What Everyone Else Is Doing While I Am Making Pie


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When we visited Montana in May, we spent a day in Yellowstone having our breath taken away and a day at Levi’s aunt and uncle and cousins’ house with my aunt and uncle and cousins. That second day was rainy and the house was full of good smells, and I asked my aunt to walk around and take pictures of what everyone else was doing while I was making pie.

I like these pictures because I think they show the reality of what pie is to me. It is important, but it’s not the whole story. I enjoy it, like others enjoy sketching or playing games. At the end of the day, pie is just something I can bring to the table.

I love it when the table is full. IMG_6421IMG_6439 IMG_6408 IMG_6423 IMG_6422 IMG_6413IMG_6426IMG_6415IMG_6427IMG_6432


Holy Guacamole


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This cute little list has been making the rounds due to this being an El Niño year here in Southern California. I did have a real moment with the rain last Tuesday where I woke up listening to it in the middle of the night and the sound was so foreign that I sleepily thought all of our sprinklers were broken and made Levi go outside to look. (It hasn’t rained again since then, but, by all means, bring it on! I’m so ready!)

Coincidentally I also went to In-N-Out today and I’m about to write about avocados, so, there you go. 


Sounds like a joke, or a euphemism, but believe you me it is nothing but a wonderfully serious reality.

When a pie is unique, absolutely delicious, and can mostly be made in a blender, it deserves to be made several times in a row. I made this one for my school’s Pi Day celebration (following Pi Days past: Coconut Cream, Chewy Medjool Date-NutButterscotch Banana Cream…) and then I made it again to eat on my birthday. As a birthday celebration.


This pie is made by blending a very high-quality avocado with sweetened condensed milk, lemon and lime juice, powdered sugar, and of course, cream cheese. We ate it with some fresh unsweetened whipped cream. Wow. You’ve got to try it, whether you’re Californian or not.

On Dates and Freedom


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Gone, but not forgotten. Well, nearly forgotten. This pie eluded publicity for nearly seven months because the pictures of got removed from my phone in an untimely fashion, but here it is, another from the ranks of Pie. May I present to you…the Date-Walnut Freeform Pie.


Freeform pies are never the most picturesque, the most noble-looking or impressive types. But I think there’s a beauty to them all the same, and part of that beauty is the sheer ease of folding crust up and up and up and being done, no fussing with a pie dish. Just a plain cookie sheet is all you need. It’s very freeing (pun intentional) to know how to make a pie without a pie dish. To be honest, this pie was made in the comfort of my home, where I had a half-dozen pie plates around that I COULD have used, but it’s the principle of the thing. I’ve got pie making down to the point now where I think I could make a good pie with the only tools being as follows:

Any type of baking surface

Any cylindrical object

A sharp paring knife

A spoon

A bowl

….yep, that’s it.

(Don’t hold me to that, okay? Levi can vouch for the actual number of dishes I dirty when I make a pie. It’s more than five.)

Here are some of the other freeform pies I’ve made (1, 2). They’ve all been pretty yummy. But now let’s turn our attention to the pie at hand.

Dates. Dates are good. What I’ve learned about date desserts in my short life as a baker is that dates and dairy go well together. Dates + Dairy. That’s an equation to remember. If you’ve never had a date shake before, that’s a great reason to visit the California desert. Go to Palm Springs and get yo’self a date shake. Dates + Ice Cream. Also, I know something about Sticky Date Pudding, which I learned to make from some Australian friends of mine and have made from scratch at least a half-dozen times. That was like my go-to dessert that I would make for youth group hangouts or to bring to dinner at a friends’ house when I was an older teen. I just thought it was so delicious…gooey and rich and just a little sweet, covered with toffee sauce…oh hey, there’s that equation again. Dates + Butter + Cream = Yes.

Guess why this pie works?


It’s all about that cream, that cream, that dairy. Without it, the date and walnut filling folded up inside a walnut pastry would just be too dry. But with it, success. Ken Haedrich describes this pie by saying, “Unabashedly rich and sweet, [it] has a single thick layer of dates and walnuts baked in a delectable walnut crust. The moisture comes from heavy cream, most of which is warmed and poured over the dates to soften them; the rest gets mixed in when the nuts are added to the filling.” Doesn’t that sound so fun? Don’t you want to try making this recipe now?! I thought so.

I made this pie for a women’s Bible class that was held at my home back in February. Oh, and that curried yellow carrot dip I made was yummy too…but you don’t get to hear about that here, since it’s not something circular that I can pass off as a pie. (I do sometimes wonder if anyone believes that Levi and I subsist off pies and maybe quiches, that I only bake and don’t cook, that I like sweet foods more than savory foods, etc. It’s fun and funny to think about. The answer to all of those musings is a decided no…but if you want to believe any of them, dear readers, I can’t deny you that right.)


Got Corn?


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Here’s a nice little Throwback Thursday post for you. At this time of year, you shouldn’t have a hard time coming across corn (if you do, where are you living?!) I bought it for 30 cents an ear in New Jersey last week, gotta love the Garden State summertime produce. I was also buying boatloads of blueberries…$6 for a 6-package flat? Well, I didn’t want to lose money, and there were pies to be made. But that’s a story for another time.

For now I just wanted to share with you a recipe I’ve been reminiscing about: Ken Haedrich’s Savory Corn Pudding Pie. I do hope you’ve been keeping up with my friend Ken at thepieacademy.com, he’s much better at keeping his blog up-to-date than I and I’m really eager to try some of the new things he’s been posting about, like slab pie.

Without further ado, here’s the link to the Savory Corn Pudding Pie that Ken shared about a year ago. I tried it then, and it’s just about the tastiest thing you can do with an abundance of summer corn. If I had to put my finger on why, I might say the mustard is the trick. I’m a huge sucker for mustard in recipes. But then there’s also the yumminess from the green chilies and the way the cheesy filling gets a little brown on top…*sigh* I guess you’ll just have to try it yourself. Let me know what you think the secret is.






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There are some people you just don’t have to explain yourself to at all. Some people who you’ve seen once or twice or maybe never before but after approximately 30 seconds in each others’ presence you feel remarkably at home. Especially once you notice you have the same asymmetrical haircut.


Our friends Ben and Naomi arrived in California from Australia in mid-February, bicycles in tow. They went on to fly to New York and begin to bike across the country (last I checked they were at Yellowstone. Amazing.) Luckily for us they had planned to take a couple weeks just to explore our beautiful state and so we were able to share a few adventures, incredible meals, songs, and poetry readings. Ben is an old friend…it had been eight years since either Levi or I had seen him and it was truly a happy occasion to be reunited. And we’d never actually met Naomi, but like I said, there’s a type of person who is an old friend within moments.

Ready for a plot twist? I didn’t end up making a pie for these friends while they were visiting. Naomi made a pie for us!


And she said you guys can all have the recipe. It’s simple, crustless, gluten-free, and pairs well with a multitude of other flavors if you’re inclined towards an ice cream, sorbet, or topping (N suggests chocolate, cherry, lime, or mango).

Naomi’s Coconut Impossible Pie

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1/2 cup flour or tapioca starch

1 can of coconut milk

1/4 cup coconut (or any vegetable) oil

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

4 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

Mix all the ingredients well. Butter a pie dish and pour mixture in. Bake at 375 until pie appears set and is slightly golden. 



There was something about this turning-of-the-tables that was very special to me. While I love baking for, cooking for, and otherwise trying my best to look after my guests, I can get overwhelmed. I can get tired from late nights of visiting followed by early mornings at work, though I wouldn’t trade those late nights for the world. But sometimes there are people who make themselves at home so much that the roles of guest and host become blurred and you’re all just sharing in whatever needs to be done so that you can continue sharing in each others’ company as much as possible. It’s a beautiful thing when your friends serve you in your home.

Thanks so much, you two. God keep you safe on the rest of your ride, until we meet again. And to everyone reading: it’s summer! Have a beautiful first day.

“On the World”                                                                                                                  by Francis Quarles                                                                                               The world’s an inn, and I her guest.                                                                          I eat; I drink; I take my rest.                                                                                My hostess, nature, does deny me                                                                    Nothing, wherewith she can supply me;                                                                Where, having stayed a while, I pay                                                                         Her lavish bills, and go my way.


Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?


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The question is on the table. For a million (imaginary) dollars, answer the following:

Which of the following is NOT found in Millionaire Pie?

A. Coconut

B. Pecans

C. Pineapple

D. Ice Cream

Oh never mind. I forgot to take away the sign.


Although this no-bake pie does NOT contain ice cream, it does contain a goodly amount of cream cheese and whipped cream. Due to the simplicity of assembly, I made three of these for Sunday morning refreshments at church (one with a homemade graham cracker crust, the other with standard store-bought crusts. As Ken points out in the recipe notes for this pie, the intent here is to be quick and easy and sometimes I definitely see the wisdom in that.)

The above picture shows the crusts with just the main filling. Below you’ll see the finished pies, topped with whipped cream and pretty pecan halves. Voilà!


For me, this pie absolutely fell into the category we refer to around here as “the weird ones”. I love to make fruit pies so much that when I have the opportunity to pick a new recipe from the cookbook for a particular occasion, Levi has started to tell me that I “really need to do one of the weird ones this time”. He’s right. This past year was perhaps the slowest yet in terms of my progression through Pie, but not the slowest in terms of overall pie production; I just need to remember to keep trying different things and moving forward. After all, with over 150 recipes left to choose from, it’s not like the pickins are all that slim. And really, I’m always delighted with the results of the “weird ones”. Millionaire Pie won’t make you wealthier, but it certainly has the potential to make you happier. (Unless of course you’re allergic to nuts or lactose intolerant, in which case obviously this is not the pie for you. Steeeer clear.) I loved the texture, the pineapple flavor, the whole delicious situation.

I’m very interested to hear if any of you have ever heard of/made/eaten Millionaire Pie before. I certainly hadn’t before being introduced to it in Pie. From what I’ve gathered, it probably hails from the convenience-food honeymoon period of the late 50’s or early 60’s, and maybe has Southern (Texan?) associations. To propose a reason for the name, Ken says, “perhaps it was fancied by some well-heeled Texas oilman”. (Or perhaps it’s Regis’ fave?) Please do leave a comment if you have any Millionaire pie encounters you can share!

Banoffee Pie?


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Last week, I continued my seasonally appropriate blog posting with a pear pie I made for Christmas Eve. Today, I will be sharing some pictures from Christmas Day itself. It started out with early morning gifts and chats with Matt and Carmel, who had just arrived from Canada the night before. We were gearing up for a week and a half of incredibleness.

Here’s me loving my new Anthropologie rolling pin and pie plate from Levi. Beauty.


These biffles unwittingly got each other whiskey stones. How adorable is that.


After Obi unwrapped his new toy snowman, some serious bonding time ensued.


He then absconded with the snowman to the top of the couch.


As befitted her name, Carmel bestowed us with a trio of homemade caramel sauces.


Later that evening, the Collisters joined the Gelineaus and Colbys to form possibly the first group of carolers Simi Valley has seen in 40 years (at least that’s what one of the neighbors told us, with teary eyes). We were largely greeted with excitement, cell phone videotaping, and wide-eyed little children, and decided that this was our new favorite Christmas activity—one that we hope to make a true tradition. Levi and I don’t have many of those yet, other than Christmas dinner Mexican-style. Tamales and tortilla soup all the way, baby.


Now we get to the pie, which in fact stems from another Christmas tradition—maybe we have more of them than I originally thought.


There’s a scene in Love Actually, our favorite Christmas movie, where Keira Knightley turns up with some Banoffee Pie in exchange for a wedding video filmed by her husband’s best man (aka guy who is hopelessly in love with her and secretly only filmed her throughout the entire wedding, leading to a rather awkward moment when said video is found and played.)

I’ve wanted to try Banoffee Pie since seeing this scene for the first time, even though there are jokes made on Keira’s character’s part that she has “terrible taste in pie”. I could not reconcile “terrible” with the ingredients in my cookbook’s version of this recipe…dulce de leche, bananas, cream, sugar, instant coffee. What could possibly go wrong there? The answer is, of course, nothing. Keira, you’re wrong-o.



I followed Ken’s recipe precisely on this one and used prepared dulce de leche rather than making it from scratch. Turns out that Trader Joe’s has a very delicious jar of it, at least around the holidays. Joe never lets me down.


*The screenshot was borrowed from this top-notch post on the same subject, which I highly recommend reading in its entirety. It includes a variant recipe for banoffee pie, history on where this pie originated, and some classic jokes about the zip-up turtleneck that features so prominently in the referred-to movie scene.

Mixed Feelings


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It’s always a little bittersweet, baking pies for auction. I imagine it must feel like when painters sell their art; there is consolation in knowing that someone else will enjoy your creative work, but isn’t that joy sometimes mixed with the sentiment, “but…but…I want to keep it!”?

I’ll be honest, it’s borderline maddening when you’ve made your whole house smell like apples and caramel and cinnamon and know you aren’t getting a single bite.

It’s okay though. Really, it is. Not only did someone else (my super-fun 3rd grade student Sam’s uncle, Jeff) have the kindness to place the highest bid on this pie and support a wonderful school in the process, I got to bake it. And if that sounds like a paltry comfort, let me put it this way; if the only part of the pie-making process I cared about was the eating, I would have given up on this whole thing a long time ago. Baking and sharing are at least two-thirds the fun.


Jeff requested an apple pie, and since he was open to a few tweaks on the old classic, I decided to start with a recipe I’d done once before in 2011 (it’s #56 in the gallery)…Liz Reiter’s All-Granny Slug-O-Bourbon Spiced Apple Pie. To that, I made a few more changes: a pink lady apple mixed in with the grannies, a pecan crumb topping, and a little bourbon pecan caramel sauce on top of THAT! (Caramel sauce made by the lovely Carmel, who you’ll meet in a post in the very near future.)


I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot more of this beautiful craftsman cutting board that we recently bought from Karveware, our good friend Jamil’s company. All of their boards are fully made from end-grain wood pieces (scratch-resistant, as they’re self-healing), fitted together to create what almost looks like a wooden mosaic. I’m loving having enough space to chop everything I need for pie/dinner/etc. on my extra-large board. If you’re interested in getting one for yourself, scroll down to the bottom of the page and send me an email, and I’d be happy to get you more details. (Mental note: maybe I’ll post a Karve giveaway someday when I’m a full-time blogger and have more time to generate interest and amass followers and that sort of thing…)


Here’s the finished product, and as I alluded to before, the smell coming out of the oven towards the end of the hour it baked was just mean. Cruel. 


I heard tell that this boozy pie may have been destined for Jeff’s bachelor party (he’s getting married soon!) Here’s hoping it was a big hit. And thanks again, Jeff, for supporting a great group of kids.

Pears of Yore


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Why have I not posted for two months? Why have I not posted the pies I made for CHRISTMAS when it’s MAY?!

These are the burning questions that I constantly struggle with.

I made the delightful Streusel-Topped Pear Pie with Walnut Crust last Christmas Eve. Levi’s family has a get-together on that night and I’ve brought pies to the celebration for as long as I’ve been grafted into the Sommerville clan…Pear and Fig with a Pine Nut Crust and Chocolate Cream with Cinnamon Meringue were last year’s stars. Dried Cranberry and Walnut Pie the year before that…

I love it when pies have secret ingredients.


Yes, very often “secret ingredient” is synonymous with liquor. After adding this pear brandy to the pie, we sipped it alongside the finished product and it was not at all a bad plan.

Nutty Pie Pastry made with walnuts…check. IMG_5267

Christmas Eve Morning Piefie…check. IMG_5268

Along with brandy, these pears are tossed in lemon, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt and are warmly luminescent in the morning light.

(Sometimes I just make up flowery sentences to see if you’re still paying attention.)IMG_5269

The pears are topped with what Ken calls a “blond streusel” which basically just means it has none of the dark ingredients that often make it into a pie topping (brown sugar, cinnamon…) and all of the white ones (cream, butter, white sugar, you know, all the healthiest food groups. If you know me you know I have no fear of the butter.)


What’s next??


What a trick! That’s not a pie, that’s a baby nephew on his first Christmas!

Here’s the pie, in all it’s pear-ish resplendence. I’d heartily recommend trying this recipe at any time of year. IMG_5277

Pie & Beer, Chocolate & Whiskey


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I store too many pictures and messages on my phone, with the result that I’ve come to the very annoying point of being told every time I want to take a new photo that my storage is too full. As I was going through my camera roll and deleting some old photos today, I realized that I’ve been holding onto these, from my 26th birthday, for quite a while, and that I never shared them with all of you. So here’s a peek back to last end-of-May; a simple but very delicious dinner at our house with my cousin Martin and his girlfriend Jessica. I made this Chocolate and Whiskey Cream Pie with Toffee Meringue, a recipe from Donna Hay magazine (shout out to the Aussies!) and Martin made us the best birthday card ever. A happy night!




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