Aunt Suzy says . . .

My Mom, a.k.a. Granny, is a great pie baker of the traditional persuasion.  What I mean is that she had a few basic pie recipes – nothing fancy – that she was well known for because they were so outstanding.  Growing up I didn’t appreciate this because I definitely liked cake better than pie.  If I did like pie, it was the cream or custard variety where I’d eat the filling out and leave the crust. Now it’s the opposite!  I prefer pie, love the crust and fruit filling trumps cream/custard.  When rhubarb season rolls around it heralds the fruit pie-baking season for me.  Last year, we posted all kinds of fancy rhubarb dessert recipes.  Time to appreciate the basic approach of this timeless and classic rhubarb pie.

Margaux says…

This is one of my favorite pies!  I don’t think I’ve ever actually made it, but mainly because I haven’t needed to…you can usually bet that there will be one of these at my Dad’s house this time of year, and more than once, sort of like apple pie in the fall.  So if I get a craving, I can just invite myself to dinner.  But I completely agree with Aunt Suzy…sometimes a basic, classic pie just totally hits the spot.  And this one fits the bill!

This recipe is geared to a 9-inch pie plate.  Adjust quantities up or down for other sizes.  Line the oven bottom with foil and preheat to 425°.


Your favorite pie crust for a 2-crust pie (see Margaux’s)

3-4 cups rhubarb

1 scant cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter, in chunks

NOTE ON THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR:  We like our rhubarb pies on the tart side, adding less sugar to the filling and then sugaring the top crust. You will want to add a little more sugar to the filling if you like things on the sweeter side.


Roll out half the crust and line the pie plate with it.  Mix the rhubarb, sugar, orange zest and flour in a bowl and turn into the crust.  Dot with the butter chunks – don’t forget!  I can’t tell you how many times Granny or I have had to poke the butter through the holes in the top crust.  🙂

Place the top crust over the filling.  Crimp the edges and then cut slits in the top crust.  If you want to get fancy, you can cut a beautiful pattern into it.  Margaux’s other Grandma had a lovely traditional family pattern that she used.  My Mom took a more practical approach, cutting a few slits to make sure the steam escaped.  Sprinkle sugar over the top crust.

Place the pie in the pre-heated oven.  Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350° and bake for another 30-45 minutes until done.  (Electric ovens seem to finish closer 30 minutes, gas ovens take longer.  Start checking after 30 min.) Don’t forget to turn the heat down after the 15 minutes!

Enjoy warm or room temperature, plain or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  And don’t forget to leave some for breakfast (of champions)!

Aunt Suzy says . . .

When my guy Tatum told me he was making a pie for Pi Day (today, March 14) to take to his workplace, I thought he meant Pie Day.  I had never heard that there was a day set aside for ∏!!  And to think it’s also Albert Einstein’s birthday, making this a true day for smarties.  Then he told me he was making his famous chocolate cream refrigerator pie which is made with a surprise ingredient – tofu!  I had never had this pie and I had my doubts, but it is super-chocolaty and delicious. Lucky co-workers!

Margaux says…

This pie is sooo delicious!  It’s very rich and tasty…it almost makes me think of chocolate cheesecake more than a traditional pudding pie.  If you want to make it vegan, just substitute agave syrup for the honey.  I made it with my own granola recipe, and the slightly-saltiness of the granola really paired perfectly with the super sweet and rich filling.  This is a great pie to make when you want something sweet but don’t want to have the oven on for more than 30 minutes!

Granola Crust

1 1/2 cups granola, without dried fruit (he used one with orange flavor this time – great contrast to the chocolate!)

1/3 cup melted butter or canola oil

1 tablespoon honey

Process the granola for 15 seconds in a food processor or with a stick blender.  Add the melted butter or canola oil and the honey.  Press into a 9-inch pie plate.  Bake at 400° for 5–7 minutes.  Keep an eye out so it doesn’t burn.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool while making the filling.

Creamy Chocolate Filling

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or discs

3 tablespoons honey

2- 10 1/2-ounce packages silken firm tofu

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler until smooth.  Stir in the honey and blend thoroughly.  Process the tofu in a food processor or with a stick blender until smooth.  (Note:  some tofu is sold in 12-ounce packages.  In this case just use 21 ounces.)  Add the melted chocolate mixture and beat by hand till smooth and creamy.  Pour the filling into the reserved crust.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Be judicious with serving size – this is a very rich pie!

Sweet Potato and Pecan Pie

January 6, 2011

Aunt Suzy says . . .

There is a lot of press about pie lately, especially that it’s the new cupcakes.  Indeed the name of this article (with recipes!) is Pie to Cupcakes:  Time ‘s Up.  I’m not sure about that – cupcakes have a huge fanbase – but I love pie and will choose it always over cake.  (I think my blog partner would say the opposite!)  This is an especially rich and fabulous pie that I first had years ago when a friend of mine served it at a New Year’s Day celebration.  Ever since, I make it for our New Year’s Day meal.  It’s the only time that I make it, and each New Year’s Day I wonder why I don’t make it more often!  The original recipe is from Paul Prudhomme and uses a very rich egg-based crust and a cake pan.  I have always made it with my regular pie dough in a deep dish pie plate – seems simpler.  In any event, I think this is the type of pie that is fancy enough to warrant a special occasion or a holiday!

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line a deep dish 9-inch pie plate with your favorite dough.

Sweet-Potato Filling

2 – 3 sweet potatoes, baked
¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg, vigorously beaten until frothy
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed of electric mixer until the batter is smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overbeat. Set aside.

Pecan Pie Syrup

¾ cup sugar
¾ cup dark corn syrup
2 small eggs
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
¾ cup pecan pieces or halves

Combine all the ingredients except the pecans in a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly on slow speed of elec

tric mixer until the syrup is opaque, about 1 minute; stir in pecans and set aside.


Spoon the sweet-potato filling evenly into the dough-lined pie plate. Pour the pecan syrup on top.

Bake in a 325° oven until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 1/2 to 1¾ hours.  (Note: the pecans will rise to the top of the pie during baking.) Make sure you check after 1 1/2 hours given variability in ovens and pie plate types.  This time I made it, while it tasted great, I wish that I had taken it out of the oven about 10 minutes before I did!

This pie is great plain or with whipped cream.



Margaux says…

Every year I make Granny’s Peach Pie at least twice.  It’s always been my absolute favorite pie, over all pies.  But every year, I say that I want a FRESH peach pie, one that celebrates the sweet, juicy, wonderfulness and deliciousness of the peach, a fruit that I absolutely adore, and that is only around for a nanosecond.  Not that Granny’s doesn’t…hers definitely has a huge peach flavor, and it is a wonderful pie (obviously, since I make it so often).  But my mom always talks about her mom’s peach pie, and how it’s like eating fresh peaches with whipped cream, and the thought of that appeals to me.

It took me so long to make this for a few reasons.  For one, I know I love Granny’s pie, and good peaches are in short supply usually, so I just stick to that recipe.  Secondly, my Grandma Major wasn’t particularly known for her pies (she made beautiful cakes, though!), and my Granny is…her pies are the best in town.

But this year I found a good source for peaches, and have been buying them in bulk weekly for about 4 weeks now, so I decided to give it a try.  I actually tried another fresh peach pie recipe earlier in July, but it was WAY too sweet and had way too much of the peach mixture that you pour over the fresh peaches.

Then my mom reminded me about Grandma’s recipe, and wrote it down for me.  OH MAN, is it good.  There’s still a few days left to get good peaches…you should definitely use them for this.  Next year, I’ll be making both Granny’s and Grandma’s peach pies, that’s for sure!

Grandma’s Fresh Peach Pie

One 9″ baked pie shell
7 peaches
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 2 pieces
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

Peel peaches by dropping them into boiling water for about 1 minute, then taking them out and gently peeling the skin off.  Crush one cup peaches.  Combine water, sugar, cornstarch and lemon in a saucepan.  Add peaches, bring to a boil.  Cook over low heat, constantly stirring, until thickened and clear..2 to 3 minutes.  Turn off heat, and add butter.  Cool slightly.  While cooling, slice remaining peaches into pre-baked and cooled pie shell.  Pour peach mixture over sliced peaches.  Chill for at least 3 hours.  Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Aunt Suzy says

This recipe is another that my Mom found in the 1970s, and like Texas Cake, it has become a family staple.  It is tasty, easy and can be made with peaches only or with a handful of blueberries thrown in.  I made it Saturday with blueberries for my Mom’s 85th birthday and was shocked to learn that most of my family are peach pie purists – no blueberries please!  I made it on Sunday, peaches only, for a friend get-together and learned more people were glad it didn’t contain blueberries.  To each his/her own, so I say try it both ways and decide for yourself.

Margaux says

I make this pie at least once every July.  Last year I think I made it 3 times because Whole Foods had the best Southern Illinois peaches that I’d had since I was a kid when we would get them straight from the source.  I don’t usually do it with the blueberries, though…I’m also a peach purist!  This year I’m really itching to try a fresh peach pie, which is what my Grandma Major made…I’ll be posting that soon!

The Streusel

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 stick butter

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut the butter in till crumbly.  Set aside.  (If it’s hot out, put in the fridge till ready to use.)

The Pie

1 9-inch pie plate lined with your favorite pie crust (if it’s hot out, place in the freezer till ready to use.)

6-7 peaches, peeled and cut into halves or quarters

up to 3/4 cups blueberries

2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup water, depending on how juicy the peaches are.

Place 1/2 the streusel in the lined pie plate. Peel the peaches by first immersing them in simmering water for 30 seconds.  Remove the from water, cool for a minute and then the skins should slip right off.

Cut the peaches in halves or quarters (I prefer quarters) and place on top of the streusel.  Add the blueberries, if using, then place the remainder of the streusel on top and then add the water.  I find less water is needed if using blueberries no matter how juicy the peaches.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-45 minutes.  You will want to make sure that the peach juice has bubbled up and sort of carmelized, so be careful to not underbake this pie.  Please note that this pie must cool completely before eating in order to “set up”.  Serve plain or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Aunt Suzy says

I love it when things come together for an unexpected treat!   This week’s convergence of forces was triggered by seeing this recipe on Smitten Kitchen.  I wistfully sent it to my brother in Central Illinois because I know about this time of year Margaux’s Aunt Gigi invites them out to pick cherries at “The Big House”.  Wistfully, because I was confident that I would not find fresh sour cherries here in Minnesota.  They are a favorite of mine from childhood – my Mom made great cherry pies – and I have never seen them available here.  But, wait!  Unexpected force #2 was, to my amazement, Prairie Hollow Farm at the Mill City Farmers Market  had fresh sour cherries this weekend.  I snapped them up so I could make this pie, which I did for a get-together with friends Sue and Al.  The pie was a hit!  I will make it again later this week when I visit family where I’ll use those cherries my brother picked.

A note on the quantities and ingredients:   I ended up with a little under 4 cups of cherries once I had pitted them and removed those that were past their prime.   Because of this I used an 8 1/2-inch pie plate.  If you are lucky enough to have more cherries, you can use a 9 or 9 1/2-inch pie plate.  The first quantity in the recipe is for the smaller plate, the second is for the larger.  For the almonds, I recommend that if you have a food processor that you use it instead of chopping the almonds.  This will release their oils, which will give a more pronounced almond flavor which is such a delicious match for cherries.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a pie plate with your favorite single-crust pie dough.  Here’s ours.  Place in the refrigerator until ready for use.

Prepare the crumble:

1/2 cup-2/3 cup whole oats, coarsely ground in a food processor

1/3 cup- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup-1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup-3/4 cup unsalted whole almonds, coarsely ground in a food processor or chopped by hand

5 – 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Grind the oats in a food processor or blender until they resemble a coarse flour.  Place in a bowl and add the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt and whisk together to blend.  Grind the almonds in a food processor or chop by hand, then add to the bowl.  Stir in the melted butter.  Set aside.

Prepare the cherry filling:

2/3 cup-3/4 cup sugar

2-3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups-5 cups pitted fresh sour cherries( or you can use frozen, partially thawed) 

Mix the above ingredients together.

Assemble and bake the pie:

Pour the cherries into the prepared, dough-lined pie plate.  Sprinkle the crumble over the cherries.  Place the pie plate onto the center rack in the pre-heated oven.  Line the oven bottom with foil or place a cookie sheet on the rack below the pie.  Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for 30-40 minutes more.  The pie is done when the cherry filling bubbles and the crumble is a little crisp.  Remove from the oven, place on a rack and cool to room temperature before serving.  We all agreed that this pie is best unadorned – no ice cream or whipped cream, although use your own judgment.

 My favorite time to eat pie – breakfast! 

 Or Breakfast of Champions as my sister-in-law, Cindy, likes to say.  Oops!  Tatum beat me to the punch . . . gotta go! 

Classic Blueberry Pie

June 22, 2010

Margaux says

The first pie I ever made was blueberry.  It was for my dad’s birthday, when I was about 10 or 11 years old.  My dad was never a cake guy (except Texas cake, which we’ll definitely do a post about later…its a family staple), so I made him a pie.  Pie making is big on that side of my family, and my granny is known all over town for her amazing pies, especially the crust.  So I’d of course already had a lesson or two before my big day of making my first pie. The pie was probably ho-hum…I used canned blueberries (it was October, in a small Midwestern town, in the 80’s, so there were probably no fresh blueberries to be found), and my crust was pretty mediocre, but I was very proud of myself, and my love for baking began.

I really wanted to make a strawberry pie this week because we’re in the height of strawberry season, but the strawberries at my regular grocery store AND at Stanley’s (a fruit and vegetable market here in Chicago) were terrible looking! I was totally disappointed, but Stanley’s had giant flats of blueberries on sale for $2.49 so I got those instead. Since my original blueberry pie in the 80’s, I think I’ve made only one other one in my life…I prefer blueberries in small quantities, like in pancakes or muffins. But for $2.49, I thought, why not?

This recipe is also from Joy of Cooking…I use a lot of their pie recipes.  They are very simple and very good!

Blueberry Pie

Prepare pie crust.  Roll half the dough into a 13″ round, fit into a 9″ pie pan, and trim the overhanging dough to 3/4″ all around.  Refrigerate.  Roll the other half of the dough into a 12″ round for the top crust and refrigerate it.  Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine and let stand for 15 minutes:

5 cups fresh blueberries, picked over
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
3 1/2 to 4 tbsp quick-cooking tapioca or cornstarch (use cornstarch for a lattice pie)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/8 tsp salt

Pour the mixture into the bottom crust and dot with:

1 to 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Brush the overhanging edge of the bottom crust with cold water. Cover with the top crust of lattice, then seal the edge, trim, and crimp or flute. If using a closed top crust, cut stem vents. Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Slip a baking sheet beneath it, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake until thick juices bubble through the vents, 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. The pie is best the day it is baked, but it can be stored at room temperature for up to one day.

I wanted to do a lattice top for this because baked blueberries are such a beautiful color.  Unfortunately, right when it was time to start the assembly, Desi decided he was ready for a nap.  So I did the short-cut version, which is laying all the strips one way, then laying the other strips right on top instead of weaving them in.  My strips are crooked, too…blame Desi for a not-perfect pie.  It tasted good, though!

Pie is best served with vanilla ice cream!  Yum!

Basic Pie Crust

June 22, 2010

Margaux says

I’ve given a couple pie crust-making lessons to friends in the past, and have also had several requests to do so, so I thought I would write a pie crust-making post.  The term “easy as pie” isn’t all that accurate, in my opinion, unless you’re well practiced at the art of the pie crust.  I’ve been making pie since I was a kid, and I still think it’s tricky.   So if you’re first pie crust doesn’t turn out exactly like you’ve hoped, don’t be discouraged!  It takes practice.

I use a recipe from Joy of Cooking, Deluxe Butter Flaky Pastry Dough.  I almost always use this recipe, unless I’m out of butter…then I make a Crisco crust.  The butter crust has so much more flavor, and goes with anything from fruit pies to custard.  You can also use it as a tart crust. It’s all about the process…you have to be quick, and not work with the dough very much.

Aunt Suzy says

This crust sounds delicious and like something I need to try.  I will ask Margaux to give me a lesson next time I visit her!  I have used the Crisco crust recipe since learning it at my Mom’s side many years ago.  It has always served me well and the only variation I’ve made is to occasionally make it with lard, which makes an even better crust.  I use this approach sparingly because of lack of availability and that it’s not that good for you!   But then I might argue the same for 2 sticks of butter or of Crisco.  Pie crust, however, is good for the soul and what would life be like without pie?!!

Deluxe Butter Flaky Pastry Dough

Makes two 9-inch pie crusts, or two 9 1/2- or 10 inch tart crusts, or one covered pie crust

Using a rubber spatula, thoroughly mix in a large bowl:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar or 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Working quickly to prevent softening, cut into 1/4-inch pieces:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

Add the butter to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, chop the butter into pea-sized pieces.


1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening

With a few quick swipes of the pastry blender [or two butter knives], cut the shortening into large chunks and distribute throughout the bowl. Continue to chop until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Do not let the mixture soften and begin to clump; it must remain dry and powdery.

Drizzle over the flour and fat mixture:

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water

Cut with the blade side of the rubber spatula until the mixture looks evenly moistened and begins to form small balls. Press down on the dough with the flat side of the spatula. (This is where most people use their hands…I always use a spatula because your hands are hot and the butter will immediately start to melt, which is NOT good.)

If the balls of dough stick together, you have added enough water; if they do not, drizzle over the top:

1 to 2 tablespoons ice water

Cut in the water, then press with your hands until the dough coheres. The dough should look rough, not smooth. Divide the dough in half, press each half into a thick, flat disk, and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably for several hours, or for up to 2 days before rolling. [Don’t skip this step] The dough can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 6 months; thaw completely before rolling.

For single crust pie:

Make half recipe of deluxe butter pastry dough.  Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.  Roll out dough, then place in 9 inch pie plate, trim edges so there’s about an inch or more overhang.  Tuck overhang under.  Refrigerate another 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400.  Take pie shell out, and crimp edges (or however you want it to look!).  Line with foil, making sure there’s enough overhang to cover the edges, and fill with pie weights (or rice or beans).  Bake for 20 minutes, then take out and carefully remove foil and weights.  Pierce bottom all over with a fork, then place back in oven for 5-10 minutes, until nicely browned.

Rhubarb Custard Pie

June 2, 2010

Aunt Suzy says

Are we rhubarb crazy?  Yes!!!!!!  Randy and I got together with friends Al and Sue Eklund Sunday for a holiday celebration and to play Sequence.  We’ve determined this is our summer game of choice which we play on their great screened-in porch.  (We play Oh, Hell for some reason in the winter only.)  The Eklunds have a beautiful rhubarb patch at the bottom of the hill in their garden, along with several  peony bushes. 

Sue made this custard version of rhubarb pie, which ran in our paper in May of 2007.  From the article:  “Midwesterners love their rhubarb pie straight up (strawberries are better left for shortcake), and if you try this recipe, we think you’ll agree.”  We thought it was delicious!   Do you agree with the sentiment about straight up rhubarb pie or do you prefer yours with strawberries?


1 to 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar, to taste

3/4 cup flour

Dashes of ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg

Pinch of salt

3 eggs, slightly beaten

6 cups chopped rhubarb

Pastry for 1 double-crust pie

1 to 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl.  Add the eggs and rhubarb, tossing to coat.  Pour all into a 9-inch shallow pie plate, lined with the bottom crust of the pastry.   Dot with the butter and top with a lattice crust, which you can learn how to do with this video if you’ve never made one.  (like me!)  Bake for 50-60 minutes, until filling bubbles and crust is golden brown.  I asked my friend Sue to share her thoughts and tips about making this pie.

Sue’s tips

I’ll take my rhubarb straight up – no strawberries!  I substituted Pappy’s frozen crusts for “real” crusts made from scratch.  Cal Garner ( my dad/chef) used to say they are “almost” as good as scratch!  And they save time.  I sprinkled sugar and cinnamon on the crust before baking and used pie crust shielding strips to protect the edges.