Lost Christmas

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Hey, happy January everyone!

Time for a few numbers and figures! Last year, my ninth year of writing Peace of Pie, I had a personal goal of posting at least a twice a month. I’m pleased to share that I did indeed deliver exactly 24 posts your way in 2020! This is the most I’ve posted since 2013, and it clearly paid off; the number of visitors to my blog in 2020 was the highest ever. Maybe you were all just spending more time online because #coronavirus but I’d like to think there was more to it than that. 🙂

Now that I’m sort of back where I’d like to be in terms of producing content, I want to start checking back in with you, my dear readers, more often. I’d like to know what kinds of posts you like best, what you want to see more of, etc. In the end, my style and my storytelling are what they are (and I’m so grateful for those of you who tell me how much you enjoy reading!) but there is still room for adaptation and refinement. Do you want more recipes to be shared? Some Pie Pastry 101 posts? Often when I make savory pies or quiches, I skip blogging about them…would you like more savory pie ideas? Ready…set..leave a comment!

Now for the pie alluded to in this post’s title. Last month, I was drinking a lot of eggnog (anyone else?) and perusing/editing my Pie Gallery a decent amount (you’ll know why if you made it through the entirety of the last blog post, yikes – it was a long one!) Those two activities happening simultaneously led me to realize that I had never blogged about an incredible pie we enjoyed not one but TWO whole Christmas seasons ago: the Eggnog Chiffon Pie.

Guys, I know Christmas is over, but these pictures I found makes me wish it wasn’t so I could make this pie again right now and have it be justifiable.

This was Christmas Eve 2018. Pippa was six months old and we were flying to Richmond, Virginia that very night. We had small pieces of eggnog chiffon pie after a big family dinner at Levi’s grandparents’ house, right before heading to the airport – I picked up my pie dish weeks later – so, it makes sense that among the shuffle this pie would have simply gone unblogged. With two years+ elapsed, it really wouldn’t be honest for me to try to give any sense of what it’s like to make this pie, but allow me to note a few features and ingredients: Crème Anglaise, rum, pecan graham cracker crust, exacting timing, yes that’s nutmeg sprinkled all over, rich, whipped cream served as a garnish or over the whole pie. I don’t feel the need to go on about this pie’s merits: basically, if you like eggnog, you’ll think it’s divine. And if you don’t, you should choose one of the other 299 recipes in Pie for your next holiday soirée. Easy.

In the Pie Gallery, Eggnog has now taken the coveted #150 spot over from the Mocha Ricotta Mousse Pie (sorry, cousin Daniel!) but most likely it will not hold that spot for very long, as I’m going through my memory with a fine-tooth-comb looking for lost pies these days…

I can’t let this post end without sneaking in a reminder of what Pippa looked like in December 2018. (Cue gush of tears on this end.)

Don’t forget to leave your comments about your hopes and dreams below (I’ll take pie-related or otherwise!)

A 2020 Pie Roundup

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2021 is upon us, and, arbitrary though it may be, it feels good to move forward. It feels good to set new goals and intentions, to re-dedicate ourselves to our core beliefs and values and relationships, to know that any pain and struggles we experienced in 2020 will carve space for deeper joys to come, if we let them.

This is going to be a long post. The format was the most recent guest baker (aka Levi)’s suggestion so if you get too the end of this and think “THIS WAS TOO. MUCH. PIE.,” you can take it up with him. I was intrigued by the idea of starting my blogging life somewhat afresh in 2021, so I went for it. Without further ado, here is a roundup of eight dessert pies I baked in 2020 that had not yet been blogumented.

Yep, I just made that word up.

Indiana Buttermilk Pie

August 2020. First of three pies from when our friend Matt was in California to visit us for slightly over a week. Three pies in a week, that’s well above my usual pace. To put it in perspective, if that was my standard pace, this project would have been over by 2013. This was my first buttermilk pie (there are three buttermilk pie recipes in Pie) but not my last in 2020, as you’ll see. Simple, basic, uncomplicated flavor. 1 teaspoon of vanilla is the only real flavoring agent, and the tartness of the buttermilk shines straight through. I loved this.

“White” Summer Fruit Pie…sort of!

August 2020. Second of three pies in aforementioned week. We really wanted one of them to be a fruit pie, and Matt (Pie Hype Man) really wanted me to make progress in the cookbook, so we chose this “White” Summer Fruit recipe. It called for Rainier cherries and either white peaches or nectarines. As it turned out, we weren’t able to locate Rainiers so late in the summer, so we followed the recipe exactly but used zero cherries, white Saturn peaches, yellow nectarines, and rhubarb (of which I freeze lots each spring). While it was absolutely divine and we ate it with homemade vanilla ice cream (extra divinity points) my overactive conscience won’t allow me to check this pie off my list until I make it again with Rainier cherries. *Avoids eye contact with Matt, who totally thought this one counted.* But look how pretty!!

Little Crème Brûlée Pies

August 2020. Third of three. Unusual and unforgettable mini pies. My first time making Ken’s “Extra Flaky” pie crust recipe, which calls for cake flour. (Also my first time purchasing cake flour! A few of the pies in this post had ingredients outside the typical realm of my pantry, as you’ll see.) The pastry was lovely to work with and yielded enough for four miniature pie pans, pictured below. After these pies are baked, they are topped with a layer of brown sugar and blow-torched to perfection. I mean, what could be better?

Coconut Cream Pie with Coconut Meringue Topping

October 2020. More ingredients I never hardly ever buy: sweetened flaked coconut and cream of coconut (as in, the stuff in piña coladas, not to be confused with coconut cream aka thicker coconut milk). My cousin Martin’s family visited us for a weekend and I wanted to make a great pie to enjoy all together. When we were growing up and on summertime vacations in Vermont, Martin and I were the little kids who would order coconut almond ice cream without fail when we’d all go to our favorite ice cream shop (our grandparents’ treat). Our shared love of coconut led me to choose this pie for the occasion. Decadent. A coconut lover’s dream come true; yet, not overpowering or artificial in any way.

Three Sisters Coconut Buttermilk Pie

October 2020. Remember that sweetened flaked coconut I’d just bought? Me too…so I looked for another recipe that called for it. Since making the Indiana Buttermilk Pie and absolutely adoring it, I had been looking forward to trying a second buttermilk pie – this was an easy pick. Like a coconut custard pie but with the tang of buttermilk to take it to the next level; a real treat. We shared this pie with our good friends Brad and Deb at our big outdoor table. It seats 18, but we’ve been so grateful for the few times this year that we’ve used it to seat even 4. ❤

Homestead Chess Pie

November 2020. I was looking for something very simple, with pantry ingredients, as I decided to put this pie together at the last minute. This fit the bill: eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, a bit of vinegar and cornmeal. In my last blog post, I mentioned that I made a (correct) executive decision to bake my Tarte au Sucre an extra 15 minutes past the time given in the recipe. I initially took this pie out at 35 minutes (recipe calls for 30-35) but ended up putting it back in the oven later, cause it clearly was underbaked. Yikes. Perhaps my oven does run cold and I am just waking up to this fact? I shall ponder this further. A delightful pie in the end, for all its simplicity. The fifth of the five Chess Pies in Pie – I’ve now exhausted that category. I confess, I did secretly wish this was a Lemon Chess Pie when I was eating it. Levi probably did too because he is Mr. Lemon Dessert.

Crock-Pot Fall Fruit Pie

November 2020. The name above ruins my punch line. Which of the desserts pictured below do you think was my Thanksgiving pie this year? That’s right, it’s the only one that looks nothing like a pie! This oval-shaped semi-imposter, though not what you would expect of me, was a popular and tasty dessert table choice that I’d recommend any of you try. It’s made with baking mix (like Bisquick – I used Birch Benders Organic Classic Pancake and Waffle Mix), fresh cranberries, pears, apples. Super Thanksgiving-y and great with a dollop of homemade whipped cream.

Apple and Blueberry Crumb Pie

December 2020. This was an important pie for me. I didn’t follow a recipe. I made it for my dear Linda (Pippa’s former nanny) and her family. My apple pie is Linda’s favorite, my blueberry pie is her daughter’s favorite, and they both love crumb topping. Linda had filled a pie dish with homemade tamales for us shortly before Thanksgiving. After the tamales sustained us for several days, I was left with this empty dish (it says Blessed on the bottom – I’d actually given it to her as a gift the last week she worked for us). I couldn’t picture giving it back like that, so I made this pie while Pippa took an afternoon nap one day. This has been a season of grief, and that was an afternoon when the grief was more present than I realized. There was something so visceral in making that pie with my hands, both painful and healing at the same time. I didn’t expect to react the way I did to peeling and coring the apples, to breaking up clumps of butter with my floury fingers – each familiar step generating a physical heartache – but perhaps I should have. Linda said her whole family agreed it was the best pie they have ever had.

Through that experience, I recognized that pie making has become a way to let my heart speak what is on is mind. It is a path I can walk any time, in any weather. And it is a way I can return blessings on the givers in my life, of whom there truly are many.

Be blessed in 2021, my friends, though it may look different than you expect. Happy New Year!


A few editorial notes:

  • You probably got this already, but a pie named in bold type is a pie from Ken Haedrich’s Pie baked for the first time. The two fruit pie titles are not in bold, denoting that they aren’t counting towards my count to 300.
  • While at this moment I’m feeling 96.5% sure that I covered all of 2020’s sweet pies, there were also a couple savory pies I’d like to tell you a bit more about another day. Also, there are still some pies of yesteryear that will occasionally pop into my mind or out of old photos which have yet to claim their rightful place in the gallery. So, if you had any fear that I was completely done with flashbacks…fear not.

Visions of Sugar-Pies

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This Christmas was the first I’ve celebrated while also having my own child able to really see and articulate the wonder and delight surrounding the season. Watching her watch sparkling lights, try special holiday foods, search for new “decorations” around our neighborhood, and express real gratitude for the gifts she received has been extremely lovely. Now that she fancies herself a ballerina, she’s learned about the Nutcracker and pretends to be Clara often; sometimes I’m the sugarplum fairy. Good deal.

Now, there is no Sugarplum Pie among the many recipes in Ken Haedrich’s Pie collection. (Italian Prune Plum, yes, which is on a short list of pies I’ve started called THE HIGHLY ELUSIVE ONES. Marionberry is on there too. And Balaton cherry. Anybody got any leads?!) But, there is a Sugar Pie; more formally known as Tarte au Sucre. As the name might give away, this pie is of French Canadian origin. In fact, I was first introduced to this dessert about five years ago at the home of some wonderful friends of ours who dwell in Quebec; it was April, but very snowy, and I remember it as one of the coziest moments – we had a double pie meal, a French Canadian style meat pie first, followed by Tarte au Sucre.

P.S. This is what I miss the most right now.

Tarte au Sucre stars one of the tastiest forms of sugar – maple syrup. I baked one for our Christmas Day 2020, and since this pie isn’t terribly well known (at least, outside of Canada), I’ll go into some detail about how it comes together!

Essentially, after making and pre-baking a single crust pastry, two separate components of the filling are prepared: crumbs and syrup. For the crumbs, flour, light brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter are combined much in the way you’d make a crumb topping for a fruit pie. The syrup mixture contains warmed maple syrup, baking soda, an egg, an egg yolk, and vanilla, whisked together. The pie is then assembled in three layers: crumbs, syrup, more crumbs. It’s quite a simple process, but I moved through the steps slowly and deliberately because a) the method was fairly foreign to me and b) I recently made a fruit pie that I forgot to put any cornstarch in until the pie was in the oven for ten minutes, so my confidence is a little on the rocks but I’m gonna be okay thanks for asking.

While I’m confessing past pie foibles I may as well bring up the Shoofly Pie I made 8 1/2 years ago (Have I really been doing this for that long?!) Shoofly Pie is made in a similar manner to Tarte au Sucre; I’d call the two each others’ Southern and Northern cousins. I never tasted the Shoofly Pie, as I sent it off to a bake sale. (Side note: I’ve learned enough in the past 8 1/2 years to know that that’s really NOT the kind of pie to send to a bake sale. Too unusual, too gooey. Has “fly” in the name.) In Ken’s book, the filling of the Shoofly and Tarte au Sucre only bake for 30-35 minutes. In my version of history, the Shoofly Pie was sent to that bake sale after perfectly following the recipe; nevertheless, it was underbaked. My friends were kind enough to not tell me that expressly, but, well, there were some veiled comments about it being difficult to cut and serve. I’m telling you, I know in my heart that it needed ten more minutes. And when I was baking this tender little Sugar Pie, I vowed to learn from the past.

Pie said, “Don’t be tempted to bake the pie much more than 30 minutes, even if the filling seems loose.”

Jessica Gelineau said, “I’m baking this puppy for a full 45.”

Et voila!

Truly, this was a yummy treat. Gooey, almost cookie like in flavor and consistency, with a real emphasis on the maple flavor. Let’s all take a quick moment to note that I’ve begun making more of an effort to crimp the edges on my single crust pies. I attended a virtual Pie Academy with Ken Haedrich in November (which was fantastic – more to come on that in a future post!) and basically was just inspired after watching his fluting technique to give my own pies a bit more oomph in the visual department.

(Note for the nerdiest pie nerds amongst you: This particular crust got a bit too brown and also didn’t hold its fluting perfectly, as you can see. This was a situation where my little silicone pie crust shields should have been employed.)

Now, back to that Christmas wonder and joy I was talking about earlier. One of my written goals for this year, before any of us knew what 2020 would bring, was, “Foster a sense of wonder and delight in my little girl”. The credit isn’t mine to take, but that wonder and delight is growing in her every day. One of Levi’s Christmas presents to me was a book called Awaking Wonder: Opening Your Child’s Heart to the Beauty of Learning, by Sally Clarkson. I’m so excited to read it! Book club, anyone?

One of my gifts to Pippa was a child-size rolling pin. ❤

Did you have a favorite moment of Christmas Day this year? Here are a few of mine: Levi reading to Pippa about Jesus’ birth, Pippa pretending to be baby Jesus (yes, all those stuffed animals are the ones in the manger…the lamb is a little more accurate than Paddington Bear…), and Pippa enjoying the trains and Christmas villages at her great-grandparents’ house.

I’ll be back in a few days to share the rest of 2020’s pies. Hasta luego. xox

GUEST POST: I am not the usual baker.

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Hi Everyone, it’s Levi!

At Jessica’s urging, I embarked on my own little pie adventure this week. We made Thanksgiving Leftover Pot Pies!

I started with Double-Crust Food Processor Dough from Ken’s newer book Pie Academy. This was incredibly easy and fast. It’s essentially 2.75 cups of flour and two sticks of butter blitzed together.

(I would insert picture of the crust dough being made here but, I definitely didn’t take that picture, I’m not the usual blogger.)

The crust came out great! I roughly divided it into 6 larger pieces and 6 smaller pieces for our large muffin tin and refrigerated it over-night. Jess later asked if I’d followed the steps closely and I responded “Of course not, but, I think it came out great anyways!” I’m not the usual baker.

(It would be great to have pictures here to break up the paragraphs, but, still didn’t get any).

The next evening we broke out our leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy. Then, we warmed up some frozen peas, frozen corn and also steamed some carrots real quick. Pippa and I then mixed up 6 fillings, and experimented with layering the mashed potatoes or the stuffing at the bottom of the pies (that experiment was successful).

Baked them, and as my countrymen say, voila!

The cranberries really popped against the dense, yet flaky, crust.

I can definitely see this becoming a tradition for me.

The heir to my fortune loved the Leftover Pies!

Looking forward to more of these next year!

Decadence in a Nut-Shell

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Pippa and Jack’s fall vacay, part 2. From the mountains to the beaches, these two know how to enjoy their surroundings. In October, our families shared a beach house in San Diego for four days and nights characterized by sticky sand, idyllic views, toddler shenanigans, and decadent treats.

I’m choosing to harp on the word decadence to talk about the pie we enjoyed on this vacation. This dessert is nearly laughable in terms of richness, over-the-topness, and, well…yeah. Decadence. Even Ken Haedrich includes a note in his description of this pie that reads: Warning: I doubt there’s a richer recipe in this book.

The pie in question is the…Patchwork Quilt Country Inn Frozen Coffee Toffee Pie. Even the name is a mouthful. Let’s talk about the crust first. This pie gets its own particular crust: Choco-Nut Press-In Pie Crust, which Ken comments is an “unorthodox crust” that would likely work well with many of the other icebox and ice cream pies in the Pie cookbook, “especially those featuring chocolate”.

The first step in the making of this crust involves pulsing chocolate and walnuts and sugar in a food processor. I had overlooked this small detail while packing but guess what it TOTALLY worked out because my food processor has been functional but essentially broken all year. Levi did a Target run on Day 2 of our vacation that included: a new food processor.

I purchased one item for the making of this crust that I will almost certainly never have occasion to buy again: boxed pie crust mix. (!!)

Having made that snide remark: the crust really came together nicely, was easy to work with, and tasted like something special. Here it is, pressed into the largest pie plate I own. Following this, the crust was refrigerated, then baked, then refrigerated again.

In between steps of pie-making, I assisted Pippa in creating a chocolatey treat of her own. (Thanks Trader Joe’s.)

Okay, are you guys really ready to hear about the filling? The answer is no, there’s no way to prepare for the shocking stats to follow.

7 eggs.

4 sticks of butter.

2 1/2 CUPS of sugar. (I just couldn’t do it. I reduced it to 2.)

Chocolate, espresso, Kahlua, vanilla. And none of this includes the topping.

My entire Kitchen-Aid stand mixer traveled to San Diego with me for the making of this monstrosity.

The filling is refrigerated in the already cold pie shell before a topping gets added. Here I am with an expression that says, “lol now I’ve seen it all”.

The cold pie is topped with sweetened espresso whipped cream. The recipe calls for “Rich’s Whip Topping” but that’s not available in California stores from what I could deduce (and the recipe allows that it’s only available in certain parts of the country. The Patchwork Quilt Country Inn is in Indiana, so I’m thinking this is a Midwest product. But if any of you have heard of it or used it, I’d be quite curious to know.)

The fully assembled pie freezes for 2-4 hours before being ready for consumption. After your kids go to bed is the suggested correct time to dig into this pie. I for one don’t like to caffeinate my two-year-old prior to bedtime. (But I’d be dishonest to say she didn’t taste this at all…she did get a few morsels on the morning we were packing up and checking out. We were all trying to do our best by the remainder of the pie; it was a feat.) In summary: this is as delicious as you would imagine. A pie not for the everyday, but perfect for a very special treat. Thanks to Alisa for deciding that our trip to San Diego was the right occasion. 😉

I shared a large wedge with our downstairs neighbors (a small group of friends who were renting out the bottom floor of the same AirBnB house). This is exactly how that conversation went.

Me in my mask knocking on the door. Door opens.

“Hi neighbors! Uhhhh…..I made this frozen coffee toffee pie and there’s no way we’re going to eat it all, do you guys want to try some? None of you are allergic to nuts, right?”

Despite my awkwardness, they were quite pleased and happily accepted my offering.

In keeping with the Choco-Nut theme, here’s one more vacay picture. Me with my ice cream buddy for life.

What pies are you making for Thanksgiving this week? I’d love to hear. ❤

Quarantine Pie: A Story Told Through Correspondence

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Part One: An email from Jess to Matt

Mr. M. Drabenstott —
It has come to my attention that you are secluded in a lonely yet beautiful cabin in the Quebecois wilderness and are in need of immediate advice regarding the making of a pie, which, it is presumed, you and only you will be consuming. In addition, your access to provisions is ample but limited; any single recipe I would share might not be able to be followed with precision. I shall hereto set out to provide some guidelines and advice in straightforward and simple language in order to assist you in eating* your quarantine pie as soon as possible, leaving you with a copious amount of time for academic pursuits, Fortnite, and private poetry readings and recitations. *(Rather, beginning to eat, as this pie will last several days, excepting an an act of terrible gluttony.) Please do not hesitate to seek clarification on any of the details below through the medium of text message if assistance is required during the creative process. I am unsure what has possessed me to write this paragraph in such a formal tone. However, if it has provided one extra ounce of amusement to your solitary day, I harbor absolutely no regrets. 

Your loving friend,

Mrs. J. Gelineau
——————–

  • Pastry: Totally just use your pre-made pastries if you have them. If you’d prefer to make your own, this is a very simple recipe that can be made, then immediately rolled and put into a pan. (Most other pastries, which use butter or shortening, require refrigeration). I prefer to roll pastry between two sheets of wax paper, if you have it- it makes it easy to peel off one side once you’re done and lift and invert the whole thing over the pie pan. Otherwise, lightly flour your surface and rolling pin. 

Louise Piper’s Oil Pastry: Combine 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Measure 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 1/4 cold milk (not skim, but whole or 2% is fine) in the same glass measuring cup (if you have one) without mixing the two, then dump it all at once into the flour mixture. Mix briskly, the dough will pull together into a ball. Divide the dough in half, this makes just enough for a double crust pie. You can go straight to rolling out the bottom crust for your pie. If you don’t have a rolling pin, an empty wine or large beer bottle works well. 😉

  • Filling: I heard you say you have cherries, strawberries, peaches, and one other fruit which is escaping me (blueberries?). I assume you have a standard size pie dish (9 inch). Basically you want to do about 5 cups of fruit unless you’re using strawberries. Those bubble up so much that you probably would want to stick to 4 cups of fruit total or you might have a huge mess in the oven. So add your fruit to a bowl. Peach/cherry is one of my current favorite combos but any combos will be yummy. 🙂 If you have a bigger dish, you can go up to 6 cups of fruit. Add between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of sugar depending on the size of the pie, and 1-2 tsps of lemon juice (if you have it? Or lime, or orange…! Something citrus!) If you have a lemon, a little zest in the filling is nice too. Also can’t go wrong with 1/2 of cinnamon and a sprinkle of nutmeg if you happen to have those things. A little vanilla is nice in peach pies. Combine all of this and let it sit for 10 minutes until you can see visible juices in the bottom of the bowl. Then add to the bowl 2 tablespoons and another spoonful of sugar (premix those in a separate little bowl). Mix until the cornstarch mixture is well incorporated into the fruit. Pour filling into pie crust lined baking dish. Add several small pats of butter scattered around the top of the pie. (Oh- and if you don’t have cornstarch, you could use flour in its place. Maybe 3 TBSP instead of 2…)
  • Top crust: Get a little bowl of water for your fingers ready. Roll out the top crust. Dip your fingers in water and run a little bit around the edge of the bottom crust, then invert the top crust over the whole pie. Trim the excess pastry to be flush with the edges of the pie pan, then press all around the edges with a fork to bind together, or sculpt together in a ridge. If you have extra pastry, make the shape of a whale and pop that on top. Prick the top crust with a fork several times, including at least once or twice near the edge of the pie. That’s where you will look for bubbling to check doneness – thick juicy bubbles are what you want. If you want, you can sprinkle or brush the top of the pie evenly with milk and a little bit of white sugar.
  • Baking: Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes, then rotate the pie 180 degrees so that the part that was facing the back of the oven is now facing front, turn down the temperature to 375 and bake for about 25 more minutes- but start checking earlier for those bubbles, and a golden top crust. Every oven is different!

It would be totally awesome if you could do a guest post with some pictures of your pie escapade on The Peace of Pie. Let me know if you’re keen.


Part Two: A Series of iMessages from Matt to Jess

Matt’s quaran-pie journey begins.

I couldn’t find any pie pans lying around the cabin, so I settled on a casserole dish.

(Which I would later discover has the capacity of 4 pie dishes….)

Per your reco, I mixed frozen peaches and cherries into a bowl. I added few splashes of maple syrup, a pinch or two of cinnamon, some lémon zëst, and of course, a squirt of citrus. (Grapefruit sounded fancy at the time).

As I poured the milk into the oil for the crust, I couldn’t help but think fondly of the lava lamp that I had throughout middle school.

In the absence of a rolling pin and a wine bottle, I used a bottle of Woodford Reserve (would definitely recommend!) to iron out my Pangaea-esque shaped crust.

After adding a few strawberries to the top for a little ‘je ne sais quois’, I scurried to the forest to find some fallen maple leaves, which I used as stencils to create an aptly carved ‘Fall Canadian Foliage’ topper.

Pretty much nailed it.

Shamelessly, I’m already half way finished.


A Bit of Backstory:

Peace of Pie readers may remember my friend and pie hype man Matt from previous posts such as this one. An American currently living in Canada, Matt spent the summer months back in the U.S. of A and thus was required to quarantine for two weeks upon his October re-entry. A classy fellow, Matt chose to make the most of this time by renting a beautiful wilderness cabin in which to work, hold solo poetry readings, and, of course, bake the delightful pie you’ve just read about. Matt is now healthfully back in his primary Canadian residence, and I feel like I’ve just written an author bio for a book jacket. Cheers!

Zapple Pie

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It’s not Apple Pie: It’s Zapple Pie.

Yes, my friends. It’s time to talk about mock apple pie, made from zucchini and a few other ingredients that aid the trickery. Unless you actually make one yourself, you will probably not believe me when I say how good it is. But I and my taste-testers will tell you: it is really, really, really good. This Crumb-Topped Zapple Pie recipe can be found in Ken Haedrich’s book Pie, like most of the others discussed on this blog.

I made two of these back-to-back in late August/early September when mi querida amiga Linda gave me six zucchini from her prolific garden, two of which were actual giants. I’m a person that likes zucchini a lot of ways, but after making that first pie, it was like, oh, clearly this is 100% the best way to use zucchini. Let’s not mess around with zucchini bread and other such distractions anymore.

What does it take to make a Zapple Pie? Take a look.

Because this pie is so unusual, so delectable, and made with such a common ingredient, I feel it will be well worth our collective time to go into the process in a more step-by-step fashion than I typically would. Sound good? Sounds good.

Peel the zucchini and cut into thin, but not paper-thin, pieces (Cut rounds, then quarter them if a large zucchini, or in half for a medium zucchini.) You’ll start with six cups of raw zuke pieces.

Not previously pictured, but here is another key secret ingredient. Little bit of apple juice concentrate + Little bit of apple cider vinegar goes a long way in making zucchinis taste like apples, as it turns out.

Sugar, spices, and appley things simmer with the zucchini in a stockpot prior to baking. A cornstarch and lemon juice mixture is added towards the end to thicken and brighten up the mixture.

Like most of Ken’s crumb-topped pies, this pie is baked for half an hour with nothing on top, and the crumbs are added about halfway through the total baking time. Personally, one of my favorite aspects of this pie is the use of pecans in the crumb topping. This truly elevates the flavor and texture of the entire pie, in my opinion. Genius move.

In checking for doneness, you’ll see thick juicy bubbles around the edge of the pie when it’s done, just like you would expect of any classic fruit pie.

I was happy to be able to share these pies with Linda (the zucchini-giver) and her family and Levi’s grandparents and aunt. We’ve also been having backyard church some Sunday nights with a handful of friends, a real joy. Distanced and all that, you know the drill (Pippa and her cousin “baby Luke” don’t distance, because a. They stink at it and b. We are in each others’ bubbles.) But boy oh boy, it is GOOD to sit eight feet apart from physical people and physically drink the wine and eat the bread together.

And sometimes, afterwards, physically eat mystery pie together.

Pippa: “Whhaaaaat’s in it?” She loves being in on trickery.

Bonus completely irrelevant photo that no one will be mad about: Pippa and her beloved babies. I hope she never stops calling anyone that is even slightly younger than her “baby ___________”.

Left to right: Baby Pippa, Baby Margaret, Baby Dolly, Baby Lucy, Baby Lydia. #babysquad

Will you try making a Zapple Pie? Don’t forget to let me know. I very badly want to hear your reaction and whether you found it as entirely delightful as I did. ❤

Let the Record Show

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I had a real moment this weekend. A moment of serious pie déjà vu.

I was working on a Triple-Layer Pumpkin-Chocolate Pie, a pie which, in my own words, “I’m really excited to make because I’ve been eyeing this recipe forever and never actually made!” Well, look. I hate to say this, but sometimes pies begin to blur together in my mind. I’d checked the Pie Gallery page of this website multiple times, saw no hint of the Triple-Layer, and thought I was in the clear. But then, the aforementioned déjà vu hit too strongly when I was photographing the pie with its top sour cream layer and I did a more careful search through old blog posts. Come to find, the Thanksgiving pies of 2013 never made it to the gallery!! I laughed out loud when I saw the image below…

…Because I’d just finished taking these photos.

By the way, I don’t mean to complain. There was clearly meant to be a 2020 version of this pie; I was happy to make it again, share it with some lovely family friends, taste it again myself (since I had no recollection of the taste from 2013. Weird right.) Plus you guys would never have gotten these sweet Pippa/Process Pics.

She is getting PRETTY good with a rolling pin, I will not lie. And check out this nifty pie rolling mat! Another embarrassing confession-from-a-pie-maker to add to the list in this post; I’ve never even seen one of these baking mats or surmised their existence. What a fantastic invention. And what fantastic bedhead.

By the by, the reason this pie was up for (re)consideration was when I asked the recipients for favorite pie fillings, the response was “chocolate, pumpkin, and macaroni and cheese”. Even I could not figure out how to combine all three of those, but the first two? YES.

This may be a good recipe to consider if you’re thinking of making something new and a bit different for your Thanksgiving this year. I always find most families have some pumpkin people and some chocolate people. And maybe some pumpkin-chocolate people. Make everyone happy. Reach out if you’d like the recipe.

The chocolate layer of the pie is the same cheesecake-y pumpkin filling shown above, just with melted chocolate added.

The striking profile you see below is achieved with multiple rounds of baking. The crust is partially pre-baked, the chocolate-pumpkin layer is baked alone for twenty minutes, then the plain pumpkin layer goes on top of that. It’s time consuming, but not too much trouble; just a lot of time all added up! The sour cream layer is poured on top of the cooled pie, which is then chilled for at least three hours before eating.

Moving on. Following the discovery of my startling omission, I was compelled to give the Pie Gallery a fresh update. It took a bit longer than I’m comfortable admitting and was probably the 567th most important thing on my to-do list last night, but it was rewarding in its own way. A few minor numbering errors were corrected and the Triple-Layer’s photo was added to spot 116, along with the Jellied Cranberry-Pecan Pie (117) that had been made at the same time. I also took the opportunity to add in the Mocha Ricotta Mousse Pie with Warm Mocha Sauce that my cousin Daniel and I collaborated on in the summer of 2019. It’s currently taking a high place of honor in spot #150 – the halfway mark of this project! Unfortunately for Dan (and for myself come to think of it) I have a feeling I’m yet missing one to two pies and that number may shift. It would be very, very cute, and very good for my storyline if the pie with Pippa’s name emblazoned on it (currently in spot #149) ends up being Pie 150. P.S. I know I care WAAAAAAAY more about any of this than I could ever imagine you would, dear reader. If you’ve already got the gallery page open in another tab and are trying to make sense of my ramblings…well, you’re my hero.

In conclusion, a few things you should know about the Mocha Ricotta Mousse Pie.

1) It was incredible.

2) It was actually fairly simple to make.

3) My cousin Dan has a fake celebrity chef/Instagram persona named “Chef Gusto” who wears a tall white hat, a fake mustache, and speaks with what can only loosely be called a French accent. So as you might guess, cooking with him is quite hilarious. If you want a good laugh and you’re reading this post within the week it was published, click here to view Chef Gusto’s Instagram Story from July 2019; he made it temporarily public for the enjoyment of Peace of Pie readers! Thanks Dan. Can’t wait for you to “teach me how” to make another pie sometime.

Below: serving suggestion for coffee lovers: Mocha Pie, Mocha Sauce, Espresso…what else could you want?

See you all in October. ❤

Mini Cheesecake Pies for the Kids

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This is the exact thing that these pies are called in my ultimate pie guide to life (Pie by Ken Haedrich, if you’re a new reader…and if so, welcome!) But friends, I am here to tell you: these are not just for the kids.

However, I do highly suggest this as a recipe to make (in part or full, depending on their age) with your kids, if you’re looking for delicious family bonding activities. Here’s what your mini cheesecake pies will look like this if you let a pair of enthusiastic two-year-olds decorate them.

We whipped up these delightful little concoctions over the past weekend, during a short vacation with my cousin’s family to the mountain town of Big Bear Lake, California. The recipe calls for individual store-bought graham cracker crusts. And, I can’t*. So I brought along the jumbo muffin tin and made my own. Grease the muffin tin well and they’ll slide out just fine. I wasn’t sure, but I tested it for you all and you’ve got the green light.

*See multiple other Peace of Pie posts where I enumerate the merits of homemade graham cracker crusts.

Here are some things I learned while making these pies.

  1. If you forget to pack brown sugar, you can make a fine graham cracker crust with regular sugar. It’s something I hadn’t done before. Brown sugar is much nicer because it’s a bit damper and stickier, which helps bind the crumbs together. But it isn’t essential.
  2. If you forget to bring an electric mixer, you can enlist someone with strong arms to whip the filling together. The hardest part is the cream cheese, even if softened. I do suggest using an electric mixer if you’re not at a remote cabin with limited options, this is definitely a last resort tip.

A valid question you could ask at this point if you’d like is, “Did you actually participate in the making of these pies at all, Jess?” Let’s just say it was a team effort, with myself, Levi, Pippa, and her buddy Jack all equally contributing to the creative process.

Here is the most aesthetically appealing photo you’ll find in this post. Pies prior to the toddler decorating party, with a delightfully colorful berry plate in waiting.

Next, an onslaught of cute photos of Pippa and Jack doing what they do best: pretending to decorate with berries while actually scarfing down berries. Okay, Pippa was a way worse offender here than Jack. While Jack was placing a blueberry directly into the center of each pie (with enough force to make the filling squish up towards the ceiling), Pippa was promising to “decorate” with each new berry while literally popping 3/4 of them into her mouth. SO many fakeouts.

The recipe contains numerous other suggestions for how to decorate these pies: Caramel-Nut, Candy Fantasy, Choco-Mallow. Anyone else starting to think about Cheesecake Factory? We kept it simple and fresh this time. What’s your favorite berry to pair with cheesecake? I’m a raspberry girl myself.

My pie-lovin’ heart was super happy to see these cute kiddos each enjoy half of one of the cheesecake pies they had “made themselves”. For those doing math at home, the four adults had no problem polishing off the other five mini pies later that evening. Like I said – not just for the kids.

What will you top your mini cheesecake pies with? Do you have a kid in your life who would love to bake and/or eat these? Lemme know because you know I loooove those sweet comments. And, happy fall to my fellow Northern Hemisphereans. Is it me or does a change in season feel especially good this year?

Dynamic Duos

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Once upon a time, there were two babies named Pippa and Milo. They were the best of friends.

When Milo read books, Pippa read books. When Pippa cuddled her baby, Milo cuddled his baby. When Milo said, “Time to eat!” Pippa said, “I’m all in.”

Pippa and Milo both like sweet treats. Pippa’s mama is a pie baker, and Milo’s parents have an ice cream maker. When their families stay together, decadence ensues.

Here’s Milo blessing the pie pastry for this Fancy Chocolate Chess Pie.

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Milo’s dad doesn’t bake pies too often, but he has made two kinds of pie, one of which happens to be Chocolate Chess. This isn’t as coincidental as it sounds – Milo’s family lives in Virginia, and Chess Pie was born and bred in the South. The other pie Milo’s dad can make is a PB & J pie. Pippa’s mama thinks it is a very unfortunate omission that there is no recipe for a PB & J pie in her cookbook, and might just have to try making one soon anyway.

Here is a picture of many egg yolks that put the Fancy in this Chocolate Chess Pie.

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Pippa’s mama couldn’t remember if she had made this pie before. She thought she hadn’t, until just now, when she was browsing the “Chess” tag on her own website and stumbled upon a post from 2013. Now she remembers that this was Pie #99 in her gallery and she can’t count it again. Too bad, cause this would have been a fiiiine looking image for the pie gallery. But y’know, no real regrets. It was delish again, seven years later, eaten with different folks.

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Milo’s mama used a Salt and Straw Ice Cream Starter Kit (link here but it looks pretty much unavailable anymore which is sad and disappointing news for all of us) to make absolutely delicious Freckled Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. The two decadent desserts were enjoyed side by side one evening; a slice of pie followed by a bowl of ice cream. Don’t worry, Pippa and Milo got to taste-test the ice cream at lunch the next day.

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P.S. Pippa’s mama now owns an ice cream maker also. She’s written about her love for Salt and Straw Ice Cream before. If S&S ever starts selling Honey Lavender Starter Kits, you all know what she wants for her birthday for the rest of her life.

The End.