“Easy as pie” is a saying that bugs me to no end.
In culinary school in 2011, I first learned how mind-numbingly difficult it was (for this cocky cook, at least) to make a pie.
After braying in frustration upon learning I wasted a full class on failed doughs, I decided to abandon the French methods in favour of sage baking wisdom from my Nan.
I uncharacteristically gave my grandmother a call to interrogate her about her pie shells and the methods she used to get that flawless crust.
“I never made what you would call a pie, Terry” Nan said. “What I makes is tarts.”
I stifled a groan and thanked her regardless, continuing my search for the perfect pie dough on the information superhighway.
In my hubris I assumed there was a methodology for pie making that would suit me, and all I had to do was discover it.
I pored over every pie recipe I could find, and found surprising variation – pie doughs made with ground nuts and honey, pies crafted using lard instead of butter or shortening, and even pies from the tropics that called for coconut oil.
All these and more turned out to be horrible failures and my inflated ego was forced to stare into the abyss of the ugly truth – I was terrible at making the baked good famous for its lack of difficulty.
The abyss stared back.
Through this research and practice however, I came to discover some recipes for a lot of delightful pie fillings I had never dreamed possible. I unearthed gems such as key lime, rocky road, Florida moon coconut – but my all-time favourite was for a pie filled with a rich and decadent filling similar to that of pecan pie.
It was called walnut-raisin.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. Raisins and walnuts in a pie? For real? Why, though?
I thought the same thing when I first came across the obscure formula. Regardless, having the ingredients handy, I tried out the following recipe. I call it:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 ½ cups corn syrup
- 4 eggs
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup raisins
- 1 unbaked pie shell
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 3 tbsp. flour
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and fill pie shells ¾ of the way full of filling, being sure to stir contents to avoid raisins and walnuts sinking to the bottom.
- Bake for roughly 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let cool for 15-20 minutes, allowing it to firm as it cools.
- Yields two pies.
To this day, I still attempt to make a pie about three or four times a year and in accordance to the apparent will of the universe, the only pie I end up eating is a slice of proverbial humble pie.
I’ve gotten good at making the dough, and my assembly can get exceedingly artistic with some snowflake designs and even a few adult cartoon characters (I literally tried to make a Rick Sanchez pie last year) but as soon as they enter the oven, some bizarre pie-oriented Murphy’s Law kicks in and they either overbake or erupt like angry boils.
This walnut-raisin pie is the only pie I make on a regular basis because it goes particularly well in a premade pie shell, and it’s one of the only sugar-rich baked goods that provide a full balance of flavours and textures.
If you’re like me and struggle with pies to the point of it being surreal, I highly recommend baking this pie at home.
If you’re a self-professed pie expert, chances are a slice of humble pie will do you some good as well.