Tag Archives: Pie

Pie is the New Cupcake?

The New York Times pronounced that pie is the new cupcake. Pie to Cupcake: Time is Up prompted serious reflection on my part on the State of Desserts.   Has the cupcake’s moment in the sun finally passed?

At first, I figured I had featured more cupcakes than pies on IslandEAT. However, I was wrong.  Perhaps pies really have overtaken cupcakes.  Perhaps I am a more of a victim of trends than I care to admit.

In the pie-versus-cake(cupcake) debate, I discovered that I have posted three pie recipes to two for cupcakes.  My first post for either was about my rather unsuccessful effort to recognize National Pie (Disaster) Day:

Blackberry pie, fresh from the oven

But, close on the heels of that pie,  I made cocoa-cayenne cupcakes with citrus-cream-cheese frosting (or, cupcakes, 2 x C3):

Pie v. Cupcakes – Where do you stand? Continue reading


Sweet n’ Sour Cherry Pie: Simple Sassy & Super-Fast

Where do you stand in the current pie v. cake debate?  I have been noticing that there is a raging controversy regarding the respective merits of each iconic dessert category.

Risking the accusation of being wishy-washy, I refuse to opt for one over the other. I embrace cake for its chocolate, vanilla, mocha, caramel, and similar incarnations (though citrus and other fruit work well in cakes, too).  Pie highlights fresh fruit better, one can argue, yet there are exceptions,  e.g., chocolate cream, butterscotch, chess, and custard pies.

In the summer, I  tend towards pies and their fruit-based cousins, the grunts, slumps, cobblers, crisps, crumbles, pan dowdies, betties, tartes, and gratins (the last two hailing from the French side of the family).  But I will use berries I have picked and frozen for pies and their relatives during the winter.  I have been known to bake a cake or two in the summer for a special occasion.  So a seasonal delineation does not work for the pie v. cake battle in my kitchen, either.

I have always liked the idea of cherry pie, often much more than its reality.  As a child, I ordered it for its redness (my favourite colour) but, since then, I avoid it generally.  If I think there is any chance of a gloppy, gummy, artificially coloured, pre-made red filling, I will opt for another dessert. This is the sad state of cherry pie-dom in North American restaurants and bakeries, I hate to admit.  Pie should be a revelation, not a disappointment.

Sometimes life is just a bowl of sour cherries....

At our Saturday market last, I noticed a basket of gleaming sour cherries:  they were so bright and red and perfect that, on first glance, I thought they were the season’s first cherry tomatoes.  I had not known that our island had any of the sour cherries I had been fantasizing about lately, so I could bake a classic cherry pie.

So having purchased one punnit (or, basket, but I love this technical term), I decided to make a sour cherry pie. Later, I regretted not having bought more.  I needed far more than the eight ounces I had for even the most modest of pie filling recipes – beyond individual tarts, with which I did not want to fuss:  it is summer, after all.  I augmented the sour cherries with four ounces of sweet Lapin cherries I had on hand, from the Okanagan (fruit basket of British Columbia, since you asked). Then I decided on a top-crust only British-style pie I found in A Baker’s Tour, from baking guru, Nick Malgieri.  The juicy red filling I adapted from food-blogger-celebrity-diva, Deb Perelman, of Smitten Kitchen.

(I hope my blog buddy, Jackie, of the hilarious, creative, and informative site,  I Am A Feeder, will comment on this alleged British-top-crust-only pie habit.  This makes me recall the 1970s farce, No Sex Please: We’re British.  Maybe it should have a sequel, No Bottom Crust Please: We’re British.)

For the pie crust and filling recipe… Continue reading

Pink and Puffy and Perfect Strawberry Chiffon Pie: Your Summertime Treat for Special Occasions

What do you think about when you hear “chiffon pie”?   I think of it as rather retro – a dessert not as popular as, say, in the 1950s.  However, my recent experience making one convinced me that there should be a chiffon revival (pie, not the fabric, though I guess they could go together…).

For Canada Day, I wanted to incorporate red and white as well as use the strawberries, which had just started to ripen locally (late after a rainy spring).  For reasons totally unrelated to these objectives, I was paging through intriguing cookbook, Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table.   In this fine transnational cookbook, I stumbled upon the subject of this post and decided I had to make it.

While I collect cookbooks from all over and featuring a wide variety of cuisines, I am particularly interested in the region spanning what in the US is called the “northwest” and in Canada, it is called “coastal BC” or the “wet coast” or the “left coast”, depending on the seriousness of the speaker.  (One time I actually had to explain to someone in the US why Canadians do not refer to Vancouver as being in the “northwest”; given that it is in the southwestern-most part of the country; the frame of reference simply does not work.  I did point out that we should call Metro Vancouver the “southwest” and that would just confuse everybody, making them think about Georgia O’Keefe and Fritos Pie, rather than Emily Carr and Japa Dog.)

About a decade ago or so, there was a movement of people across the border, in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and maybe Alaska  – although I do not believe that Sarah Palin was ever part of this effort – to create a region called “Cascadia” as a geo-eco-political realm.  Of course, there is no such Cascadian entity, but I can just imagine its Nu-agey anthem, with Enya chanting “Cascadia” repeatedly, in her wispy way, in a heavily acoustic hypnotizing song.

However, there is one cookbook which unites much of the territory of Cascadia.  Ms. Casey’s book features extraordinary photographs of the landscape as well as the dishes.  She really is big on the local-locavore-field-to-table-sustainable thing, which works well out here, with the abundance of seafood, berries, fine wines, green pastures, and lush fields, made possible by all the rain.

There was too much rain and cool weather in British Columbia this spring, so the strawberries ripened later than usual.  The strawberry season here is usually quite short, so I try to do something significant to mark the occasion of our smaller, more intense sweet berries – nowhere near the immense size of the California imports available year round (and generally with little flavour).

Folding strawberry mixture with cream, then with egg whites, can be time consuming.

My comments about this recipe – and the other chiffon pie I had made once (a blood orange one) is that they are a bit time-consuming, both in preparation and chilling.  Nonetheless, they are good for hot weather, as they have very minimal baking time just for a cookie crust, highlight seasonal fruit very well, and tend to be lighter than many cream pies (egg whites and gelatin help provide the body in the pie filling, in addition to a modest amount of whipped cream).

For a description of strawberry chiffon perfection – and the recipe… Continue reading

Hot Fudge Pie: What Would Jessie Dish? Week Six

What exactly is hot fudge pie? Before I baked this dish, I was not sure about this week’s recipe from my grandmother Jessie’s recently discovered files.

One thing for sure was that my grandmother liked hot fudge, chocolate, desserts, and sweets, in general.  I recall that she enjoyed a good hot fudge sundae, frequently with coffee ice cream, at the old-fashioned ice cream parlours, which were once common across Chicago.  She liked the Ting-a-Ling, very close to her last residence, a near-north-side condo.  I imagine Jessie visited many of the south side institutions, e.g., Cunis’s, Cunag’s, Gertie’s, or the original Dove Candies – which has become a superstar of the American-commercial-high-end-ice-cream-bar-and-chocolate scene.  When I visit Chicago, I do try to make it to Margie’s Candies, which still serves a traditional hot fudge sundae, featuring their home-made ice cream, in huge white plastic scallop-shell dishes.

In Key West, Florida in the 1950s, Jessie wrote about what happens from eating too much hot fudge pie and such (on the reverse of the above photo).

The hot fudge sauce at these ice cream parlours came in a small stainless steel pitcher (the size of a small creamer), always served very hot and separate from the sundae, with its whipped cream, chopped pecans or other nuts, and, of course, a cherry on top.  It was a revelation to see how a sundae-eater consumed the hot fudge sauce:

  • all in one pour on top of the sundae,
  • poured judiciously and intermittently as he or she ate the ice cream and whipped cream,
  • poured onto the spoon to coat ice cream, one bite at a time, or,
  • in the most audacious move of them all, drunk from the pitcher itself.

These techniques indicated one’s personality, we speculated.

Oh, right, this post is not about hot fudge sundaes. (I do promise to write-up a classic recipe from one of my cookbooks, Lost Desserts, by Gail Monaghan, which features a very special recipe for hot fudge sauce from a Los Angeles eatery, with the perfect viscosity and a truly profound chocolate-fudge flavour).  The hot fudge pie in question is a bit perplexing, as it is neither a pie nor a cake nor a brownie; it is in between a chocolate molten lava cake (the dessert of the 1990s), a self-saucing chocolate cake (very big in the 1970s), and a very moist brownie (timeless!).

For the hot fudge pie recipe… Continue reading

National Pie (Disaster) Day

Ready to roll on National Pie Day

January 23 marks National Pie Day. I have no idea who chose this particular date, why this day in late January should mark such an auspicious occasion, or how it received this designation. I guess it is another of life’s mysteries. However, I am all for celebrating a holiday honouring one of the most important dessert genres.

National Pie Day also is close to the birthday of our friend and neighbour, P. P,’s spouse, L, is a gifted chef/food writer, who has a wonderful secret blog (or, “‘the blog that dare not speak its name,” or, TBTDNSIN). L asked me to bake a pie in honour of P’s birthday. I was happy to do so.

I chose to bake a blackberry pie for three reasons:

1. It was National Pie Day, of course; this trumped my customary baking a birthday cake.

2. There was a recipe I wanted to try from Pascale Le Draoulec’s charming book, American Pie. This is an excellent, memorable social history of small town America and an account of her road trip, with the culinary twist of seeking the best local pie, as she initially headed from San Francisco to New York. I had picked it up from a bookstore on Vashon Island, WA, last year, and devoured it very quickly (reading, rather than eating the book itself). There are some promising recipes thrown in, including “Tootie Guirard’s Good Friday Blackberry Pie”, which accompanied an amusing anecdote about the pie tradition in Lafayette, Louisiana – a state which suffered tremendous disasters from Hurricane Katrina.

3. Some of the island blackberries, which I had picked and frozen last summer, thawed partially, after a three-day power outage last week. We had terrifying windstorms on January 17, which battered the Gulf Islands (at speeds up to 120 km/hour!). There were trees and branches down all over the islands, sort of a minor disaster here.

Now, I am not the most experienced of pie bakers, especially when it comes to crust. I have done many cookie crumb/graham cracker crusts in my time; they are so easy, so non-threatening. Yet I discovered a great crust recipe last summer (you will see it at the end of this post – along with the three-berry filling, which worked perfectly, I might add, defensively…). I figured I would combine that crust with Tootie Guirard’s recipe. This was to be my first lattice-crusted pie, a nod to National Pie Day.

Blackberry pie, fresh from the oven

More on the disaster and good recipes, which will work Continue reading