What kind of pie conveys the experience of starting a new job, getting married, becoming a mom?
That’s the question author Jo Packham asked when she began gathering 39 of her favorite foodies, who contributed 42 recipes to her delicious masterpiece, “Pie-ography: Where Pie Meets Biography.”
“Each one has devised a pie recipe that captures the essence of her life,” says Packham, the founder of the best-selling magazines, Where Women Cook, Where Women Create, and Where Women Create Business. “Stir in beautiful photography, short essays, and brief bios, and voilá, you’ve got more than a cookbook. From Espresso Dream Pie to Salmon and Spinach Pie, this collection nourishes body and soul.”
My Life as a Pie
Packham’s love of pies started when she was a little girl watching her mother make her signature Banana Cream Pie.
“Its crust was plain, for she grew up with only a few basics of what was considered essential—yet it made her stronger and uncomplicated,” she writes in the book’s foreword. “The rich, creamy center was what she created for herself through her painting and her sewing to add flavor to her life. And the bananas were her exotic fruit—for at the time they were grown in far-off places. In making her pie, I celebrate her spirit, her style, her story, her life.”
As for Packham, the pies that represent her life are as individual as she is—and have only garden-fresh ingredients. Each delicacy is abundant in texture and color, and contains subtle flavors of herbs, “because, like my life, there must be subtle hints of something extra.” They include: Individual Spinach Quiche, Individual Heirloom Tomato Pizzas, Individual Shepherd’s Pie, and the piece de resistance, Coconut Macadamia Nut Pie with Passion Fruit Cream, Salted Caramel Drizzle & Dark Chocolate Popcorn Sprinkles.
Because we love the story behind her breakfast pie, “created like the rich, romantic, foreign French quiche,” scroll down to find that recipe.
Also below you’ll find five fantastic pie recipes, chosen at random. Really, each pie in “Pie-ography” is a work of art, just as is the woman who created it. From the savory to the sweet, we promise you won’t want to miss a single one. Share it with all the women—and men—whom you nourish and love! Click here to buy the book!
Photos by Traci Thorson
Jo Packham’s Individual Spinach Quiche
This Individual Spinach Quiche recipe is great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, or even as an appetizer.
Recipe type: Brunch
1 onion, diced small
½ lb. fresh small mushrooms, quartered
2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted, rolled out lightly, and each sheet cut into four squares
5 large eggs
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
⅔ cup milk
1 package frozen spinach, defrosted and water squeezed out (you can also use fresh)
½ lb. variety of heirloom tomatoes, quartered
¼ lb. feta cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Cook onion and mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter until slightly brown and tender.
3. Butter extra-large muffin cups, or small quiche dishes. Place a square of puff pastry into each muffin cup or dish, and fold the edges down so they are even with the top of each muffin cup or dish.
4. Whisk milk and eggs together in bowl, and add a pinch of sea salt and a little cracked pepper. Stir in spinach, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, and feta cheese.
5. Pour mixture into muffin cups or quiche dishes. Sprinkle with the Parmesan or Romano cheese.
6. Cook for about 30 minutes. Check to make certain knife comes out clean when inserted into middle of quiche.
7. Serve immediately. Makes a delightful luncheon with tomato slices lightly sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper, fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese, and a glass of red wine.
Sarah Champier’s Life as a Cherry Meringue Pie
“My life is an orchard, a beautiful cherry orchard nestled in the crook of a verdant pasture,” writes floral artist Sarah Champier in “Pie-ography.”
“I spent my childhood in this orchard, playing and imagining … If my life were a pie, it could only be this: Cherry Meringue With Wings—my own children’s favorite. I take them to that same orchard, where we share cherries and make more memories, comforted and soothed by that beautiful place.”
How to make Cherry Meringue Pie With Wings
1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (40 g) hazelnuts, chopped and lightly toasted
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup (50 g) superfine sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large free-range egg yolk
2-3 tablespoons (45 ml) cold water, milk, or 1 egg, beaten
1. Mix flour, hazelnuts, salt, sugar, and butter together with tips of fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Add egg yolk and 1-2 tablespoons of cold water. Mix until it comes together to form a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C or gas mark 5).
4. Roll out pastry on floured surface and line metal springform pan. Ensure you have plenty of pastry for leftover trimmings. Line pan with baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice. Roll out leftover pastry and make into 2 wing shapes—think eagles! Place on greased sheets, brush with beaten egg or milk. Place in oven with pie taking higher shelf. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove beans or rice and paper, and bake again for 10-12 minutes until golden. Remove wings when pale golden. Set both aside to cool.
3 1/2 lbs. (1,575 g) fresh or frozen red cherries, pitted
1/2 cup (100 g) superfine sugar
6 tablespoons (60 g) arrowroot (or cornstarch)
1/2 lemon, juiced
5 egg yolks (save whites for meringue)
2 tablespoons (30 g) butter
3 cups of beautiful cherry juice
1. Put cherries and sugar into pan over low heat. When sugar has melted, increase heat, and cook for 10-15 minutes until cherries begin to break down.
2. Whiz the cherry-sugar mixture in food processor. You should have about 3 cups (700 ml) of juice
3. In bowl, mix arrowroot or cornstarch with lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of water until it forms a paste.
4. Return cherry mixture to saucepan on medium heat. Add in arrowroot or cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly until really thick, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes.
5. With a wooden spoon, beat in egg yolks and butter. Cool completely.
6. Spoon into cooled pastry shell and chill for 30 minutes.
5 large free-range egg whites
1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar
4 tsp. (20 ml) rose-flavored syrup
1. Take clean bowl and whisk egg whites until glossy.
2. Slowly whisk in sugar and rose syrup until shiny peaks form.
3. Place meringue on top of filling, forming clouds.
4. Push wings into middle of pie so they protrude above meringue and gently wrap tin foil around tips to prevent burning.
5. Place in middle of oven and cook for 10-15 minutes until meringue is golden. Remove tin foil and serve immediately.
6. Eat pie! Yum!
Anita Chu’s Life as an “I Heart Summer” Strawberry Lemon Verbena Pie
Professionally-trained “Pastrygirl” Anita Chu is the creator of Dessert First, dessertfirstgirl.com an award-winning blog. Her weekly posts document her adventures in the kitchen. Her cookbooks include “Field Guide to Cookies,” and “Field Guide to Candy.”
“I love getting creative when I bake,” writes Chu in her pie-ography. “To me, there’s no excitement in making the same old basics over and over again. I enjoy playing around with pastry classics and tweaking them to match my latest inspirations.
“That’s why my life as a pie wouldn’t be just a regular old pie. It would combine my favorite pastry dough, my favorite fruit, and my favorite ‘unusual’ ingredients: pate brisee, strawberries, and lemon verbena. When I make this pie, I taste sweetness that results from not conforming to the everyday, and instead viewing life through my own offbeat lens.”
How to Make Anita Chu’s “I Heart Summer” Strawberry Lemon Verbena Pie
3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup (4 oz) water, very cold
1. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add about a third of the butter into the bowl. Keep the rest of the butter in the refrigerator to keep it cold. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
3. Add another third of the butter to the bowl in the same way, and then the rest of the butter. Do not overwork the mixture.
4. Drizzle the ice water over the mixture and use a fork to stir the mixture until it just starts to clump together. Do not work it into one homogeneous ball of dough. The pieces of dough should just stick together when you press them together. Add a little more water if the dough is still too dry and crumbly.
5. Form the dough into two balls. Flatten into disks, wrap in plastic, and chill for an hour to firm. Roll out one disk of dough into a 13” circle. Fit into a 9” pie pan and trim the edges so there is about a 1/2” overhang. Or, you can cut out circles and fit them into mini pie pans—you will get about (4) 5” mini pies if you are careful. Chill the pie crust while you make the filling.
20 oz strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 tsp. salt
16 lemon verbena leaves
1. Combine the strawberries, sugars, flour, salt, and lemon verbena leaves together in a medium bowl.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Take out the pie crust and pour in the filling.
2. Roll out the second disk of dough to a 13” circle. Using a knife or pastry cutter, cut (14) 1/2” strips of dough. Lay strips over the pie filling in a lattice pattern. Press ends of dough strips into the bottom crust.
3. Brush the lattice lightly with water and sprinkle turbinado sugar over the top.
4. Bake pie for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and fruit is bubbling (may take less time for mini pies). Let cool on wire rack before serving.
Quinn Hairston’s Life as Ginger Apple Jam Pie
“My life has been full of promises I made to myself,” shares Quinn Hairston, Quinnwick.com, a self-taught cook and baker whose dreams of having a handmade country life in the city started her on a journey to make and grow food. “I spent several years dreaming of escape. After graduating from college I did just that—or so I thought.
“Sometimes you start off with one idea, make a few mistakes, and what results is something better than you have planned for. This pie, like life, can be amended depending on what you have on hand.”
How to make Quinn Hairston’s Ginger Apple Jam Pie
Double Pie Crust:
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cold butter
1-4 tablespoons ice-cold water
1. Combine flour and salt in mixing bowl.
2. With pastry cutter, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.
3. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture sticks together.
4. On a floured surface, roll pastry into two 12” circles. Place 1 pastry into pie pan.
Pie Filling and Assembly:
4 lbs. apples (your favorite kind), peeled and cored
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
To taste: Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger powder, a little lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees.
2. Cut up apples and separate into two piles of 2 pounds each. Put 2 pounds into a pot with about 1/2 cup of water.
3. Bring apples to boil, then let them simmer until a very chunky sauce.
4. Sir in sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger powder, and lemon juice. Let simmer for a few minutes. Then taste and adjust any spices or sweetness.
5. Add remaining apples and let simmer for 3-5 minutes. Put filling into first pie crust and place second crust on top. Make slits in top of pie crust to let steam out while baking.
6. Bake for 50 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Michele Muska’s Life as a Midsummer Night’s Dream Pie with Rhubarb, Peaches, and Raspberries
“I am a woman of contrasts and surprises, so it’s only natural that this pie is an unusual combination of fruits—which represent me,” shares the avid baker, fiber artist, and PBS on-air talent for Simplicity Creative Group, where she is the marketing communications manager. “I also love to be steeped in tradition, especially when it comes to food and my Czechoslovakian heritage.
“The mysterious rhubarb plant, my pie’s main ingredient, is dependable and sturdy, tart and crisp, yet the leaves are large and poisonous,” Muska explains. “You can always count on me as a friend and confidant, and I do love to party and be a bit naughty on occasion — but don’t ever think about hurting my kids, because I just may chop up those leaves and put them in your salad.
“The lattice top crust is a must. If you are having a bad pastry day, it’s much easier to fudge the strips than to roll out a full crust. And the little peepholes give you a glimpse into what’s inside.”
Click here to listen to our podcast interview with Michele Muska on the Truly Amazing Women Show on InkandescentRadio.com.
How to Make Midsummer Night’s Dream Pie with Rhubarb, Peaches, and Raspberries
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup ice water
1. In food processor, combine flour and salt. Add butter to flour mixture. Pulse for 8-10 seconds unti mixture forms a crumble.
2. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, just until dough clings together. Shape into disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.
Pie Filling and Assembly
1-1/2 cups + few pinches sugar
2 tablespoons nutmeg, grated
2-1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped
1-1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1-1/2 cups peaches, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons milk
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Beat eggs, 1-1/2 cups sugar, butter, and nutmeg with fork.
3. Place fruit in bowl, pour mixture over, and mix in flour.
4. Roll out pie dough and place in pie dish.
5. Place pie filling in pie shell and cover with lattice top.
6. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
7. Bake for 10 minutes, and turn down to 350 degrees for an additional 35-40 minutes, until rhubarb feels tender.
8. Serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.