Happy National Pie Day!

It’s that time of year again — my favorite minor holiday — yes, you guessed it, NATIONAL PIE DAY!

No, not THAT kind of pi, silly — THIS kind of pie:

Next to homemade bread, pie is my favorite thing to bake.  I like just about any kind, too–apple pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, coconut cream pie–you name it, I’ll be sitting at the table, fork in hand, ready for my slice.

I love pie so much that I named two of my books after it:

Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote last year about this wonderful holiday, and my mother.  Enjoy!  I’m off to bake a pie (marionberry this year, in case you’re wondering)…

 

National Pie Day

It’s time to bust out those rolling pins, America!

I just love living in a country that sets aside a day each year to celebrate my favorite dessert.

What could possibly be better than pie? Not that I don’t love cake, cookies, cupcakes, candy, and sugar in all its many wondrous forms, but there’s something special about pie.  For one thing, it’s, well, baked into our history. Humans were making pies as early as 9500 B.C., when those clever Egyptians wrapped honey in an oatmeal crust.

Pie is baked into my family’s history, too.  I come from a long line of great pie bakers — and pie eaters.  I remember my mother telling me of the day she left Canada for “the Boston States,” as Nova Scotians used to call New England.  It was a big step for a small-town girl fresh out of nursing school, and as she boarded the train in Halifax that would carry her into her future, she was filled with mixed emotions: excitement, trepidation, self-doubt.  My grandmother saw her off at the station with homemade goodies to keep her well-fortified until she reached her destination:  a Thermos of beef stew, oatmeal bread, and apple pie, her favorite dessert.

I don’t know if the apple pie had anything to do with it, but my mother survived the journey and flourished in her new job in Connecticut.  On her days off, she’d board another train — this one bound for New York City, where she’d shop a little, explore a little, buy herself a ticket to a Broadway play, and then take herself out to lunch someplace fancy — I remember her mentioning Sardi’s as being one of her favorite spots.  And yes, she’d have pie for dessert.

Marie MacDougall Vogel (left) in Times Square, circa 1955

Isn’t she something?

Gotta love those white gloves.

And so, in honor of National Pie Day, and in honor of my darling mother, here’s the Frederick family’s favorite recipe for apple pie!

FRENCH APPLE PIE

Unbaked pie shell

6-7 cups tart apples (we use Granny Smith’s), peeled, cored, and sliced paper thin

1 c. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

A little extra butter for dotting on the apples

Topping:

½ c. butter

½ c. brown sugar

1 c. flour

Preheat oven to 425.  Roll out pie crust and pat it into pie plate.  Crimp edge.

In a large bowl, mix sliced apples with sugar and spices.  Pile into prepared crust and dot with half a dozen or so thin slices of butter.

In a separate bowl, cream butter and brown sugar, then add flour, working it in until the mixture begins to come together and the crumbles are about the size of peas.  Sprinkle over pie.  Cover loosely with tinfoil (this prevents the crust from burning) and bake at 425 degrees for 1-1/2 hours.  (Yes, it needs to bake that long!)  It’s a good idea to either cover the rack you’re baking it on with foil, or place the pie plate onto a cookie sheet or something to catch any drips.

Remove foil.  If topping is golden brown, pie is done.  If not, let it cook without the foil for another five minutes or so.

Cool and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

Be still, my pie-loving heart

Sunday afternoons chez Frederick means two things — reading the Sunday paper over lunch, and later, at some point, a nap.

I haven’t gotten to the nap part yet, but I just finished the Sunday paper, and in case you missed this week’s Parade magazine, here’s a link to a fun article for fellow pie-lovers by Jane and Michael Stern, two of my favorite foodies.  What’s not to love about a couple who met a Yale, and have spent the last 25 years driving around America in search of good food?  Someday, I want to go on a road trip with those two.  Preferably next time they decide to head off and sniff out more of America’s greatest pies…

Pie chart, anyone?

Pie-of-the-month club – Lisa Schroeder

There’s a new addition on my pie-of-the-month club menu today as fellow Oregonian Lisa Schroeder stops by to chat about her new book, and to share her favorite recipe for — what else?  — pie!

Lisa is an impressively versatile writer, with everything from picture books to young adult novels and now a new middle grade novel to her credit.  What delicious treat have you been cooking up for readers, Lisa?  Can you tell us a bit about your latest book, and how it came about?

IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES (Aladdin) is about twelve-year-old Isabel, who dreams of traveling and seeing the world. When she enters a baking contest, a trip to New York City is within her grasp, although her best friend is entering too.  And, as her mother gets ready to open a cupcake shop, she has pretty specific ideas as to what kind of recipe Isabel should enter.  It’s a book about family, friendship, and making dreams come true.

I really love middle grade novels.  I wanted to write one at a point when I was in between YA novels, so I was brainstorming one day and thought, I want to write about something that makes people go – oooh, I LOVE that. And cupcakes popped into my brain. The way the plot and characters developed all just happened as I wrote it. It was a pretty magical book to write – things showed up and fell into place in a way I wish would happen all the time!

How about your favorite pie-in-the-sky moment as a writer?  Have you ever had one of those special “I never dreamed it would really happen to me” experiences?

I think for me – it’s the notes I get from my readers.  I had one girl who wrote to me after reading I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME who had lost her dad in Iraq just a couple of months ago.  She said the book helped her see that her dad would want her to keep living – to be happy.

As writers, we set out wanting to tell a good story.  But when readers write and let you know how your book helped them, it’s an amazing thing.

Has there ever been a moment in your career when you had to eat humble pie?

Yes.  I was doing a signing and a lady attended with whom I had been in a Moms group a few years back, and I could not remember her name.  I was horrified.  I’m bad with names anyway, but when it’s a setting like a signing where I’m nervous and trying to make sure I spell everyone’s names right – it’s a recipe for disaster (pardon the pun).

Now let’s REALLY talk pie.  What’s your favorite kind?  Do you have a favorite pie memory?  How about the recipe you’re sharing – can you give us a little background on it?

My favorite kind of pie is blackberry.  Every summer, I take a walk up to a nearby park where they grow wild, pick a big bowl, and come home and get baking.  My husband and older son also love blackberry pie, so the thing doesn’t last very long, and I usually bake a couple more as long as the berries are in season.  It’s one of those things I HAVE to do every summer, or summer feels incomplete.

This recipe is one that one of my best friends shared with me.  Her daughter apparently found it on the internet and said it turned out fabulously every time, so I wanted to try it.  And she was right – this recipe has never let me down!

Lisa Schroeder’s Blackberry Pie

Crust:

3 cups all purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp salt

3 T white sugar

1 cup shortening

1 egg

1 tsp distilled white vinegar

5 T water

Directions: In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Mix well, then cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl combine egg, vinegar, and 4 tablespoons water. Whisk together, then add gradually to flour mixture, stirring with a fork. Mix until dough forms a ball. Add one more tablespoon of water if necessary. Allow dough to rest in fridge 10 minutes before rolling out.

Filling:

4 cups fresh blackberries

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 9-inch double pie crust

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 cup white sugar

Combine 3-1/2 cups berries with the sugar and flour. Spoon the mixture into an unbaked pie shell. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup berries on top of the sweetened berries, and cover with the top crust. Seal and crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with milk and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.

Thanks, Lisa!  Your pie looks absolutely delicious. I can’t wait for berry-picking season.

This post is part of an ongoing celebration for a pair of pie-related books that I have coming out later this year (Babyberry Pie and Pies & Prejudice learn more here).  You can also read about fellow “pie-of-the-month club” selections Jane Kurtz and Toni Buzzeo — and be sure and drop back by again soon, because throughout 2010 I’ll be serving up more stellar books by some of my favorite authors and illustrators.  Oh, and pie is on the menu, too, of course.   Pie is ALWAYS on the menu here on my blog.  Enjoy!