I like to bake pies. They are considered the most traditional of American desserts.
Ancient Egyptians made pies. Historians can trace the origin to the Neolithic Period beginning around 6000 B.C. In the 1st century, early Romans published the first pie recipe, which was a goat cheese and honey pie with a rye crust. They carried this culinary idea to Europe.
The earliest pies were mainly meat pies made of lamb, duck or pigeon spiced with pepper currants or dates. They were were served as part of the dessert course. These early creations were probably more like galettes that were free-form circles of dough containing a filling. Pies were easily cooked over an open fire.
“Pyes” or pies existed in England as early as the 12th century, and they often had more crust than filling. The crust was simply used as a container and usually was not eaten, since it was quite hard. Two early types of English meat pies included Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie. Both were topped with potatoes. Fruit pies are noted in England in the 1500s.
English settlers brought their pie recipes to America, but contrary to what we may have been taught in grade school, there is no record that the Pilgrims ate pumpkin or nut pies at the first Thanksgiving celebration.
The Pilgrims and early settlers adapted the meat pie recipes to include local ingredients such as fruits and berries.
Pumpkin pie was first recorded in 1675 and was made with boiled squash that was spiced. It did not become popular until the early 1800s.
By the late 1700s, colonists had perfected sweet pies and a cookbook from the period provided several recipes. Subsequent cookbooks featured more and more sweet pie recipes making this pastry a unique form of American culture.
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) liked pies. His housekeeper, Katy Leary, was known for her delicious huckleberry pies. In 1878, during a trip to Europe, Clemens wrote in a diary that he did not enjoy the food he encountered and looked forward to meals when he returned to the United States. On his list of select dishes were apple, peach, mincemeat, pumpkin and squash pies.
Pies today are made with all sorts of ingredients.
It won’t be long until it is National Pie Day. On Jan. 23, you can join our nation of pie lovers by baking a pie to share with your friends and family. Slip this Raspberry Pear Pie recipe in a drawer, because it is a great way to celebrate the art of pie baking.
RASPBERRY PEAR PIE
Pastry for one-crust 9-inch pie
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup finely ground almonds
¼ cup flour
1 or 2 large pears, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen (or fresh) raspberries
¾ cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup butter
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in extract, almonds, and flour until completely moistened.
Spread mixture on top of the crust. Arrange pear slices on top of the nut filling, overlapping slightly.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until filling and pears are golden.
Meanwhile, combine ¾ cup flour, brown sugar and almond extract in a bowl. Cut in 1/3 cup of butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
Remove pie from oven. Sprinkle raspberries over pears. Spread topping mixture evenly over the berries. Return pie to oven and bake an additional 18 to 28 minutes or until topping is golden brown.
Serve warm or cold.
Store any leftover pie in the refrigerator.