COOKBOOK REVIEWS

Sometimes, the pie of the month club just isn't enough for some people. I don't really understand it... but who am I to judge?

well just kidding, of course. A good pie cookbook is an invaluable weapon in the kitchen, my friends! I've test-driven some of them and will give you my thoughts.


They are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 forks... a 5 fork cookbook being perfect.
if you click on the pictures, you can go straight to Amazon.com to buy a copy.
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----PIE COOKBOOKS---

 

Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie
Ken Haedrich. 2004. 608 pages

Hey! anyone who loves pie like I love pie (well, that's a little extreme, i realize... but even if you love pie a fraction of how much i love pie... ) then you should own this book. Here is a huge tome packed FULL of 1. historical information and recipes for most of the classic pies 2. novel, yet scrumptious, pie recipes. But one of the coolest things about Mr. Haedrich's book is his obvious love for the great ideal and history or pie baking in America. It is a well-researched, creative, attractive and inspiring pie cookbook. A must.

5 forks




Pie Every Day
Recipes and Slices of Life: with 30 crusts and 118 ways to fill them

Pat Willard. 1997. 267 pages

I really liked this book. Someone was complaining to me that they don't like to read narrative little stories in their cookbooks… if you feel like that stop reading right now.

Anyhow. Again, no photos and a section on savory pies but I think this book has a really good pie attitude. Willard has some pie history, some family pie stories, some famous pie quotations scattered through this book, but they are all short and well written enough that you never feel like they are in the way of the recipes.

She has organized the recipes into thematic chapters such as “Dessert for breakfast”, “sitting around gabbing in the afternoon” and “Oh My! You Shouldn't Have” so you can go to a chapter that seems representative for your pie-making situation (homey, easy, knock'em dead, etc) and browse through the recipes.

She definitely has the p.o.t.m.c. love of interesting historical pies and includes such hard to find traditional recipes as Funeral Pie, Oatmeal Pie, Angel Pie and Marlborough Pie. But also has some up-to-date tarts and pies that rival any of the more ‘gourmet” pie cookbooks.

5 forks

 


Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts
1985. 224 pages

Regardless of what you may think of Ms. Stewart… girl can make a pie. This is a great pie resource with recipes for and photos of really tasty, simple beautiful pies. I have made several of the pies in this book and they all turned out fabulously. Her crust is a little heavy on the butter side, which makes a very tasty, but not as flaky crust as some others. She also includes a nice photo guide to preparing the crust, both the dough production as well as decorative edges etc. If you can stand to have a Martha book in your house, this is a great tool for any pie baker.

5 forks

 


American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America's Back Roads

Pascale Le Draoulec, 2002. 368 pages

Not so much a cookbook although it does include many good pie recipes from across america. This instead is like a travel log of the captain of a pie pirate ship... zigzagging across the country searching for good pies and pie stories. It's a pretty interesting read for any pie fanatic, and i think club members will really appreciate the thoughtful musings of a fellow pie aficionado.


4 forks

 
Retro Pies: A Collection of Celebrated Family Recipes
Linda Everett. 128 pages.

This book epitomizes the soul of the Pie of the Month Club. It's full of classic, kooky and traditional, or historical, but little known pie recipes (like Jeff Davis Pie, Funeral Pie etc). The images are taken from old 40's - 70's advertisements. It looks great. The recipes are great. Its fun to look at. Its a great coffee table book for any POTMC fan! Buy it. really.

5 forks


The Artful Pie: Unforgettable recipes for creative cooks

Lisa Cherkasky and Renee Comet

1993 - 159 pages

this is a great idea (pairing each pie recipe with a work of art made especially for the pie… then the pie is photographed sitting on/in the art) but most of the art is terrible. I didn't get a chance to try any of these recipes, but there is a nice assortment of fairly classic pie-pies… usually with modern twists (for example: brandied butterscotch pie or butter-brickle banana cream pie). Anyway it is fun to look through if you don't let yourself get irritated by bad pastel drawings or acrylic paintings

3 forks

 


The Perfect Pie: More than 125 all-time favorite pies & tarts

Susan G Purdy, 2000 374 pages

Not a bad source for interesting, modern takes on pie recipes. The two recipes I tried were very good (Lemon Meringue and a cornmeal crust)

Some classics and some fancier pies and tarts like Blackberry Mascarpone and Fresh fig tart with red wine syrup.

No pictures of the pies, but some helpful line drawings explaining how to make and shape crusts.

The lack of pie photos and the way the book is formatted make browsing uninspiring. If you are an experienced pie baker, and just want a reference for recipes with a fairly comprehensive list of crust and filling recipes this would be a good book for your shelf

Many of these recipes and ideas are essentially the same as found in Martha Stewart's 1985 pie book. And although Martha can be annoying, she has a color photo of every pie, and her book pre-dates Purdy by 15 years!

3 forks



How to Make a Pie
Cooks Illustrated Editors. 94 pages. 1996

Man. This little pie cookbook is great. If you are familiar with Cooks Illustrated's magazine, you'll know that you can expect well-researched, foolproof, perfect recipes. This book only has a handful of recipes, and only black and white pencil illustrations (though, these are very detailed and useful illustrations) but would be a great reference book for the quintessential apple, pecan, pumpkin, chess, cream etc pie recipes. So... if you want the type of book you can leaf through and feel inspired, this isn't the right book for you. But if you have a hankering for a classic pie, of any type, no nonsense, this is a fabulous book

5 forks


The Pie and Pastry Bible
Rose Levy Beranbaum. 704 pages. 1998

Here is another great reference book. I don't find these recipes very creative, nor very classic... Ms Beranbaum strikes me as somewhat of a pie poseur... in that she approaches pie with some kind of classically trained pastry chef attitude that I find off-putting. Missing the real point of pies roots in American culture. So I felt initially negative about this tome. HOWEVER, she has assembled a fabulous set of appendices, charts, tables and recipes that are really great, almost priceless for any serious pie baker. For instance, this book contains an exhaustive table of all kinds of fruit, how much you'd need fresh or frozen for a 9" pie, what amounts and types of thickeners and sugar you'd need to make the perfect fruit pie from any fruit. That's so great. So again, I didn't find this book to be good for sitting and leafing through looking for inspiration, and i think she ripped off many nice ideas from Martha Stewart's classic book so better to go there for inspiration. But the Pie and Pastry Bible is a valuable source for encyclopedic information about pie. Biblical, perhaps.

4 forks





Great Pies & Tarts; With a primer for the beginner

Carole Walter - 1998 - 488 pages

The two recipes I made from this book were only OK (Flaky crust I was just not all that flaky, actually turned out a bit tough. The Southern Pecan pie needed a bit more complexity of flavor I thought it was simply too sweet. Walter studied patisserie in Europe and that is apparent in the strengths and weaknesses of this book. There are a lot of European-style fruit tart recipes. The classic American pie recipes are present, but not her strong point.

I didn't get around to trying her Linzertorte, but it probably would have been a better recipe to choose from this book. I did like the way the “primer for the beginner” was organized, with bulleted helpful tips on each page.

There is a section on savory pies and tarts that I (of course) ignored. And there is a small (~12 page) section of color photos. But again this is not a good book if you want to browse and be inspired to rush into the kitchen. But if your favorite pies are the fancy pastries found in European bakeries this would be a great source for recipes.

3 forks