LRF jumped at the chance to chat with Indiana native Paula Haney who founded Hoosier Mama Pie Company in 2005 after serving a pastry chef at several of Chicago’s finest restaurants. Haney’s book “The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie: Recipes, Techniques, and Wisdom from the Hoosier Mama Pie Company” just came out from Evanston’s Agate Publishing (August, 2013) giving aspiring pie-makers the chance to try Paula’s recipes at home. And if you live in Chicago? For those days when home-baking can’t happen, you can always visit Paula’s pie shop at 1618 W Chicago Avenue, in Ukrainian Village, or, her new shop in Evanston on Chicago Avenue.
LRF: I love that you are approaching pie with the same serious intent you approached your high-end desserts! Can you give us a favorite example of where you took the average pie and found an even better way to make it?
PH: Really, the apple pie. We spent so much time on that. You can’t open a pie shop without a pretty spectacular apple pie. You want a really moist filling with a crispy crust and it took a long time to figure out how to get that every time. The apple pie we developed, including macerating the apples in sugar, starches and five-spice seasonings and then creating a thickened sauce with the juices before baking, takes three hours from start to finish. We wanted to make it simpler and faster, but there really isn’t a shortcut way to do this.
LRF: Five-spice in apple pie—yum!
PH: Yes! When I was working at Trio in Evanston, Chef Della Gossett loved putting apples with five-spice, so the idea started with her. It adds a little heat from the pepper and a little more interest from the star anise. So, its still a traditional apple pie in most regards but a little more exciting.
LRF: Any other examples of favorites gone one better?
PH: Doing a lemon meringue pie with passion fruit instead of lemon! Passion fruit was something I didn’t encounter much when I was growing up in Indiana. So as a fine-dining pastry chef, I was just blown away by it. When I made the decision to leave fine-dining to open a pie shop, it was one of the ingredients I thought, “Well, I’m going to miss that!” But then it occurred to me, “If lemon meringue pie is good, why wouldn’t passion fruit pie be even better?” We use lemon curd for our lemon meringue, so, I developed a passion fruit curd using the same technique. It’s more exotic than lemon, but close enough that people are willing to take the leap and try it. We use it in three different pies now: Passion Fruit meringue, Strawberry and Passion Fruit Chiffon and Blackberry and Passion Fruit Chiffon Meringue.
LRF: You come from a family of pie-loving Hoosiers who celebrate holidays–and even birthdays–with pie. Do you have a favorite birthday pie?
PH: When I was little, I wanted things that were over the top for my birthday. So, I remember asking for lemon meringue.
LRF: You’ve also shared that pie was the first thing you learned to make. Tell us a little bit about those early pie-making adventures.
PH: I was maybe six or seven and my mom made an apple pie with me, I thought it was so cool. I remember being amazed at how good just the apples and cinnamon and sugar tasted, so I went back to the kitchen the next morning and tried to replicate that. I cut up some apples and mixed them with cinnamon. But I forgot the sugar so that was a taste shock!
LRF: What was the most valuable thing you learned early on about making pies?
PH: Just that when you make a pie, you’re on pie time. You can’t rush it. To make a good pie, you need to plan to give yourself plenty of time.
LRF: Piecrusts: They are the reason most home cooks don’t home-bake pies. You confess in your book that even as a pastry-chef at a fancy four-star restaurant, it took you an entire summer to really hone in on a crust you were happy with. For all those home cooks who won’t spend a full summer to get there, what are your key tips to making a good crust?
PH: I’ve included a lot of them in the book, but most importantly: Do not overwork the dough in the food processor. You never want the dough to come together in the machine. The other thing? If at all possible, give yourself the time to let the dough rest overnight so that the gluten relaxes. It is so much easier to deal with pie dough if you let it rest overnight.
LRF: What about how to avoid a soggy crust?
PH: We suggest freezing several of the filled-pie varieties before baking, and then baking the pie from frozen. What happens then is that the bottom of the pie bakes first, building a natural barrier to the juice. The filling thaws and then doesn’t soak in to the crust. Another thing we do is sprinkle fruit pie bottom-crusts with “pie dust” –equal parts sugar and flour, before filling and baking some fruit pies.
LRF: For those who are still working their way toward rolled-crust confidence, making a pie with a crumb crust seems to be a happy alternative. You’ve got some really fun versions–from graham, peanut and pretzel, to chocolate wafer. Can a crumb crust be made with almost any cookie crumb?
PH: Yes! That’s how we started. We took our regular recipe for a graham cracker crust and just used the same 1-2-3 ratio (1 cup graham cracker crumbs, 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, 3 Tbsp melted unsalted butter) with other kinds of crumbs. I’d love to do an animal cracker crumb crust one day! You may find that different kinds of cookie crumbs result in a crust that’s a little too wet or a little too dry. If it’s too dry, just add a little bit more melted butter. If it’s too wet, you can add a bit more crumbs, or sprinkle in a Tbsp or two of flour.
LRF: One challenge I’d love help with is getting the slices of pie out of the pan cleanly for prettier presentation. How do you do it?
PH: Honestly? It’s unusual for anyone to get that first slice of pie out of the tin really looking that good. But to help with the rest of the pie: for a regular crust pie, we recommend that you lightly coat your pie tin with cooking spray and dust it with flour. (With a crumb crust, coat the pan with butter first.)
LRF: At Lost Recipes Found, we’re all about reviving the recipes people miss most. So we love that you’ve dedicated an entire chapter to forgotten “Desperation Pies” like the Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie and Buttermilk Pie–things that can be made in the middle of winter with very little in the larder. Can you talk to us a bit about those pies?
PH: I just thought it was neat that these old pies are really “poor” food but taste so yummy. The Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie is a really homely-looking pie, but so delicious—a little like crème brulee or melted caramel ice cream. In Indiana, recipes for this pie are closely guarded and passed down from generation to generation, with each family claiming theirs is best. We feature two of them, one which—somewhat controversially—has both white and brown sugar in it. And the other is my mother-in-law Sandie Siegelin’s sugar cream, passed down to her from her mother, Marteena Martin of Carbon, Indiana.
LRF: Your book is bulging with more than 120 recipes and techniques—I imagine there were a few more that either didn’t make the cut, or, that you loved, but developed after your deadline. Can you give me an example of each?
PH: Absolutely. There was a vinegar pie that almost exactly mimicked lemon meringue, but it was SO close to lemon, it seemed pointless to include it. And we have not yet come up with a version of Shoofly Pie that we really like, so we’re still working on that. But there is one pie that we really wanted to include in the book that came through just a little too close to deadline: it’s a white chocolate toasted coconut chess pie one of our former team members, Lindsay Zamora developed for us that is pretty amazing.
LRF: Speaking of coworkers, I understand Allison Scott, who works alongside you at Hoosier Mama, developed the savory pies in your book. I have to say, they are just as appealing as the sweet pies, which is no small feat! (As a native Texan, I HAD to give your Frito chili pie a whirl and was delighted with the results.) What is your current favorite savory pie?
PH: Right now my favorite is the tomato pie, with the tomatoes we’re getting from the farmers market. For each pie Allison roasts 6 pounds of tomato. There are caramelized onions, basil leaves and parmesan in there. And she tops it with a salt-and-peppered lattice crust. So good, and so beautiful!
Makes 1, 9-inch pie
Curried Winter Vegetable Pie Ingredients
- 1 double-crust pie crust, unbaked
- 1 celery root, peeled and chopped into equally-sized cubes
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into equally-sized cubes
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into equally-sized cubes
- 1 – 2 medium turnips, peeled and chopped into equally-sized cubes
- 1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced into 1/4 inch slivers
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp sweet curry powder, plus more to taste *(Spice House, Evanston is a great source for this!)
- 1/4 tsp ground mace
- 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 2 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 2 Tsp granulated sugar
- 2 Tsp snipped Italian flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup dried currants
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- In a large roasting pan, toss the cubed celery root with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.
- Remove celery root from onion and add sweet potatoes, carrot, turnip and onion along with the rest of the olive oil. Season with more salt and pepper. Roast for another 45 to 55 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes, until vegetables are fork tender.
- While vegetables roast, combine vegetable stock and milk in a saucepan over high heat. Stir occasionally, until hot to the touch, but not boiling (about 5 to 7 minutes.)
- On another burner,in a heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in curry powder, mace and cayenne pepper and cook for 2 minutes to bloom the spices. Whisk in the flour. Cook until the flour has had a chance to toast and takes on a slightly nutty aroma (about 3 to 4 minutes.)
- Whisk vegetable stock/milk mixture into the roux. Scrape sides and bottom of the pan and continue to whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat; stir in the citrus juices, sugar and parsley. Adjust seasonings. Combine curry sauce with 4 cups of the roasted vegetables. Add the currants. Chill in the refrigerator for 1hour.
- Once cool, pour the filling in to the pie shell. Top with second crust, cut slits (steam vents) through the top crust; freeze the pie for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 400 a second time.
- Place frozen pie on baking sheet. Brush the top of the pie all over with egg. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, rotating 180 degrees every 30 minutes, until the crust is medium golden brown and the filling is heated through and bubbling through the vents slightly. Note: Toward the end of baking, you may need to cover the edges of the pie with a crust guard or foil to prevent burning the crimped edge.