That’s an interesting question. I think there are a couple of reasons. I like making pies because there are so many different possibilities and flavor combinations that can be contained within two crusts. It’s edible creativity for me.
There’s also a sense of accomplishment that happens when you bake pie. You have to take your time and do the steps and then you have a beautiful pie to show for it, and you can also see your progress as a baker. Pie is very communal, too — by its very nature, it’s meant to be shared.
Is your husband a pie guy?
Ted loves to bake bread. But he enjoys eating pie, and I love making them, so it works out. Pie has always been my favorite food, especially pumpkin pie.
The night Ted asked me to marry him, he made the most wonderful meal with a pumpkin pie for dessert. I may have squealed more with delight over the pie than I did the engagement ring.
It was the gift of the “Hoosier Mama Book of Pie” by Paula Haney (Surrey Books, 2013), that led me to begin my pie-baking frenzy.
I love to bring pie into work for people, and this sounds cheesy, but it makes me feel good when I’m feeding people a little slice of comfort.
Recently, I held a pie focus group where co-workers discussed and ranked the 15 kinds of pies I had brought to work over the past two months. I have nine pages of notes from that focus group and their number one choice was this Chai Pie.
How did you come up with the recipe?
This recipe represents the point at which I was comfortable enough with my pie-baking abilities to try original recipes. One of my co-managers at the clinic even commissioned this pie for her husband’s birthday.
I went through some trial and error with various measurements of chai powders, but I really like this pie, maybe because the spices in it are similar to pumpkin.
Do you have any pie-in-the-sky dreams?
Especially during this time of year, pie occupies a lot of my brain, because fruit is coming into season and there are so many pies to make! I love coffee shops and sometimes my brother, sister and I talk about what a pie house might look like in midtown.
I was born in Kitchener, Ontario, and moved to Lenexa in the seventh grade. But the meals I would eat with my grandmas Lydia Duench and Mary Fetter in Canada made an impression on me.
They had vegetable gardens and grew fruits like raspberries, strawberries and rhubarb in their backyards.
My mom, Margaret Fetter, is more of a healthy cook and when she would make desserts, she would usually make crisps, which inspired the topping on my Dutch apple pie.
Ted and I have a vegetable garden in our backyard, but we also have a row of rosebushes. And, it’s nothing against the flowers, but sometimes I think I’d like to have a row of raspberry bushes there instead.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Residence: Kansas City
Occupation: Social worker and Kansas City Care Clinic manager of HIV case management
Special cooking interest: Creating confections
Family: Married to Ted for five years
Makes 1, 9-inch pie, serves 8
For the crust:
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
7 tablespoons frozen butter, cut into 1/2 tablespoon-pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup ice cold water
For the filling:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup chai tea powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 egg yolks
1 large egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
To make the crust:
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt together until combined. Evenly place frozen butter pieces on top of flour mixture and pulse until butter becomes the size of large peas, about 10 pulses.
Stir vinegar and cold water together. Pour 3 tablespoons water/vinegar into food processor and pulse until incorporated, or about 6 pulses.
Test dough by pinching it: dough should be soft and hold its shape. If dough feels dry and does not hold, sprinkle cold water/vinegar, 1 teaspoon at a time, over the dough and pulse 3 times, until desired consistency is achieved.
Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a 5-inch disc. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove dough from refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, roll it out into a 10-inch circle. Gently wrap pastry around rolling pin and ease it into a glass 9-inch pie pan, allowing extra dough to spill over edges. Gently use excess dough to fashion a fluted edge.
Prick the bottom and sides of crust with a fork. Place pie weights on top of crust and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and remove pie weights after cooled.
To make the filling:
Pour whipping cream into saucepan and whisk in chai tea powder, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and cloves until well combined.
Whisk cream mixture over medium-high heat until steam starts to rise, but do not allow to boil. Take off heat.
Whisk eggs yolks and egg in a tempered glass mixing bowl. Add sugar and salt to eggs and whisk together until well combined.
Place a fine-mesh sieve over bowl of egg mixture. Temper the eggs by pouring warm cream through the sieve, 1/2 cup at a time, and vigorously whisking after each addition. Whisk in vanilla paste.
Pour mixture into the blind-baked pie crust and bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, or until custard is set and the tip of a sharp knife, when inserted near the center, comes out clean.
Allow to cool to room temperature and then place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. Optional garnish: sift powdered sugar over top.
Note: Kritikos uses Trader Joe’s chai tea powder.
Per serving: 436 calories (72 percent from fat), 35 grams total fat (21 grams saturated), 242 milligrams cholesterol, 25 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 439 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.