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Pie-Eyed

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Written by Peggy Fallon   
Sunday, 14 November 2010
List of viewable recipes from "Southern Pies" by Nancie McDermott

ImageThe way I see it, the world is divided into two distinct groups: those who like cake and those who like pie. It's that simple. Oh sure, we all cross the boundaries occasionally (or, in my case, whenever opportunity knocks), but each of us harbors a deep-seated preference. You know I'm right.

For this reason alone, author Nancie McDermott is my kind of diplomat. Following the success of her mouth watering-ly wonderful Southern Cakes, Southern Pies provides the perfect counterpoint. There are so many tempting recipes within these two volumes that I'm feeling a teeny bit bipolar in my convictions.

The author is a well-traveled culinary pro who now lives in her native North Carolina. With a well-honed palate and critical eyes, McDermott explores the easy-as-pie desserts she grew up with—as well as those she has learned as an adult from friends and friends-of-friends. McDermott also serves as the reader's personal guide through the history behind recipes like Barry Maiden's Hungry Mother Spicy Peanut Pie; Dr. George Washington Carver's Sliced Sweet Potato Pie; and Cornelia Walker Bailey's Sapelo Island Pear Pie.

ImageIt doesn't matter if you're a born-and-bred Yankee or a Dixie chick; Southern Pies includes all the old-school standards  as well as enough unique regional favorites to sway the favor of any sweet tooth. (The author even makes a convincing case for curiosities like Bean Pie and Irish Potato Pie. Really.) In true Southern tradition there are no fancy-schmancy ingredients here, just good ol' economical resourcefulness.

Southern Pies is here just in time for Thanksgiving, one of the many American holidays so closely linked with this iconic dessert. With more than 60 recipes including Blue Grass Cranberry; Persimmon; Miz Bob's Double Apple; New Orleans Creole Coconut; and a whole chapter devoted to chocolate, this book is sure to get a workout for many months to come.

Black Walnut Pie

From Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott, Chronicle Books 2010

Makes one 9-inch pie

A close cousin of the hickory tree, black walnut trees are native to the United States, particularly throughout the Appalachian Mountains and into the Midwest. The town of Spencer has been hosting the West Virginia Black Walnut Festival each October since 1954, celebrating the tree that is prized for its beautiful wood as well as its rich, smoky-flavored nutmeats. The shells are extraordinarily difficult to crack, and the process stains hands and clothing, but Southern cooks have persevered for centuries to obtain an annual supply for use in making cakes, pies, ice cream, and fudge, These days, shelled black walnuts are widely available in supermarkets around the country, or check mail order sources.

  • Pastry for one 9-inch single-crust pie

  • 3 eggs, beaten well
  • 3/4 cup packed dark or light brown sugar
  • 1 cup sorghum, molasses, or dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) chopped black walnuts

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 9-inch pie pan with crust, then crimp the edges decoratively. Line and partially bake the crust.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and sugar. Use a fork or a whisk to mix them together evenly and well. Add the sorghum, butter, vanilla, and salt, and stir to combine them into a thick, smooth filling.  Add the walnuts and stir to mix everything well.  Pour the filling into the prepared piecrust.

Place the pie on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees.  Bake until the edges puff up and the center is fairly firm, wiggling only a little when you gently nudge the pan.

Place the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and let cool to room temperature.

Old-Time Chess Pie

From Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott, Chronicle Books 2010

Makes one 9-inch pie

This simple combination of eggs, butter, sugar, flour, and vanilla makes a delectable old-school chess pie. Luscious and sweet, it is one of the quickest pies in the Southern baking repertoire, and also one of the most cherished, past and present. If you're looking for a pie that travels well and wins major praise for minimal effort, this one will suit your purposes well.

  • Pastry for a 9-inch single-crust pie (store-bought or home-made)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 4 eggs, beaten well
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 9-inch pie pan with crust, then crimp the edges decoratively.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and flour, and stir with a fork to mix them well. Add the butter, eggs, and vanilla. Using a fork or a whisk, stir well to combine everything into a smooth, thick filling. Pour the filling into the piecrust.

Place the pie on the bottom shelf of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F, and bake until the edges puff up and the center is fairly firm, wiggling only a little when you gently nudge the pan, 30 to 40 minutes more.

Place the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and let cool to room temperature. 

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 05 November 2010 )
pam (Publisher) 2010-11-14 09:05:48

I'm a cake person but these recipes even has me craving pie!
peggy (Author) 2010-11-14 09:24:38

...and rightly so, Pam!
Deep-down I have always been a pie person, but this book has forced me out of the closet.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Nancie McDermott (Unregistered) 2010-11-28 17:29:48

What a treat and an honor to see this generous review of my new book Southern Pies. It's Thanksgiving weekend, so I was already in a mood of gratitude. Many thanks.
peggy (Author) 2010-11-28 17:53:17

You're very welcome, Nancie! It's a fine book...though I fear that over the past 4 days I have consumed my weight in pie.
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