Pie in the Oven

My Deep South roots begin to show when I talk about pie making. We of English and Scotch-Irish heritage grew up on custards, usually in the form of pies, sometimes with meringues and other times with no topping at all.

My house was the gathering place after school, not because I was the most popular kid on the block but because my mother made pies better than the bakeries did. And on more days than not, she would have one or two sliding out of the oven around 3 o’clock when the starving students arrived. You could smell them from the street back in the days when windows were open and doors were unlocked.

And she loved nothing better than to see the greedy monsters slurp down her pies and praise her to the heights. “Miz Blair is the best cook around.” A few rave reviews would get you everywhere with my mom.

My favorite was caramel, which she started by browning the sugar in a heavy pot and adding milk, eggs and vanilla, then pouring it into one of her perfect crusts and topping it with a fluffy meringue. Her other meringue pies were close runners-up – chocolate, lemon and coconut, always using coconuts she had cracked with a hammer in the driveway. Although custards were her specialty, she was no amateur with pecan and fruit pies. Most fruits, such as berries, peaches and apples, wound up in cobblers, another Southern favorite that’s irresistible when served warm with vanilla ice cream on top.

Oh, those were the good old days before I began worrying about diets and got too busy to make pie crusts anyway. Thank goodness for refrigerated pie crusts in the grocery store, all ready to tuck into a pie plate and bake.

I have recently started bringing back some of my mother’s pie recipes for my own pleasure and entertaining, too.

Last summer I attended a college reunion, and while chatting with an old journalism professor learned that he, too, loves pies. He said the worst thing that happened in his divorce was that he lost custody of 52 quarts of blackberries, all of which were slated to go into pies and cobblers.

Another sad day came when my mother had two fine pies cooling on the back porch table and before she knew it the cat had licked off both meringues.

 On a brighter note, a pie is a wonderful rainy day project. Somehow pies make everybody happy.
1    9-inch pie crust
2    eggs, separated
1/3    cup butter, at room temperature
1    cup sugar
2    Tablespoons flour
1/3 teaspoon salt
1    teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4    cup lemon juice
1    cup milk

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place pie crust in pie plate and crimp edges.

Beat egg whites in electric mixer until stiff. Remove to bowl. Rinse and dry mixer.

In the mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add and mix in flour and salt. Gradually blend in milk, egg yolks, rind and juice. Remove bowl from mixer and lightly fold in egg whites, using a hand whisk. Pour into crust and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is light brown and center is softly set. Remove from oven and cool to serve. After several hours, pie should be refrigerated.

Serves 8.
1    9-inch pie crust
4    large eggs at room temperature
1    cup sugar, divided
1/2    cup cocoa
3    Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon
2    cups whole milk
3    teaspoons vanilla, divided
1 1/2    Tablespoons salted butter,
      cut into cubes
1/4    teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Separate eggs, putting whites into an electric mixer and yolks into a small bowl. Beat the yolks with a fork.

Bake pie crust for 20 minutes. While crust is baking, place 2/3 cup sugar, cocoa and 3 Tablespoons cornstarch in a medium, heavy saucepan.

Gradually whisk in milk and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. When mixture reaches a bare simmer, simmer for 1 minute and vigorously whisk in egg yolks. Simmer until thickened and bubbly, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla and butter.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar, blending well, then 1 teaspoon cornstarch and cream of tartar. Beat 1 minute.

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form.

While pie shell is still warm, pour in chocolate filling and gently spread on meringue. Return to oven and bake until meringue is nicely browned. Let pie set and come to room temperature before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

Serves 8.
1    9-inch pie crust
3    eggs, separated
2    Tablespoons, 1 cup and 1/3
      cup sugar, divided
2    Tablespoons flour
2    cups milk
2    teaspoons vanilla, divided
1    teaspoon cornstarch
1/4    teaspoon cream of tartar

 Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place crust in pie plate and crimp edges. Use a fork to prick crust at 1-inch intervals all over. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Separate eggs, whites into electric mixer and 2 yolks into medium bowl. Reserve third yolk for another use.

Using a whisk, beat yolks slightly in medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and flour and mix well.

Heat milk in a medium saucepan but do not boil. Gradually add to egg mixture.

In a medium-large sauce pan, melt 1 cup sugar, stirring until it melts and browns lightly to the color of caramel. Gradually add milk-egg mixture, stirring, and cook until thickened. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and pour into pie shell.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar, blending well, then cornstarch and cream of tartar. Beat 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of pie, lifting peaks where possible.

Bake on 375 degrees until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
1    9-inch pie crust
4    eggs, separated
1/2    cup butter
1    cup sugar
1/2    teaspoon salt
1    Tablespoon flour
1    cup heavy cream
1 1/2    teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place crust into pie plate.

In an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff and remove to small bowl.

Rinse and dry mixer and cream butter and sugar. Add salt and flour and mix in. Gradually add egg yolks, cream and vanilla and mix well. Whisk beaten egg whites and pour into pie shell. Bake for 40 minutes or until center is set. Cool to serve and store in refrigerator.

Serves 8 to 10.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2    teaspoon salt
1/2    cup shortening, refrigerated
      until cold
5    tablespoons ice water

Sift flour into large bowl. Mix in salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry cutter or two knives until mixture has no lumps larger than a small pea. Sprinkle all over with ice water. With a fork, mix all together until a ball is formed. With floured hands, continue shaping ball, discarding any dry loose lumpy flour. Cover and refrigerate for at lease 30 minutes.

Roll out to about 1/8 inch thick on a floured surface, flouring rolling pin as needed. Gently lift crust into a 9 or 10-inch pie plate and crimp edges decoratively. Use according to recipe instructions.

Digital Sponsors

Become a MyNewOrleans.com sponsor ...

Sign up for our FREE

New Orleans Magazine email newsletter

Get the the best in New Orleans dining, shopping, events and more delivered to your inbox.