Christmas and New Year are rapidly becoming a distant memory so what better way to cheer up a dull January than by embracing National Pie Day! After all, it is that time of year, with the long dark evenings, when comfort food such as a jolly tasty pie has a serious attraction. So needing no further excuse, we thought we would celebrate the pie.
This does, of course, beg the question of when and why do we have National Pie Day? It takes place on 23 January each year and is an American invention:
National Pie Day, is an annual celebration of pies started in the mid-1970s by Boulder, Colorado nuclear engineer, brewer and teacher Charlie Papazian after he declared his own birthday, January 23, to be National Pie Day. Since 1986, National Pie Day is sponsored by the American Pie Council. Via en.wikipedia.org
Given that National Pie Day is more American than British (and we have our own British Pie Week 4-10 March for 2019), we thought we might focus on pies which are American in origin. Which means they are of the sweet treat variety rather than a traditional British pastry based meat and potato type. Something to cheer up January and make us hanker after summer. However, come British Pie Week, I’m thinking gravy more than chocolate so watch this space!
So what is an American pie? Well according to a really interesting history and categorisation of the American pie on Eater, it is as follows:
Today, most American pie is a round pastry with crust that envelopes a (usually sweet) filling, prepared in a pan with sloping sides and a small lip. Pies come in many shapes and sizes — there are hand pies and slab pies, fried pies and crumble-topped pies — but the most traditional American pie is a nine-inch round pie, a shape that originated in Medieval Europe.
The perfect pie is built from two things: 1) A well-made crust with a flaky texture and deep golden color; and 2) A fresh, well-set, flavorful filling. Pie’s filling is how we will categorize these sweet American pie styles.
For the serious chocolate lover out there, what could be better than a Mississippi Mud Pie! It is thought the name refers to the fact that the chocolate cake looks just like the muddy brown banks of the river Mississippi but, thankfully, it tastes so much better and is a rich, indulgent treat. This recipe from Simon Rimmer is full of gooey yumminess.
From the bourbon biscuit base to the fudge topping. This recipe for Mississippi mud pie is a chocolate-lovers delight. Via bbc.com
Another pie always associated with the States, is a Key Lime Pie. This pie is so called because of the type of limes used to make the dish:
The traditional Conch version uses the egg whites to make a meringue topping. The dish is named after the small Key limes (Citrus aurantifolia ‘Swingle’) that are naturalized throughout the Florida Keys. While their thorns make them less tractable, and their thin, yellow rinds more perishable, Key limes are more tart and more aromatic than the common Persian limes seen year-round at grocery stores in the United States. Key lime juice, unlike regular lime juice, is a pale yellow. The filling in a Key lime pie is also yellow, largely because of the egg yolks.
During mixing, a reaction between the proteins of the egg yolks and condensed milk with the acidic lime juice occurs that causes the filling to thicken on its own without requiring baking. Early recipes for Key lime pie did not require baking the pie, relying on this chemical reaction (called thickening) to produce the proper consistency of the filling. Today, because consuming raw eggs can be dangerous, pies of this nature are usually baked for a short time. The baking also thickens the texture more than the reaction alone. Via en.wikipedia.org
Another culinary pie delight brought to us courtesy of our American cousins, is the Shoofly Pie. Now I have to confess I’ve never made or even tried one of these, but looking at the below recipe, I could easily be persuaded to give it a go!
This is the best shoofly pie I’ve eaten, and believe me, I’ve tried many. Some versions are dry and soft; others are quite gooey and moist. This one falls somewhere in between, and is thick and unabashedly pleasing. Shoofly is authentic American pie that comes to us from the Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonites and the Pennsylvania Dutch; we should be grateful to them forever. Surprisingly, shoofly pie is not as popular in other Amish and Mennonite communities. It is found in Ohio; but in Indiana, if you ask for a piece of shoofly pie in a restaurant, the Amish girl who serves it will rather disparagingly tell you it’s made only for the tourists – a thousand pities. Via splendidtable.org
Pumpkin Pie is, of course, usually associated with Thanksgiving but there’s no reason not to bake it at other times of the year, particularly when it brings such a feelgood factor with it. This pie contains spices associated with autumn into winter – such as cinnamon and ginger – but these would work equally well for a January warm up. This video tutorial on how to make a traditional pumpkin pie isn’t too long at just under 4 minutes and has the ingredients and quantities needed printed on the screen. That way you can work alongside with no need to write down the recipe as you go. Being an American recipe, the pastry uses “shortening” which is essentially any fat which is solid at room temperature such as lard (animal or vegetable), margarine or butter (although butter has a lower melting point). It’s an easy to watch video, with the pie making process well demonstrated so well worth a watch!
I hope you have found something of interest in our round up of the American Pie and will celebrate National Pie Day by, if not baking something yummy yourself, tucking into someone else’s tasty treat! Why not let us know which are your favourite pies in this category?