Teeny Lamothe wanted to be a lady pie baker, no doubt because her passion for baking and for pie came at an early age, happily learned at her mother's side. But how, she thought, could she accomplish such a feat? Deep in thought, while noshing on pie, Lamothe came up with the idea for her “Tour of Pie.” She would take a year off to travel across America, learning pie baking from the nation's finest. The only hitch was getting the nation's finest to be willing participants. A letter writing campaign ensued, and while the responses were not quite as enthusiastic as her letters, she did get a smattering of curious pie bakers to take her up on her offer of a free apprenticeship in exchange for their knowledge.
Her quest began in Seattle at High 5 Pie where she worked alongside owner Dani Cone, author of Cutie Pies. It continued as she baked her way through nine states, ending in Littleton, Colorado, at the home of her mother for her final apprenticeship. This book is invaluable to people interested in learning to bake pies, hone their skills, or increase their repertoire. Sections on equipment describe, in detail, what you will need to bake a winner of a pie, from the simple rolling pin and the many variations, to the pastry blender, crust cutter, and crust shield (something that I really do need).
The chapter on The Elements of Crust is worth the price of this book alone. Amazing detail and insight is provided along with the secret to a crust flakier than the one your grandma made, accomplished by substituting the water for vodka, an ingredient that evaporates more quickly during baking and, as such, yields a lighter, flakier crust. Venting, decorating, lattice, what to do with excess scraps of crust, are all covered in fine detail in this chapter. And the recipes! Sweet crusts, savory crusts, whole wheat crusts, gluten free, sugar cookie, pretzel crusts, each one more tempting than the other. The section on troubleshooting will help bail you out when your crust has taken an unfortunate turn.
The section on Crumbles and Creams won my heart! I am a big fan of the crumb topping for pies, largely because it saves me the trouble of working with two crusts on a single pie. Lamothe provides recipes for a variety of crumble toppings, including a savory one for pot pies that makes use of boxed stuffing. This I am definitely going to try! Recipes for variations on whipped cream abound including an orange version that she suggests pairing with her Chocolate Cream Pie. Imagine the decadence!
Each well-written, concise recipe provides information on the proper storage, coverage, and length of time a pie will last, many include instructions on how to make “teeny” (six inch) pies from the recipe instead of one large one.
The recipes themselves are truly inspired. Simple favorites share space with those filled with unusual combinations for the intrepid baker, such as Green Chile Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust, Bourbon Bacon Pecan Pie (Yep, you read that right, and it is delicious!), Rosemary Caramel Apple Pie, Earl Grey Cream Pie, or the savory Reuben Pot Pies with a Rye Crumble and Caraway Crust.
I tried two of the pies, one savory, the other sweet. The savory was the Breakfast Pie with Hash Brown Crust. I shredded my own potatoes to be able to control both freshness and size of the shreds. It, on its own, was delicious. Crispy edges give way to a moist interior with a pleasant potato taste. The filling was satisfying without being heavy, and a perfect choice for spring with the inclusion of leeks. I added about a half times more than what is called for (2 medium leeks) (because I am wild about leeks), and I also chose shiitake mushrooms; a truly great combination.
For the sweet pie test, I couldn't resist the Bourbon Bacon Pecan Pie. I tend to embrace oddball combinations of ingredients, so surely she had me in mind when she created this. It's a keeper. People will love this one, definitely recognize the bourbon (though it does not overwhelm), but will puzzle over why this version is better than theirs. You can tell them...or not.
I like a cookbook that I can sit down and read. This book is both readable and informative, with delicious sounding recipes, and a bit of travel info to boot. Before planning my next trip, I'm going to consult Teeny's Tour of Pies.
Here are the bakeries that she visited, in order:
High 5 Pie, Seattle, WA
Emma's Organics, Ithica, NY
Petsi Pies, Somerville, MA
Sweet Sensations Pastry, Chicago, IL
Pie Lab, Greensboro, AL
Bob Roth's New River Groves, Davie, FL
Pie Shop, Atlanta, GA
I Heart Pies, Los Angeles, CA