pies on the front -- including something chocolate/cherry, meringue, orange slices, and some eggs and cinnamon sticks. Since it has no illustrations whatsoever and is an unassuming volume (inasmuch as an entire cookbook devoted to pies can be said to be unassuming), it is easy to be more excited by all the photos in some of the other books. That being said, I notice that they have a recipe for an open faced apple pie that is remarkably similar to one of RLB's, and they include a cream cheese crust, very similar to the Cooks' Country winner. I love all the types of apple pies, in fact all the variations on traditional favorites, and the numerous passing references to the special spot pies have in men's heart. Except for the fact that most of the crusts are all shortening or lard, I find it to still be very up-to-date.

                              This is a great find. Thank you so much for telling me about it!

                              1. re: brittle peanut

                                Brittle Peanut,

                                Yes, you have the exact book I have. My cover is a little dog-eared, so I didn't immediately notice the mincemeat-looking pie at the bottom. The top in the left is some kind of cream pie with chocolate shavings and cherries. Looks great doesn't it?

                                It does make me smile when some people get credit for recipes and techniques that have been out there for a long time. But it does show imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

                                Enjoy the pies in this book...I hope others can get a hold of it as well.

                      3. Cook's Illustrated. I made blueberry pie from Baking Illustrated last summer and it was the best pie I've ever had.

                        1. I believe the pumpkin pie recipe in the Stars Desserts cookbook is reason alone to buy it. I've converted 5 or 6 "I don't like pumpkin pie" types with this recipe. The sweet pie dough recipe in the book is delicious and can not be overworked.