Dish Debate: Choosing the Right Pie Plate

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If you’re a baker, you may have noticed the variety of pie plates on the market. As with most cookware, there’s a lot of debate about which type is the best. Pie plates typically come in three different materials: metal, glass, and ceramic. All three can absolutely create a fantastic pie, so determining which is “best” is primarily based on personal preference. But, just like anything that’s up for debate, there are pros and cons to each.

Metal: Most metal pie plates available (also often referred to as pie tins) are made of aluminum, many of which are coated. Avoid using aluminum disposables, unless you are gifting or mass-producing pies. I’ve found that the lighter-colored aluminum pie plates work best.

• PRO: Aluminum pie plates heat and cool very quickly, making them an optimal choice for pies that require blind-baking or par-baking.

• CON: Aluminum plates, especially coated ones, are typically not knife-friendly, meaning if you use a knife to cut the finished pie, you will likely cut through or scratch the coating.

 

Glass: Glass plates are the number-one choice for many pie bakers that I know. They are inexpensive, easy to find, and predictable –- a good trait for a baking dish. I’m a big fan of glass plates with small handles, they are easy to rotate and remove from the oven.

• PRO: Glass heats at a slow, steady, and even pace, which promotes consistent baking and browning. The process might take a bit longer, but a perfectly baked pie is worth the wait! Plus, because glass is clear, you can see the browning through the bottom of the pan.

• CON: Glass plates have a tendency to “slip” and produce more dough shrinkage when baking. Your dough might look perfect when it goes in the oven, but then shrink during baking.

 

Ceramic: While ceramic plates are typically more expensive, they are usually my top choice. Ceramic plates, in my opinion, provide the best of both worlds — they conduct slow, even heat, similar to glass pie plates, but they also provide a beautiful serving vessel.

• PRO: Many ceramic plates are freezer-to-oven safe, a major advantage when you want to bake ahead. It’s very important that if you are freezing an unbaked pie, your dish can sustain the major temperature change from freezer to oven (if it can’t, your dish might shatter in the oven!)

• CON: Many standard ceramic plates come with a thick rim, which makes for easy fluting. While this is helpful in the decorative process, it has a tendency to brown much faster than the whole pie bakes. Have a crust protector handy! Ceramic plates also seem to be a bit larger in size, even if listed as “standard.” This could mean a bit more crust and filling, and slightly longer baking.

 

Choosing the right pie plate is important, but the oven is too! And not all ovens are created equal. Know your oven and check on your pie while it’s baking. If you have a “hot spot” in your oven, be sure to adjust. If your pie is browning too much, cover and rotate as necessary. I always keep an oven thermometer inside my oven to double check the temperature accuracy.



Five Pie Pit Stops for Your Summer Road Trip to Chicago

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I make a lot of pie, but I eat a lot of pie too. Fortunately I live in Chicago and great pie is not too hard to find if you know where to look. Whether you are visiting Chicago or you live there, here are five places worth stopping for pie.

 

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Apricot Crumble

Bang Bang Pie Shop (2051 N. California Ave): This hip little Logan Square pie shop specializes in two amazing things: pie and biscuits. The key lime pie was my favorite, until I had the apricot crumble –– it’s tangy, balanced, and just all-around amazing. And when you go, be sure to check out the outside “pie garden.” bangbangpie.com

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Lemon Meringue Pie

Hoosier Mama Pie Company (1618 W. Chicago Ave): This vintage-style pie shop in West Town serves up whole pies, mini pies, and pies by the slice. You can’t go wrong with anything served here, but my personal favorite is the lemon meringue. The store even serves “pie flights” on Friday nights. hoosiermamapie.com

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French Silk Pie

First Slice Pie Cafe (5357 N. Ashland Ave): This truly humble shop’s cause is just as good as its pie. First Slice, which operates as a nonprofit, serves up incredible handmade pies daily, all while feeding many Chicago families in need. With a well-stocked case, it’s hard to choose. But try the French Silk pie, and you won’t be disappointed. firstslice.org

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Royal Pie

Pleasant House Bakery (964 W. 31st St): This is the home of the “Royal Pie,” a bold name, but one these savory pies lives up to. It’s a small shop, a bit off the beaten path, but the English-style meat pies are absolutely worth the trip to Bridgeport. In fact, I love them so much that they are being served at my wedding in August! pleasanthousebakery.com

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PB & J Pie

Little Goat Diner (820 W. Randolph St): While Little Goat is not necessarily known for its pie, the mini PB & J pie is insanely delicious and worth saving room for. It’s made with a white-bread crust and strawberry jam and topped with peanut-butter meringue. littlegoatchicago.com



Time to travel! Tips for your next pastry promenade.

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At PieBox we’re always thinking about traveling with baked goods!  Transporting your precious treats, whether across the street or across the state, can be tricky if you are not prepared. With picnics, BBQs, and all kinds of other summer outings quickly approaching, here are some tips that will help get those baked goods safely to your final destination.

Decisions, decisions: When deciding what to bake, think about the length of the trip and the temperature outside. Does your pie need to be cold? Will your buttercream melt? Are you going to a park or someone’s home where there is refrigeration? Choose what you bake based on the answers to these questions.

In the scorching summer months, stick to fully baked fruit pies that are usually served warm or at room temperature. They can generally survive hot days — even if that means they’ll be sitting on a picnic table for several hours.

Save meringue pies for the cooler, less humid weather. There is nothing worse than a deflated meringue, and humidity is a meringue pie’s worst enemy.

If transporting a cake or cupcakes during the hot summer months or on a long trip, try putting them in the freezer for a half hour before you leave, and only take them out right before you set off. This will help keep your icing from melting.

Yep, you can carry-on and fly with your baked goods — I often do! Just be sure they are in a carrier. According to the TSA website, a passenger can carry pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but they are subject to additional screening.

Travel safe with you pie and cake!



Hooray for Gluten-Free Pie Crust Mix!

We were beyond excited when we learned about Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pie Crust Mix. Sure, GF pie crust was achievable before, but it was a bit hard on the grocery list. So now you have it, the perfectly packaged, pre-measured quantities needed for flaky, all natural, gluten-free pie crust. It’s impressive… easy to use and more importantly the the taste is spot on,  making it one of those GF items that most people won’t know is GF until you tell them!

Given the time of year, we decided to whip up a gluten-free sweet potato pie filling to fill the crust: RECIPE HERE! For those not familiar, sweet potato pie is really similar to pumpkin pie in terms of flavor and texture and is a Thanksgiving staple on many dining room tables. Kudos to the south for making it so popular.

Bob’s Red Mill is doing a very cool promotion right now where you can enter to win a bundle of awesomeness, including their new gluten free pie crust mix, a custom Bob’s Red Mill PieBox(!) and more… Easy As Pie, Check it out HERE.

GF Pie



Baking with Pumpkin

While pumpkin carving season is behind us, pumpkin baking season has only just begun! And we love baking with pumpkin… pies, cake, tarts, and muffins. The best pumpkin-baked goods are from scratch, using fresh pumpkin puree. Sound complicated? It’s not! Plus when you use a fresh pumpkin, as a bonus you get the seeds too! And they make for a delicious (and healthy) little treat.

PUMPKIN AND SEEDS

 

Pumpkin Puree, let’s do it.

1. Pick the right pumpkin: you want a sugar pumpkin or “pie” pumpkin. You can get them at most grocery stores during the fall months.

2. Chop off the stem and gut the inside (just like you would do if making a jack-o-lantern.)

3. Save the seeds! Wash and dry them, then toss in a bit of olive oil and salt then toast in a 300F preheated oven.

4. Cut your pumpkin in half, and then lay each side face down on baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast the pumpkin at 400F for about 45 to 55 minutes or until the flesh is tender and a table knife can easily be inserted.

5. Let cool, but while still warm, scoop of the flesh and puree with a blender or food processor. Discard the skin.

Done. You now have fresh pumpkin puree. Let  your pumpkin baking imagination run wild!



Bucktown Apple Pie

We love the fall for so many reasons…changing leaves, cozy weather, fall flavors and apple pie being baked in kitchens across America! One of our favorite annual events in Chicago is the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest. This year was the 9th annual contest and as usual, it was a lovely day eating crazy delicious pie from many talented Chicagoland bakers. Plus all of the proceeds from the event benefit the historic 100-year-old Holstein Park.

Congratulations to the 2013 finalists and THANK YOU for all of your delicious apple pie!

Bucktown Apple Pie



The Martha Stewart American Made Market

Last week we went to New York to be part of a pretty amazing event: The Martha Stewart American Made Market.  For three days, Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall was transformed into a beautifully curated market, featuring a handful of insanely talented small businesses. It was an honor for PieBox to be a business on that roster. If you missed it, no worries, you can still see (and purchase from) many of the Martha Stewart American Made sellers (including PieBox!) via the Online Store.

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There were so many amazing and beautiful goods at the market. Here are some of our faves from the show:

SAUSAGE   —  GROWLER  — SNAKE OIL  —  ORNAMENTS  

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The Great Apple Pie

We love fall for so many reasons… weather, colors, pumpkins, warm and cozy spices… but we really love fall because it’s the high season for apple pie. We get a lot of questions about apple pie, many about the process and construction. Here are some tips to make your next apple pie an easy-breezy process!

1. Cold Dough: Whether you use butter, lard or shortening, your pie dough needs to be chilled when rolled and formed. Warm dough is no fun; it will shrink and be more likely to break.

2. Uniformity in Apple Slices: Like when cooking anything, larger pieces cook slower and smaller pieces cook faster. To ensure uniform cooking, keep your apple slices around the same size.

3. Lattice or Cover? Either are great and make for a beautiful pie. Just be sure to cut vents if you are doing a full top crust.

4. The Prefect Golden Top: Use a cream-based egg wash to brush your top crust, then sprinkle with sugar. Many recipes (including ours) tell you to cover the top with foil after the first 20 to 30 minutes of baking… don’t skip this step or your crust will be too brown. And if you have an oven with “hot spots: rotating your pie is a good idea.

5. Apple Type: LOCAL! Apples picked locally or that come from a local orchard when in season are going to have the best flavor. Some of our favorites for apple pie making are: Granny Smith, Gala, Empire, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious and Pink Lady.

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Check out our apple pie recipe in the BAKE Section.

 

 

 



Meet Megan Branagh

She’s both a friend and an amazing pastry chef. Megan and Adrienne went to pastry school together and became instant friends when paired together to make muffins on the first day of class. (Thanks for that Chef Heidi!) Now, three years later they remain great friends who bake together often. We are thrilled to be sharing some of Megan’s brilliant recipes in our Bake section. Oh, and if you ever find yourself in Birmingham, Alabama, stop by Octane Coffee… Megan whips up many of their baked goods!

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Hi, thanks for stopping by.

 

Thanks for checking out our new blog and website. Here you will find lots of cool stuff that we love and think you should know about. But first, here is a little bit about us, the people behind PieBox. We are a creative team of three – two in Chicago and one in the great state of Tennessee.

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Together we create wooden boxes for carrying pastries – right now pie, cake and cupcakes specifically, but more to come…promise. Our products are designed to be simple and functional and we hope to make them part of your everyday life.  We are very lucky to have amazing and talented friends and are fortunate  to work with many of them regularly. We believe in and support American business, so rest assured that every product we sell is made  in the U.S.A.

And don’t be shy, we like hearing from you. Have a question, thought or special request? Email us, call us or you can even mail us a letter. Happy baking from the team at PieBox.