Geekade Top Ten: Pies
Halloween has long since passed and, despite what most retail outlets would have had you believe since around about August, the winter holidays are not yet upon us. ‘Tis a glorious time when we put aside thoughts of xenophobic slaughter and focus on food and family. And what better way to conclude our pre-Black Friday feast than with a slice or two (or ten) of pie delicious? But which to choose? As an avid pie lover and baker I’m here help you make your choice of which pies to indulge in to give you your just desserts. So without further ado…
10 – Strawberry chiffon pie – It was tough to choose a chiffon pie, they come in so many appealing varieties. Lemon chiffon is less popular, but tastierm than its merengue-y cousin, but still there are better lemon pie varieties than either. Pumpkin chiffon can’t beat its classical inspiration, though it will do in a pinch if the pastry chef’s feeling fancy. Strawberry chiffon is a deliciously light, tasty way to incorporate summer’s best berry into a pie. It lands this low ranking for being a real pain in the ass to make. As Zaphod Beeblebrox once said “ten out of ten for style, but minus several million for good thinking.”
9 – Coconut custard pie – It was tough to pick just one custard pie (not that I had to, but there’s only room for so much representation on a top ten). Buttermilk is tasty, as is chess pie. Hell, I might be able to come up with a top ten custard pies, if pushed. But with only room for one on THIS list, I had to go tropical, the better to incorporate another favorite dessert flavor of mine. The dense eggy nature of this pie makes a really suitable complement to the unique moist texture of the coconut. It gets bumped down the list because coconut is such a divisive flavor, but if this were just a list of my FAVORITE pies, it would likely rank higher.
8 – Chocolate peanut butter pie – Look, we all know, it’s basically just candy bars and crust. It provides an easy way for big chain restaurants to expand their dessert menu and appeal to the masses. But damn if it isn’t tasty. It’s a big seller for a reason. If you’re going to cross-pollinate your confectionery genres, this is a pretty good compromise. If there are more traditional pies available, I’m probably going to order a piece of one of those. But I’ll happily sink my fork into a hunk of this, if it’s what you’re getting.
7 – Lemonade pie – I always feel like this is one a lot of people haven’t heard of, but on a hot summer day, it’s the perfect way to get pie in your mouth without turning your oven on. And it’s easy af to make. All you need is frozen lemonade, Cool Whip, sweetened condensed milk, and a graham cracker crust. I have to ding it for its difficulty to serve; it freezes super hard, making it tough to carve out a slice. Which ends up being OK, since this pie is best eaten in smaller portions, the better to ward off heartburn. Heat up your serving knife to dish this one up and you’ll be the hit of your summer picnic. (PS I know I’m on your shit list for picking this as my citrus pie over key lime. Don’t @ me.)
6 – Cherry pie – For some people, this pie is number one. Others can take or leave it. Don’t get me wrong, much like Warrant, I loooooooooooooooooooove me some sweet cherry pie. Unfortunately, its most common form contains that artificial AF canned cherry pie filling. That stuff is ding-dang-delicious in its own right and has its place. But that place is atop a waffle or crepe, or encased in an equally artificial crust in the form of a prepackaged hand-pie. But if you’re going to combine butter, flour, and ice cold vodka to make your crust and go to the trouble of doing the lattice work for the top, you darn sure better make sure you’ve got fresh, in-season cherries for your filling and that means you have to pit them by hand yourself. Whether you have a cherry pitter or not, that is a tedious, time-consuming, back-breaking (depending on your setup) task and ain’t nobody got time for that.
5 – French Silk pie– This is probably the most personal pie on this list. (What? You don’t have a personal pie?) I have fond memories of going to Baker’s Square, a local Ohio chain restaurant that was the Cheesecake Factory for pie, before the Cheesecake Factory even existed. I would always order French Silk for dessert and even though it’s been literally decades since I’ve had it, I can still taste the decadent creamy chocolate filling and the perfect complement of the cool whipped cream topping. It’s not a very well-known pie, but it’s well-loved in my heart and I urge you to seek it out and try it yourself. Your life will be changed for the better.
4 – Pumpkin pie – Here it is, the original fall favorite. Before everything became “pumpkin spice” flavored, there was just this and, honestly, it’s simple and perfect. Don’t like pumpkin? Fine, that’s your problem. That’s why this falls at 4 and not 1, it’s not for everybody. But for those of us that love it, it creates a wedge-shaped hole in our hearts if we don’t get at least one slice between September and November. There are a lot of applications of the flavor, but texturally, this one is really the best. And if you think your average pumpkin pie is tasty, try going to the trouble of using fresh pumpkin. Mind? Blown.
3 – Blueberry pie – Much like it’s cherry cousin, this pie is often found in the wild using canned, artificial filling. Unlike cherry, it’s very easy to make the filling yourself from scratch and the fresh filling makes this pie approximately 1,000,000,000 times better. If you really want top notch fresh blueberry pie, then come find me in late spring/early summer, because I live down the road from where the world’s best blueberries are grown. (Disagree? Fight me.) Hit that easy-to-make filling with a touch of lemon zest and sprinkle the crust with a little white sugar after the egg wash, and you have arguably the only good reason to turn on your oven in the hot summer weather.
2 – Apple pie – Number 2? *GASP* WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!!? That’s right. You heard me. Number. Two. Revoke my citizenship if you will. Look, apple pie is the bomb dot com, no doubt. But before you rush to its defense for the number one spot, riddle me this: have you ever made an apple pie from scratch? If so, I commend you. First of all, crust. For seasoned bakers who understand the sciences, it ain’t no thang, but there is a reason that premade pie dough is available so widely. Many people just can’t/don’t/won’t get it. No shame in that game, but a good apple pie must have a from-scratch crust. Then, filling. So let me ask you this, what kind of apples do you use in an apple pie? There are literally 1000’s of varieties of apples and while I have a right answer to that question, my right answer is not everyone’s right answer. And once your apples are chosen, they’ve gotta be peeled and sliced and cooked up before they ever even touch the crust. (Precooking the filling is the secret to avoiding empty space inside your top crust. #themoreyouknow) The ideal apple pie is the symbol of America for a reason, but in reality there’s too much room for error for it to take the top spot.
1 – Pecan pie – Some of you might be thinking “huh, I didn’t see that coming.” But unless you’re dealing with a nut allergy, (in which case, like The Doctor, I am so, so sorry) you just can’t beat it. It’s relatively easy to make, it can be made in any season, it has a variety of textures that all work beautifully together, it’s sweet, it’s just flat-out a pretty great pie. My favorite recipe incorporates some dark chocolate chunks and that’s pretty dang great. But plain and simple pecan pie is the MVP of pies.
Mad love to all the other great dessert pies that didn’t make the cut and a huge shout out to some of my favorite savory pies: spanakopita, southern tomato pie, and chicken pot pie. Turkey day is almost here so go forth and enjoy your favorite pie. And while we may not agree on what pie is best, I think we can all agree that pumplecake is not a pie, but a goddamn travesty of a pastry.