Pie inspiration??

I am entering my first pie contest! I have two weeks to prepare and perfect the best pie before turning it in on June 1. It needs to be an unchilled pie, so obviously thinking fruit-based pies.

Do any of you have some blogs or cookbooks you turn to for pie-nspiration? I follow quite a few, but no one I follow really bakes pies!

Thank you :)

Rachel Marton


Stephanie G. May 17, 2018
Another idea...if you have can get a copy of The Flavor Bible from your library, you can delve into great ideas for enhancing your pie's flavor with ingredients that go with the fruits you decide to use.
Stephanie G. May 17, 2018
Kate McDermott's pie crust is great but cv is correct- the pie crust in Bravetart is outstanding.
Rachelwrites May 17, 2018
The Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott
BerryBaby May 17, 2018
I won a pie baking contest with a Strawberry Rhubarb Orange zest pie with a lattice top. Used a butter crust which complimented the fruit filling. Lots if great recipes online. Good luck!
702551 May 17, 2018
I suggest you look at "Chez Panisse Desserts" (1985) by Lindsey Remolif Shere. Chez Panisse is arguably the American restaurant that has reignited interest in simple dishes created from the highest quality locally-sourced ingredients. If I am at their upstairs café, I will *ALWAYS* order a fresh fruit tart/pie as dessert.

They have championed small local farmers since their inception way back in the early Seventies. If you see a restaurant menu that notes the farm's name for an ingredient, well Chez Panisse popularized that.

Today, Food52 even occasionally features some of that mail order produce in their online store (like fruit from Frog Hollow Farms).

If you want a more contemporary source of inspiration, I suggest you look at "BraveTart", the recently published dessert cookbook by Stella Parks of Serious Eats.

Serious Eats is as thorough as any other consumer-focused food publishing organization in terms of research and recipe testing.

While I have not tried any recipes from "BraveTart", I would have no qualms recommending it for inspiration.

Best of luck.
702551 May 17, 2018
Another tip: do not forget about the crust.

If you have ever eaten a slice of pie and left behind some of the crust (and I have, more times than I care to count), well that's a clear indication that the crust wasn't well made.

If the crust is excellent, one can happily eat it by itself, the kind of pie where you lick the crumbs off the plate.

If you want a pie crust that's as good as the ones you'll find in the best bakeries, pastry shops, and restaurants in your area, forget the bag of all-purpose flour that has been sitting on your supermarket shelf (or in their distributor's warehouse) for six weeks. Buy locally milled flour because that's what the top notch restaurants are doing.

For sure if your pie crusts are mediocre, they will be the weak link in every pie and tart you bake.

Paul Bertolli, former executive chef/co-owner of Oliveto Restaurant (Oakland, CA) had the same epiphany with pasta and documented his revelation in his book, “Cooking by Hand” (2003). His restaurant pasta dishes had reached a plateau in quality and unable to reach the lofty level of pasta dishes he enjoyed in Italy. He came to realize that he needed to use better flour and eventually ended up milling some of his own flours at the restaurant, both manually and with a motor-operated mill.

The Bertolli cookbook does mention specific sources of high-quality flour, the primary local source being Giusto’s in South San Francisco. Giusto’s is primarily a wholesale flour mill, serving restaurants, bakeries, and pastry shops in the greater SF Bay Area including all of the most famous places (Acme Bakery, Tartine, Chez Panisse, and Oliveto during Bertolli’s tenure).

If you want a really memorable pie crust, you will have to move away from the supermarket ingredients and find something better if you do not want your crust to hover in a mediocre level.

A lot of highly experienced, long-time bakers don’t get this.

Anyhow best of luck.
702551 May 17, 2018
Oh, I suppose I should also recommend Bertolli's "Cooking by Hand" as well as Judy Rodgers' "Zuni Café Cookbook" (2002, published one year earlier).

While neither cookbook are dessert specific, both authors are Chez Panisse alumni and champion the same values in prioritizing high quality local ingredients.

Both have fruit tart recipes in their books. Both books list ingredient sources, something that cookbook authors did in that era (that wasn't really practiced when Shere wrote the "Chez Panisse Desserts" cookbook).

Bertolli is far more meticulous than the other two authors (and a way better writer to boot) and I would have no qualms about using one of his recipes despite the fact that he is not a pastry chef. Today, he runs Fra'Mani Salumeria, a great occupation for someone so methodical, detail focused and research oriented as him.

For inspiration, I would also visit your local farmers market. Here in the SF Bay Area, strawberries have been chugging along for a month, the first stone fruits (cherries, apricots, apriums, early season peaches) have all shown up, as well as white mulberries. Blueberries have been here a while and I expect some of the other berries (blackberries) to start appearing shortly.

I would focus on selecting the optimal fruit and then finding a recipe, rather than the other way around. Thus what is the best example of what's available in your market should be your primary guide.
Nancy May 17, 2018
Emma's article is great and useful! Just a few extra thoughts:
If your fruit is perfect, use one and highlight its flavor. If less than perfect, consider mixing fruits to get a more interesting flavor. Classic mixes of fruits in season: rhubarb & strawberry, peach and raspberry.
Layer flavors. Use stone fruits together. Or add small amount of liqueur in same flavor family as main filling.
In addition to fruit & chess pies, consider nuts (classic pecan, pignoli with jalapenos, etc), sweet potatoes, even tomatoes (remember, they ARE a fruit).
Emma L. May 17, 2018
Hi Rachel—exciting! I baked pies for a living for a few years and collected what I learned in this article: https://food52.com/blog/17321-a-professional-baker-s-tips-for-baking-pies-smarter-not-harder. Hopefully it'll help. Good luck!
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