'United States of Pie' cookbook explores America's pie obsession
In honor of National Pie Day, the January holiday I find most delectable, I've been spending some time with a new pie book: "United States of Pie: Regional Favorites from East to West and North to South." Written by Adrienne Kane, it explores heritage and regional pies all over our pie-happy country.
When Ms. Kane and her husband left New York City for New Haven, Conn., the northern California food writer found herself homesick. To combat that, she turned to the kitchen, but to her surprise, she wasn't craving "innovative, modern food." Instead she found herself preparing hearty, heavy, warming dishes -- the food she'd remembered as a child, "the home cooking of my late grandmother and of her childhood on a South Dakota farm.
"Such homey meals demanded a homey dessert," she writes, "and for me, that meant pie." But she never before had made a pie. Her grandmother had been a stellar pie maker, and Adrienne would sit in the kitchen and watch her.
Ms. Kane's husband urged her to get out more, perhaps to keep her from preparing another large meal. She began exploring the cookbook stacks at Yale University. There she was drawn to the old-fashioned cookbooks and pamphlets: farm-women's guides, church collections, community cookbooks. She writes: "Each one was a little window into a world now gone, a historical record."
So, in a pie shell, that's how this book was baked. From Adrienne Kane's kitchen to ours, with newly found pie-baking skills, charming stories, culinary traditions and a collection of pies from all over the country. From the Northeast: Concord Grape Pie. From the Midwest: Ohio Shaker Lemon Pie. From the South: Blackberry Jam Pie. From the West, Date Pie; and from Pennsylvania, Shoo-Fly Pie.
Breakfast Apple Pie
Adrienne Kane tells us that this is her take on the late Marion Cunningham's Breakfast Apple Pie. It's sweet but not overly so, fruity, crunchy and creamy. Perfect with a strong cup of coffee and you can even serve it for dessert (instead of breakfast.)
Pie pastry to line 9-inch pie plate
For the filling
2 medium tart apples (14 ounces), such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (3 cups)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Streusel Topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cornflakes
Pinch kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Fit pie pastry into 9-inch pie plate. Trim edges to a 1-inch overhang. Fold edges under and make a fluted edge. Refrigerate.
Filling: In large bowl, toss apples, sugar, cinnamon and salt until well mixed. Pour into pie shell, distributing apples evenly. Place pie plate on baking sheet. In same bowl, lightly whisk eggs. Add flour, milk and vanilla; whisk until smooth. Pour over apples, evening them if they've shifted. Bake pie 35 minutes.
Streusel: Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, cornflakes and salt. Crush cornflakes with your hands until about the size of raw oats. Add butter and mix with your hands, rubbing it between your fingers to make a crumbly streusel.
When pie has baked 35 minutes, remove from oven and gently sprinkle streusel over filling; pat in lightly. (Custard will not yet be set.) Bake 40 to 45 more minutes, until pie is puffed, streusel has melted slightly into custard and cornflakes are crispy and light brown. Let cool on rack at room temperature before enjoying. Refrigerate leftovers.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
-- Adapted from "United States of Pie: Regional Favorites From East to West and North to South" by Adrienne Kane (Ecco Harper Collins, 2012, $24.99).
First Published January 17, 2013 12:00 am