Great ideas, poor execution.
Reviewed in the United States on 8 December 2020
I was so excited to get this book and have been waiting since Erin announced it. I have many pie cookbooks and I absolutely love making pie. I had two pies to make for a silent auction donation as well as all of the pies for my family Thanksgiving. I also bake competitive pies. I am not a pie novice by any stretch. Unfortunately, I have to share my disappointment with this book. Although beautiful and inspiring, please proceed with caution. If your gut tells you not to do something- don't do it! Here are the issues I had making the recipes with complete faith:
1. I followed Erin's recipe for all-butter pie dough. I have a standby recipe I use but I figured in for a penny, in for a pound. The dough looked exactly as Erin suggests it should in her pie dough guide but felt dry to me. No worries, I left it to hydrate in the fridge overnight. Unfortunately, when I pulled it out in the morning, it was still crumbly and could not be rolled without breaking. I had to make up a new batch of dough right then for my silent auction pies (from another recipe). I figured it was my mistake and forged ahead with the pies.
2. I started on the chocolate raspberry pie. My sister loves chocolate mousse and hates pie. First, I made the crumb crust per Erin's instructions using her crumb crust recipe with Oreos. Then I made the chocolate filling while the crust chilled (again, per instructions). Erin's recipe has you add still-warm melted chocolate to a whipped mixture with cream cheese in a running stand mixer using the whisk attachment. Even though I was concerned I believed the instructions must be for a reason. Imagine my disappointment when exactly what I expected happened- the warm chocolate 1. got thrown all over the bowl by the whisk as I added it in a slow stream, which led to flecks of hard chocolate on the bowl and whisk and 2. hardened when it met the cream cheese mix which led to even more chunks. Okay, I thought, must be my error again. It still tasted great. I then added the whipping cream (again per the instructions) and watched the chunky chocolate mixture become closer to something approximating wet concrete. In Erin's picture, the mousse is light and overfills the crust, so you have to mound it in the middle. My mixture was hard and thick, and there was no hope of putting it over raspberries per the instructions without absolutely crushing them. Again, I thought, okay, my error. I piled the mix into a piping bag and piped it over the berries, then carefully tried to make the top of the pie not look like a ridiculous rock. It was very tasty- hard to go wrong with chocolate, cream cheese, sugar and raspberries- but it was VERY dense and not at all what was pictured even though I meticulously followed her directions. Insult to injury, the crumb crust completely stuck to the pie plate and was hopeless to get off, so the servings looked roughly like someone drove through a bloody (from the crushed red raspberries) mud puddle.
3. Unwilling to see anything but my own failures with these recipes, I forged ahead. I'm a glutton for punishment apparently. I started on the cranberry orange pie. Erin suggests that for the type of dough I was using, you do not need to parbake with pie weights as long as the crust is really well docked with a fork. Amazing! Incredible! Revelatory! I was suspicious but thought, well, if the queen of pie says this, I will believe. So I made my beautifully decorated crust with an elaborate edge and I put it in the oven to parbake- again, per her exact instructions. In what should not have been a surprise, the crust slumped and the center became a giant bubble. Because, of course it did. Okay, another new crust, another roll out, another round of decoration. Into the oven WITH pie weights. I started on the filling. The cranberry mix is cooked on the stove and then you mix the bottom layer, chill the bottom layer in the parbaked crust, and top with the cranberry mixture which is cooled. The bottom layer had not chilled enough after the time required and so it all smooshed to one side of the pie. Okay, I thought, no big deal. I'll just make a meringue and put it on top and no one will be able to tell the difference. So I make Erin's mile-high meringue, which she specifically calls to whip to medium peaks. Seemed odd to me- how could a meringue at medium peaks hold its shape on a pie? But this is the queen of pie, so okay, medium peaks it is. I carefully pile the meringue on the completely cooled cranberry pie. It flattens, mostly, because of course it does. I torched it anyway and off we went to Thanksgiving dinner. Once we cut into the pies, it was obvious that the cranberry pie was so tart it could barely be eaten. If it were not for the sad but sweet meringue, it would have been like eating a lemon slice.
Here's my ultimate recommendation: If you are an experienced pie baker, yes, buy this book. It is beautiful and has great inspiration. But TRUST YOURSELF if the directions don't make sense to you and amend the recipe to what does make sense. I could have easily avoided all of these issues if I had trusted my gut! Don't assume the recipes are foolproof because they ARE NOT.
If you are not an experienced pie baker, sadly I have to tell you NOT to buy this book. I CAN heartily recommend another book, Magpie, which I have made almost every pie out of and NEVER had a single issue while following her recipes exactly.
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