Pie-deology: Pie makes people happy

Barbra Streisand likes the lemon meringue pie in the Ms. American Pie cookbook.

Dick Van Dyke likes the strawberry rhubarb one.

And Steven Spielberg favors coconut cream pie.

The Ms. American Pie author, Beth M. HowardHoward shared some lessons she has learned in her pie baking along the way and even gives some favorites to win state fair contests.

The cookbook is a reminder that through it all, there is happiness around every corner, and if you’re looking for that extra nudge to move forward, that springboard to launch you to the next level, it’s always best to start with pie.

Her pie-deology is that pie builds confidence, builds and supports community, is not about politics, knows no cultural or geographical boundaries, connects people and is nostalgic.

In an example of building community, after the December 2012 Newtown, Conn., shooting, she baked 250 pies to hand out on the streets. “Strangers came together to lend a helping hand to a grieving community and lifelong friendships were formed between the Newtown residents and those who came to help as a result of the volunteer pie-making and pie-giving efforts,” she said.

“Pie makes people happy, and happy people make the world a better place,” Howard said.

Noted in the cookbook is that pilgrims made pie, pioneers made pie, great-grandmothers and grandmothers made pie. Present-time bakers make pie baking complicated. When the older generation made pie, they used fruit, sugar and pie crust. They didn’t throw in ginger, amaretto, caramel sauce, grated orange peel and other ingredients.

“One of the myths that has been busted is that refrigerating the dough for 30 minutes makes if roll out better. If you start with chilled ingredients and don’t overwork the dough, it will be as soft as a baby’s bottom and very easy to roll without chilling again,” Howard explained.

“And it does not have to be unsalted butter. Use whatever is in the fridge,” she said.

One of the important things is to start with a hot oven. Starting with an oven that is not hot enough will cause the crust to melt rather than set.

The beautifully crimped edges will sag until they are limp and falling over the edge of the pie dish if the oven is not hot as the recipe directs.

Pecan pie is one of the top five favorites, but this recipes makes an addition that sets it apart from the others. And you will notice, she uses lard in her pie crust. My mother-in-law did this and made the flakiest crust you could ever imagine.

Toffee Pecan Pie


2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup lard

2/3 cup ice water, use as little as possible


3/4 cup butter (l 1/2 sticks)

1 1/2 cups brown sugar, dark or light

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups corn syrup

6 eggs

2 tablespoons vanilla

2 cups whole pecans

2 cups chopped pecans

2 cups Heath Bar bits

Prepare the pie dough for two 10-inch single crust shells.

For the filling, melt butter in a saucepan over medium to low-heat. Add brown sugar, salt and corn syrup. Continue to stir until fully heated. Beat the eggs slightly. Add some of the hot mixture to the eggs, then mix the egg mixture back into the saucepan, stirring so as not to curdle the eggs. Continue heating, stirring well until thick, then add vanilla. Combine hot mixture with nuts and toffee bar bits and pour into pie shells. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set.

This recipe is adapted from the overall 2010 pie winner at a state fair. Christina Montalvo was the baker who devised this pie.

Chai Spiced

Pumpkin Pie

Single pie crust


2 tea bags black chai spice tea or 2 to 3 teaspoons loose tea

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, canned is okay

3 eggs

2/3 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla


1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Prepare pie shell. for the filling, open the tea bags and grind up the contents. Mix all ingredients and pour into pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes then turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake about 40 minutes or until center is set when inserting a knife in the center of the filling. Set aside to cool.

Using an electric mixer, beat cream, sugar and ginger until peaks form. Once pie is completely cooled, top with whipped cream. Keep chilled and refrigerate seconds after cutting the pie.

Mississippi Mud Pie is an ice cream pie covered with a homemade fudge sauce and topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with chocolate shavings. And don’t forget the chocolate crumb cookie crust.

Mississippi Mud Pie


24 chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos

4 to 6 tablespoons melted butter

Fudge sauce:

2 cups milk

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons corn syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

2 tablespoons flour

In a saucepan on low to medium heat, combine milk, butter, corn syrup and vanilla. Stir until melted. Mix in dry ingredients, stirring constantly and bring to a boil. Cook until thickened. Set aside to cool.


2 pints mocha ice cream, or vanilla if desired, slightly softened


1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate shavings or toffee bits for garnish, optional


Crush cookies by placing in a ziplock plastic bag, pushing out all the air. Roll them out with a rolling pin until fine crumbs form. It is easier to crush if cookies are laid flat in a single layer to start. Put in a bowl and mix melted butter into crumbs. Press crust mixture into pie plate with the fingers or the bottom of a glass. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes

Prepare and cool sauce. Pour a layer of fudge sauce on bottom crust. Spread ice cream into pie shell. Place the pie in the freezer to re-harden before covering it with the top layer of the fudge sauce. Place back in the freezer. Prepare the topping by beating the cream, sugar and vanilla until peaks form. When ready to serve, spread whipped cream over top. Drizzle with some fudge sauce and sprinkle with chocolate shavings or toffee bits.

This is another frozen pie, using a graham cracker crust, strawberries, lime juice, condensed milk, tequila and whipped cream. Nice for an adult summer dessert.


Margarita Pie


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, about 8 to 12 crackers, at least one sleeve

5 to 6 tablespoons butter, melted


4 cups halved or quartered fresh strawberries, plus a few for garnish

1 tablespoon fresh lime zest

1/4 cup fresh lime juice, from 2 or 3 limes

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons tequila

2 tablespoons Triple Sec. or any orange flavored liqueur

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled

In a blender, puree strawberries, lime zest, lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, tequilla and Triple Sec until smooth. In a large bowl, beat cream with an electric mixer until cream forms peaks. Slowly and gently fold the strawberry mixture with the whipped cream. Pour into the crust and freeze for about 4 hours. Allow it to soften for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before serving. If you like, garnish with strawberries and lime slices.

Crust instructions:

Crush graham crackers in a ziplock plastic gag and put in a bowl or directly in the pie pan and mix in melted butter. Press into pie plate with fingers or the bottom of a glass. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes before adding the filling.

This recipe has a German name for the topping – kuchen. This means cake, but in Germany “cake” has a broad meaning and covers everything from traditional spongy cakes to tarts to pies.

Peaches and Cream Kuchen

Single pie shell


14-ounce can peach halves or 10-ounce container of frozen slices or 4 medium fresh peaches

1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon


2 egg yolks

1 cup heavy cream

Cut peaches in half or slices. Blot as much juice as possible from the fruit and arrange in the pastry lined pie plate. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over peaches. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Make the topping by beating egg yolks and cream together and pour over peaches. Bake for 30 minutes longer, until golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes and serve warm.

(McCoy can be contacted at emccoy@heraldstaronline.com.)