The Pie Project: A Summary

December 29, 2019

The Pie Project is complete. We started the year of 2019 with two new pie plates and a dream. It’s now 52 weeks later and EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY of the year (except once when we had to bump it to Monday due to travel and the Sunday after Thanksgiving when there were still too many leftovers so we doubled up the next Sunday) we have had at least one pie. Plus a few extras on other days. We’ve learned how to make a good pie crust. We’ve learned that you can take any dessert or yummy food that you like and type it into Google followed by the word “pie” and you’ll get a recipe. We’ve learned that Annie and Kate are chocoholics, Ellie is a cinnaholic, and Leah is just weird.(okay, we knew that). We’ve learned the value of experimentation (see: Cannoli Pie) and trying something downright weird (see: Lucky Charms Pie, Honey Lavender Pie). We’ve tried everything from a traditional cherry pie to something called Maple Bacon Cream Pie with Waffle Crust. Most of all, we’ve learned how many wonderful pies are out there, and how much variety there is. Even among the subcategory of chocolate pies, we have had some great variety, from the Chocolate Strawberry Oasis to the Nutella to this week’s Chocolate Lava.

People have asked us often throughout the year “What’s your favorite pie you’ve tried?” It turns out, the answer to that question is more difficult to answer than you would think. The answer is different for different people (Annie is sure that for her it was the Thin Mint Brownie Cheesecake), and frankly, there were very few pies this year that were anything short of awesome (the Butterscotch Banana Cream Pie and the Arizona Sunshine Pie come readily to mind, though the former might have been user error, and the latter threw an entire lemon, rind and all, into a blender – so how good could it have been?).

The other common question we’re getting is “Are you going to keep going?” The answer to that question is no. The Pie Project will end at the end of 2019. There will not be pie next Sunday. We have had a blast doing this, talking to our friends about it, and most of all eating the pies. But it’s been a bit of a burden asking each Saturday, “Okay, what are we doing for pie tomorrow?” and frankly, although there are still several good-looking pies still out there on our list (Passionfruit Chiffon Pie, Zebra Pie, Lemon Buttermilk Pie, Salted Honey Pie, Chocolate Milk Pie, Sugar Cream Pie, etc.) we kind of feel like we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. The follow-up question, of course, is, “Well, if not pie in 2020, what are you going to do? Cookies? Ice Cream?” We don’t have a plan yet. We might not do anything. We might make a few of our favorite pies of 2019 again. We might find some other crazy desserts to make. Don’t pressure us!

At the end of this satisfying project, here in a handy-dandy list, in chronological order, are the 71 pies of the Pie Project. Thanks for reading!

  1. Oatmeal Pie
  2. Hot Chocolate Pie
  3. Atlantic Beach Lime Pie
  4. Chocolate Fudge Pie
  5. Strawberry Pie
  6. Chocolate Pudding Explosion Pie
  7. Apple Pie
  8. Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Mousse Pie
  9. Butterscotch Banana Cream Pie
  10. Unicorn Pie
  11. Marionberry Pie
  12. Oreo Cream Pie
  13. Brookie Pie
  14. Cinnamon Pie
  15. Peanut Butter Pie
  16. Arizona Sunshine Pie
  17. Cannoli Pie
  18. Blueberry Sour Cream Pie
  19. Easter Pie
  20. Lucky Charms Pie
  21. Chocolate Strawberry Oasis Pie
  22. Triple Key Lime Pie
  23. Chocolate Truffle Pie
  24. Chocolate Marshmallow Ice Cream Pie
  25. Chocolate Vanilla Pudding Pie
  26. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough “Ice Cream” Pie
  27. Apple Pie II
  28. Chocolate Malt Shoppe Pie
  29. Peach Crumble Pie
  30. S’mores Pie
  31. Strawberry Pie II
  32. Chocolate Fudge Pie II
  33. Cherry Pie
  34. Cookie Dough Pie
  35. Donut Pie
  36. Honey Lavender Pie
  37. Thin Mint Brownie Cheesecake
  38. Blueberry “Cheesecake” Pie
  39. Orange Creamsicle Pie
  40. Triple Layer Lemon Pie
  41. Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie
  42. All the Berries Pie
  43. Pineapple Pie
  44. Roadside Blackberry Pie
  45. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Pie
  46. Butterfinger Pie
  47. S’more S’mores Pie
  48. Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Pie
  49. Cinna-Bacon Apple Pie
  50. Texas Flood Pie
  51. Maple Walnut Cheesecake
  52. Halloween Candy Cookie Pie
  53. Nutella Pie
  54. Ghost Chocolate Pudding Pie
  55. Apple-Pumpkin-Cinnamon Roll Streusel Pie
  56. Maple Bacon Cream Pie with Waffle Crust
  57. Sweet Potato Pie
  58. Brownie Pie
  59. Costco Pumpkin Pie
  60. Cereal Killer Pie
  61. Atlantic Beach Pie
  62. Chocolate Ganache Pie
  63. Cranberry Gingersnap Pie
  64. Apple Pie III
  65. Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
  66. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough “Ice Cream” Pie II
  67. Candy Cane Pie
  68. Dutch Cranberry-Apple Pie
  69. Lemon Curd Pie
  70. Gingerbread Cheesecake
  71. Chocolate Lava Pie

Chocolate Lava Pie

December 29, 2019

After Christmas, we fell into a very relaxed state of life and we almost forgot about the fact that we needed one more pie on Sunday! Kate wasted no time in stating that she wanted a chocolate lava pie, with a gooey chocolate middle. So we found one.

Behold, the final pie of the Pie Project!

The task of making the pie fell to Shelly and Matt (though Kate helped a little). Matt made the basic standard butter-and-butter-flavored-shortening crust we’ve decided is our new go-to. Shelly did the filling, which was basically melted chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, and a bit of flour and salt (which added a nice kick). We ate it while it was still warm from the oven, with some absolutely necessary vanilla ice cream. Kate, the stinker, didn’t finish her piece, but the rest of us agreed it was great. It reminded us a lot of Kate’s Chocolate Fudge Pie from earlier this year, but this was definitely lava-ier. The leftovers might last us till 2020.

The middle was basically chocolate goop, and could not be eaten without vanilla ice cream.

Gingerbread Cheesecake

December 22, 2019

For quite a long time now, Matt has known that he wanted to make the Martha Stewart Gingerbread Cheesecake for his last pie of the year. It’s festive, fun, decadent, and gives us an excuse to make gingerbread cookies!

The fact that we got to decorate it was just icing on the pie!

The crust is made of crumbled up gingerbread cookies. Because Martha Stewart’s recipe didn’t get the best reviews, Matt found an alternative recipe online and made that. The cookies were soft and spicy and delicious. Martha recommends just baking a boring old rectangle of dough, since you’re just going to crumble it up anyway, but where’s the fun in that? Matt and the girls had fun making Christmas stegosauruses, Christmas pumpkins, Christmas cars, and so forth with our varied cookie cutters. Then we crushed them and pressed them into the pan. The filling was a basic cheesecake with molasses (one of Matt’s favorite flavors and one of Shelly’s least favorite) and ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

It didn’t set up quite as well as it could have, but nonetheless the desired effect was achieved. Christmas cheesecake. Shelly even said, “I don’t like gingerbread, but I like this.” That’s about the highest compliment it could get.

Lemon Curd Pie

December 15, 2019

The year is littered with the bodies of the lemon pies Shelly tried, in search of the perfect lemon pie. Arizona Sunshine Pie. Triple Lemon Pie. Atlantic Beach Pie. The Arizona Sunshine Pie turned out to be one of the few failures of the year, and the Triple Lemon was nothing to write home about. Although the Atlantic Beach Pie was universally beloved, she still didn’t feel like we had THE lemon pie. She kept searching, saying that what she really wanted was a lemon bar in pie form (she could have literally just made a lemon bar in pie form – the shortbread crust would have been awesome). Then she found it: the Lemon Curd Pie.

That’s a cheerful pie!

There wasn’t anything particularly special about the crust (we used the crust recipe from the pie recipe), but the filling got it just the way she was looking for. Tart, tangy, light, smooth, and full of lemon flavor. To some people it was a little too lemony. But it’s exactly what Shelly wanted. She said it was like taking a taste of sunshine, and she was talking about how much she loved it for days afterwards. Mark this one down as the definitive lemon pie (non-custard variety; Atlantic Beach wins for best lemon custard pie).

Dutch Cranberry Apple Pie

December 15, 2019

We had so much success at Thanksgiving with the Cranberry Gingersnap Pie and the Apple Pie that Ellie decided for her final pie of the year to just combine the two. We found a recipe for Dutch (meaning: crumb topping) Cranberry Apple Pie, which was basically a bunch of apples and fresh cranberries, spices, and butter in a pie crust.

Cranberries are the world’s most beautiful fruit.

But the key ingredient, which seemed a little odd at first, was orange zest. At first, we wondered if it really needed to be included – after all, this was an apple/cranberry pie, not an orange pie. But it turned out the orange zest made the pie. With the warm spices and various fruit flavors – including the citrusy tang of the orange zest – what this became was wassail in pie form. It was Christmassy and comforting and zesty. Served warm with a little whipped cream, there’s nothing better on a cold winter night.

And of course Ellie went all-out with the sugared cranberries, orange slice, and cedar sprig from our yard.

Candy Cane Pie

December 9, 2019

Annie was slated for pie the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but there was still a good amount of leftover pie, so we decided to shift her back a week. That made it December, which means Christmas, which means candy canes.

It looked even better as a whole pie, but we forgot to take a picture till it had been sliced.

Candy Cane Pie is a wintery festive concoction based principally on cream cheese, instant pudding mix, and gelatin. Chocolate chips, crushed candy canes and a bit of peppermint extract give it a Christmassy chocolate-mint flavor. It’s topped with a layer of white chocolate ganache, semisweet chocolate drizzle, and snowflake sprinkles (and more crushed candy canes). Standard Oreo crust.

The flavor of the pie was wonderful. Cool, creamy, minty, and chocolatey. The consistency was a little less wonderful. It was a bit goopy and clumpy in some spots, and a bit runny in others. When you cut a slice out of the main pie, the side of the slice that you left behind started leaking juices (tasty juices, but a little less than appetizing-looking). The white chocolate ganache layer probably could have used a bit more cream to make it softer, because it was hard to cut through, both to slice the pie and to eat it. But what a way to kick off Christmastime!

Thanksgiving 2019: Six Pies

November 28, 2019

The pies of Thanksgiving 2019

This whole Pie Project really had its genesis last Thanksgiving. We made a bunch of pies throughout the month of November 2018 and that led to the decision that we needed to own more pie plates, and that led to the Pie Project as a way to put them to good use. A year later, after establishing pie as our be-all-end-all for the year, we knew we had to do something epic for Thanksgiving. We decided the way to go would be to have six pies, bringing our total for the year up to 66 pies. Each family member could choose one pie. It could be a repeat of a pie we’ve already had this year, or it could be a new one. As it turned out, we had two repeats and four new ones. In no particular order:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough “Ice Cream” Pie

Even lovelier than the one from June

Leah’s choice was the re-creation of the pie which prompted a friend to say “This is the best pie I’ve ever had in my life!” There is no actual ice cream in this pie, but it’s a frozen mixture of cream cheese, Cool Whip, cookie dough balls, and chocolate chips in an Oreo crust. It was one of the more popular pies of Thanksgiving, especially among the younger set.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

There is light-colored peanut butter hiding under that lovely chocolate ganache, promise.

Annie’s choice was the traditional chocolate peanut butter pie we have had every Thanksgiving for many years, but hadn’t included in the Pie Project till now. It’s essentially a buckeye candy in pie form: a powdered sugar/butter/peanut butter mixture for the filling, a chocolate ganache topping, and an Oreo crust. This was the first pie to be all gone – the kids went crazy on it on Black Friday afternoon.

Apple Pie

The prettiest pie of the year? Yup.

Someone had to make sure that there was an apple pie at Thanksgiving, so Ellie and Matt kind of combined forces. Technically, this was Matt’s choice, but Ellie accepted his suggestion for her choice. This is the traditional apple pie we’ve been making for a few years now, but with a new crust that we’ve discovered during the Pie Project, made with both butter and butter-flavored shortening. In order to make it special, Matt made the top a couple of days in advance and spent quite a long time on it. It’s hard to braid pie dough, but check that out. Breakfast the next day was awesome.

Cranberry Gingersnap Pie

The sprig of green came straight from our backyard. The sugared cranberries look great too.

What’s Thanksgiving without cranberries? But no one likes the cranberry sauce that keeps the shape of the can. This pie, suggested by Matt but technically chosen by Ellie, was the talk of Thanksgiving. We all expected it to be good (well, those of us willing to eat non-chocolate pies), but it exceeded all of our expectations. The filling is a cranberry curd made by boiling down fresh cranberries with water and sugar, and then mixing with egg yolks and lemon juice. The filling was tart and sweet and smooth and an incredible color. The crust was made from crushed gingersnap cookies (specifically Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger cookies) and a bit of walnuts. It was sharp and spicy and just the perfect compliment to the filling. Never before has a pie had such strong and distinctive flavors competing between the filling and the crust. I’m not sure we can ever have Thanksgiving without this pie again.

Chocolate Ganache Pie

This pie, chosen by Kate, has been a favorite of the family for Thanksgiving for some time. The filling is two different kinds of chocolate, heavy cream, and eggs. The crust is a chocolate pie crust (basically regular pie crust but with cocoa). Then it’s all topped off by whipped cream and chocolate shavings. It is heavy and rich and you can’t eat a very big slice – or even a very big bite – without gasping for milk. It’s a chocolate lover’s dream.

Atlantic Beach Pie

It looks like the crust reaches higher than the filling, but that’s just more room for whipped cream.

Finally, Shelly chose an Atlantic Beach Pie, which was one of the pies we chose for Thanksgiving last year that inspired us to look for more unusual pies, and led to the pie project. One of the first Pie Project pies in January was a lime version, but the traditional lemon version is better. It’s just about the perfect lemon pie. The filling is essentially the same as a key lime pie, except lemon: lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks. The crust is saltine crackers, sugar, and butter. We crushed too many crackers and were eating the sweet, buttery, crunchy mixture for a couple of days afterwards. The salty crust is the perfect complement to the sweet, velvety, lemony filling.

Black Friday Pie Party

As has been our tradition for several years now, we once again hosted a Black Friday Pie Party: Bring your leftover pie to share. We had a good crowd show up this year, and we got a lot of good pie out of it. Some of the memorable pies to make an appearance (which don’t count toward the Pie Project because they were made by other families): berry pie, chocolate cheesecake, pecan pumpkin pie, and Costco pumpkin pie (which somehow we ended up keeping nearly the whole pie), sour cream cheesecake, and many more. It was a tasty evening of awesomeness.

Cereal Killer Pie

November 24, 2019

Apparently Leah has decided that she has to do weird pies. We made a lot of suggestions of traditional or only moderately unusual pies, but she wasn’t having any of it. Till she found a suggestion for Cereal Killer Pie. Perhaps it’s a “killer pie” made with cereal? Leah was all in.

The pie is cream cheese and sour cream based, with Fruity Pebbles mixed in. Frosted Flakes are sprinkled on top for some crunch. And the crust is made of Nilla Wafers. That’s five weeks in a row we’ve had a new crust that we haven’t tried before (cinnamon rolls, waffles, butter flavored shortening, chocolate pie, and now Nilla wafers).

“I look so great in this picture!”

Everyone agreed that the crust was actually the best part. It was a very smooth consistency for a crumb crust, and the flavor wasn’t strong but it was pleasant. The filling was quite tangy with all the cream cheese and sour cream, and that meant that it wasn’t everyone’s favorite. The Fruity Pebbles (and the marshmallows – Leah thought she would pull a fast one on us and get a box of Marshmallow Fruity Pebbles) got a little soggy and limp inside the filling, but they looked great and they did a great job of imparting their fruity flavor to the whole thing. The Frosted Flakes were crunchy and nice – we could have used a few more of them. Definitely points for weirdness.

Now we move into Thanksgiving week. The plan is that each of the six family members gets to pick one pie. It can be, but doesn’t have to be, a repeat of a pie we’ve done before. But will six pies be enough?

Costco Pumpkin Pie

November 17, 2017

It’s autumn. We haven’t made a pumpkin pie (the sweet potato pie of last week doesn’t count). Costco’s pumpkin pie is out. Costco charges $5.99 for a giant pumpkin pie. Costco’s pumpkin pie is better than anyone’s homemade pie. So when Matt was at Costco this week for other purposes, he picked up a pie. That’s all the explanation necessary.

It’s lovely, isn’t it?

Ellie spent the next week eating pumpkin pie for breakfast every day. Because that’s the way she rolls.

Brownie Pie

November 17, 2019

It’s not that Kate isn’t creative – it’s just that she knows what she likes. Another iteration of chocolate fudge, this week it was Brownie Pie. This pie featured a chocolate pie dough that we got from a neighbor some time ago, but haven’t ever used in the Pie Project. It’s got most of the main ingredients of pie dough plus chocolate, and it comes out kind of like a solid chocolate cookie. It’s great.

You can see the shine of the goopy middle.

Inside this great shell was something that was more akin to warm half-baked brownie batter than it was an actual brownie. That is to say, it was incredible. We made 1.5x the filling of this recipe (to fit our large pie pan), which meant we baked it a little longer, and we left out the walnuts. We served it warm, and it was goopy and smooth and fudgy and all of us were reaching for the vanilla ice cream and milk. One does not simply eat a slice of Kate’s Brownie Pie without a glass of milk handy. It was very similar to the Chocolate Fudge Pie she made in the spring, but that was one of the universally acknowledged best pies of the year, so apparently this one was too.