Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mini Pies Cookbook: Interview with the Author

Somehow the word got out that my Grandma Frances liked chickens. As in, she liked to decorate with chickens. She received roosters for her birthday, tablecloths embroidered with a farm motif for mother's day, and hen pillows for Christmas. 

Finally, she had to come out and say it. 

Do NOT give me any more chickens!!


Over the past year and a half, I have been telling everyone I know that I want to learn how to make fan-freaking-tastic pie. 

It's not that I expect my friends and family to bankroll my new hobby, but I was hoping that pie could be for me what decorative chickens were for my Grandma Frances. 

My plan is working, and the gifts have slowly started to trickle in. 

One gift that I love? PIE COOKBOOKS

And I'm really excited to tell you about another:

Mini Pies by Christy Beaver & Morgan Greenseth
After reading it cover to cover, I settled on Aunt Jimma's Chocolate Meringue Pie.

Here's how it turned out.

Crust: flaky, flavorful
Filling: Just rich enough, smooth, chocolaty
Meringue: DID NOT WEEP

I loved it so much that I sent one of the authors, Christy, a message about it. 

She agreed to answer some questions about her book AND give me some pie pointers!

What inspired you to start your Seattle-based Mini Empire Bakery? 
Why did you decide to shrink desserts? 

We both grew up (in the South and Midwest) helping in the kitchen and learned to bake at a young age. After moving to Seattle, we noticed a need and a market for homemade baked goods. We also thought that most desserts have grown to a ridiculous portion size. We decided we should provide Seattleites with miniature artisan baked goods. Then one fall, over pumpkin beers, Mini Empire was born with a toast and a handshake.

I love all the creative combinations in your cookbook! 
Where do you get ideas for new flavors?

We like to push the boundaries, but try and remain within flavors that people will feel comfortable with and ingredients that are readily available. Often we will choose one obscure ingredient that we want to use and build the recipe around that. This takes a lot of trial and error.

How did you learn to make pies? 

I've always loved pie, but I only got into making it from scratch a few years ago. Pie is a challenge, as it's not something that young people make, and it can be labor intensive. I made plenty of "homely" looking pies before I made my first pretty one. My friends didn't seem to mind the ugly pies, and they helped me perfect the crust and fillings. It just takes lots of practice. It's really fun to arrive at a party with pie and watch people's joyous reactions as they realize there is PIE to be had. That inspired me to keep trying.

What are your favorite pie making tools?

Trusty rolling pin and a tart pan for cutting mini crusts are essential. I really like the mini cookie cutters because the possibilities are endless. The little cutters allow me to personalize pies for any occasion.

Any tips for me? 
(I am terrible at making meringue... any thoughts would be genuinely appreciated)

Regarding meringue, no matter what you've heard, this isn't impossible. A stand mixer with a whisk attachment is completely necessary. After your first successful meringue, the cost of that mixer seems TOTALLY justified.

Tips people won't tell you:
1. The egg whites HAVE to be at room temperature. So separate them from the yolks and put them in a metal bowl. Then you can feel what temp they are at.
2. If you get any yolk in with the whites, remove it. A tiny bit of yolk can sabotage the whole project.
3. When it’s time to add the sugar, do it really gradually... a sprinkle at a time. I portion out the 5 tbsp into a tiny bowl so I don't lose count, then use the tablespoon to sprinkle it in bit by bit.

What's your favorite pie?

Aunt Jimma's Chocolate. Hands down. It's the most labor intensive pie, but man is it worth it. )I just made it yesterday but added chipolte chilis for the new book-crazy good!) This recipe is an old family recipe and originally I didn't have permission from my family to publish it. So I was trying other chocolate pies for the book. They paled in comparison to Aunt Jimma's.I didnt feel good about publishing a less-than-amazing recipe, so I wasnt going to include chocolate pie at all. I eventually got permission to use it as long as Aunt Jimma got credit for it.

What's next?

We are working on a second book through the same publisher that encompasses Mini Desserts across the board. Mini cookies, muffins, cupcakes, bundts, brownies, whoopie pies,everything! It will be out next fall, in time for Christmas.

If you want to buy Christy and Morgan's book, you can do so here or here. It would make a great little gift for Valentine's Day!

Later this week, I'll be posting Christy's favorite recipe for Aunt Jimma's Chocolate Meringue Pie.

*I was not paid anything for this review. I just love the book so much that I want to share it with you. Big huge thanks to Christy for answering my questions!!

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