Owning a restaurant and catering events daily, you would think that a meal in my home would be a no-brainer. Well — it isn’t. Apparently, the proverb “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” is applicable in my case. It happened Christmas day.
Our big family Christmas get-together wasn’t until Dec. 30, but on Christmas Day we still had two of our children and my parents in town, so we planned a small dinner for them. About mid-afternoon, I realized that I had not planned anything for dessert — and one must have dessert on Christmas Day!
I went to the pantry to see if I could pull something together. I had plenty of things to make a cake with, but time was short (and I was tired) so simplicity had to be the major ingredient. I found a box of Bisquick that wasn’t expired, some coconut and I was in business.
The Impossible Pie, a recipe I haven’t thought of in probably 40 years came to the rescue. Mix it in a bowl, pour it in a pie plate and bake. I had forgotten just how good this simple pie was. Everybody loved it and they were none the wiser that it wasn’t planned.
In the world of “Cupcake Wars,” “Boss Cake” and whatever other shows are on television, simple, tasty, quick recipes, like The Impossible Pie, get buried under long ingredient lists and impressive presentations. So I decided to revisit some of the older pies that Mama would “throw together” at the last minute and in the process discovered a new one.
First thing: a simple pie starts with a ready-to-bake pie crust. Turn your nose up if you like, but unless you make pie crusts on a regular basis, just buy one, or bake a crust-less pie. I can make a pie crust. They’re very easy, but quite frankly, they’re ugly and I can’t put ugly food in the newspaper — too often.
The next thing a simple pie requires is basic ingredients; the staples — the things you have on hand most of the time. The Chess Pie is an example of a simple pie. No one really knows where the pie name or pie originated, but its simple ingredients (eggs, butter and sugar) are things all cooks would have on hand, even during the period of wartime rations and economic collapse.
When I was thinking of pie recipes, I had to include this pie my Mama used to make that I learned to love and to make at a young age. It was the Shoney’s fresh strawberry pie, but Mama put a twist on it and made it with strawberry-banana jello and bananas or bananas and strawberries. Man, I loved that pie!
I searched through a lot of old recipes and, of course, Pinterest, and kept asking myself, “Why do we have to make everything so hard these days?” So many simple, delicious pies just standing in the corner waiting to be asked to come to dinner, but being ignored. In the process I ran across what may now be my favorite pie, Blueberry Cream Pie, and my staff’s new favorite, Atlantic Beach Pie.
I hope you’ll find a go-to recipe for your momentary lapse of planning or just for a quick dessert when you need one.
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie’s Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to sophiesmarketplace.com.
Impossible Coconut Pie
The “impossible” part of this recipe is that it makes its own “crust” as it bakes.
• 1 cup flaked or shredded coconut
• ¾ cup sugar
• ½ cup Original Bisquick mix
• ¼ cup butter, softened
• 2 cups milk
• 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
• 4 eggs
1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 9-inch pie plate with shortening or cooking spray.
2. In medium bowl, stir all ingredients until blended. Pour into pie plate.
3. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until golden brown and knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover and refrigerate any remaining pie.
• 1 frozen (9-inch) deep-dish pie crust
• 1 cup water
• 1 cup sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1 (3-ounce) package strawberry-banana gelatin
• 4-6 cups sliced fresh strawberries and bananas
• Whipped cream, optional
1. Pre-bake pie crust according to directions on package and set aside to cool.
2. In a sauce pan, over medium-high heat, add water, sugar and cornstarch. Whisk constantly until it boils and begins to thicken slightly.
3. Whisk in the strawberry banana gelatin, cook a minute more and remove from heat.
4. Distribute sliced fruit evenly in cooled pie crust. Pour glaze over fruit.
5. Refrigerate until set. Top with whipped cream, if desired.
Old-Fashioned Chess Pie
• 1 (9-inch) deep-dish pie shell
• 1 ¾ cup white sugar
• ½ cup butter
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 4 large eggs
• 1 tablespoon cornmeal
• ¼ cup whole milk
• 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
2. In a large bowl, mix sugar, butter and vanilla extract until fluffy.
3. Add in the eggs, cornmeal, milk and vinegar and beat well.
4. Pour filling into unbaked, thawed pie crust. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until set in the middle.
Blueberry Cream Pie
Adapted from Bunny's Warm Oven blog. Allow time for this pie to be in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour after it has cooled. If you have time, make it the day before for optimal flavor!!
• One prepared 9-inch deep dish pie crust
• 11 ounces fresh blueberries or 2 cups frozen, thawed and drained well
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 2 eggs, well beaten
• 2/3 cup sour cream
• ¼ cup sugar
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• ½ cup all-purpose flour
• ½ stick butter, cold and cut into tiny cubes
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Place the blueberries in the unbaked pie shell and set aside.
Make the filling:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour and salt.
2. Add eggs and sour cream and whisk until well blended.
3. Pour sour cream mixture over the blueberries evenly.
Make the topping:
1. In small bowl, combine white and brown sugars and ½ cup flour.
2. Using a fork or a pastry cutter, cut butter into the mixture until it resembles crumbs.
3. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the surface of the pie.
Cook the pie:
1. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until lightly browned. It will continue to set as it cools.
2. Remove from oven and place on a wire cooling rack. Refrigerate after it cools.
Atlantic Beach Pie
• 8-inch pie pan
For the crust:
• 1 ½ sleeves saltine crackers
• 1/3 to ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
• 3 tablespoons sugar
For the filling:
• 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
• 4 egg yolks
• ½ cup lemon or lime juice, or a mix of the two
• Fresh whipped cream and coarse sea salt for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Crush crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until crumbs hold together like dough.
3. Press into an 8-inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.
4. While the crust is cooling (it doesn't need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients.
5. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.