By Sara Johnson
It’s sometimes said that cooking is an art, while baking is a science. So it follows that two scientists took it upon themselves to write a modernist cookbook, complete with exacting instructions and six pages of recommended equipment.
The pies in The New Pie: Modern Techniques for the Classic American Dessert (Clarkson Potter, 2019) by Chris Taylor and Paul Arguin are not the ones you bake when you have apples in your fruit bowl that need to be used. These are the recipes you shop and plan for. The authors implore readers to follow their recipes to the letter (or at least, if a substitution goes awry, “please don’t blame us”), but at the same time are lighthearted about the process. In the introduction to the “New Cocktail Pies” chapter, for example, the authors write: “Let’s hope you have a well-stocked liquor cabinet. Not just for these pies, but in general. We’re looking out for you and want you to be happy.”
Some pies are familiar, while others test the definition of “pie.” Think Fizzy Root Beer Float, which features Pop Rocks to achieve that carbonated feel, or Saturday Morning Cartoon Cereal, topped with edible spoons.
More than a half-dozen recipes in the book call for a sous vide immersion circulator and accompanying water bath. “We use sous vide for pie fillings because fruits can be cooked to the point where they no longer taste raw but still maintain their structure,” the authors write.
The recipe for the book’s cover-star, an à-la-mode slice of The Apple, calls for filling and cooking two sous vide bags: one with apple (both wedges and grated) with lemon juice, salt, sugar, and cinnamon, and another with apple scraps. After cooking, the juice is separated from both bags. “By using the sous vide technique, not only can you assure that the fruits are cooked perfectly but you can also pre-thicken the fruit juices before the pie is baked,” the authors write.
Other sous vide pie recipes include Crazzberry, Maple Blueberry, Shaking Up Shaker Lemon, Rhubarb-Gooseberry, Italian Plum Affogato, and the cocktail-inspired Old Fashioned Cherry. The lesson for those who love modern cooking innovations and pie? You can relish what’s always worked, but test entirely new methods like sous vide to create exciting new outcomes: “While we are passionate about the tradition of pie, and enjoy the flavors and techniques beloved by generations of pie makers, we don’t believe that pie should be confined to what pie has always been.”
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