LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
We hold these truths to be entirely edible. America loves pie. We the people, a nation of bakers and eaters, value the art of creating crispy crusts, wheat, fruity and maybe even fluffy filling, and each region of the country reserves its right to its own distinctive recipes. This week, we're focused on pie in America and this morning we turn to Adrienne Kane. She's written the cookbook "United States of Pie."
Adrienne Kane, welcome to the program.
ADRIENNE KANE: Thank you so much.
WERTHEIMER: Now, you brought us two pies from your book, yes?
WERTHEIMER: What have we got here?
KANE: Well, we have a chocolate raisin pie - and that's from the West Coast. And then we have a Bakewell pie, which is from the Northeast.
WERTHEIMER: What is a Bakewell pie?
KANE: Well, a Bakewell pie is adapted from the common English dessert, Bakewell tart. And I found the Bakewell pie recipe in an 1886 cookbook called "The Unrivaled Cookbook and Housekeeping Guide." And it's a raspberry jam on the bottom, and then an almond meal sponge on top. It's not too sweet, so it's kind of perfect for breakfast, if you like that sort of thing, and I happen to like that sort of thing.
WERTHEIMER: Oh, boy. Me, too. OK. So, let me just cut a piece of the Bakewell pie. Let's see. OK. Shall we sample?
KANE: Of course.
WERTHEIMER: Oh, that is really good. It's very buttery, and with a sort of tart jam on the bottom. And, as you say, it's sweet, but it's not too sweet.
WERTHEIMER: Now, here we have - I'm now going to slide the chocolate pie over here and cut it.
WERTHEIMER: This pie is really beautiful. It's a sort of dark brown, crusty looking chocolate with, like, another beautiful crust.
KANE: It's sort of like a brownie in a pie. And it has that wonderful combination of chocolate and raisins. You know, think Raisinets. And it's obviously from the West Coast - actually, from Southern California. It comes from the fact that California is grape country and raisin country. And it's sort of an adaptation of using what's around you.
WERTHEIMER: Mm. That's very good, too.
KANE: It has a little bit of cinnamon in it and a little bit of coffee, because I feel like the coffee granules, the bitterness adds a nice balance for all of the sweetness.
WERTHEIMER: For all of the sweetness. Yeah. I know this is an awful question to ask, but who do you think - what region do you think really has the best take on pie?
KANE: Oh, my gosh. Put me between a rock and a hard place. Well, I grew up in California, so I'm obviously partial to the West. But the West, most of the pies are fruit-based. But I think that the Midwest truly has that ingenuity. It has a lot of pantry staples, a glut of dairy products, and so a lot of sort of cream and meringue-based pies, which are really sort of - I was reading through recipes, and thought over and over again I can't believe they made something sweet and delicious out of virtually nothing.
WERTHEIMER: Now, apple pie - I liked your Western Breakfast Apple Pie recipe. I thought that looked good. But I must say the best breakfast apple pie I ever ate was an apple caramel pie in Bloomer, Wisconsin. But I was very intrigued with the apple pie recipe sack pie.
KANE: That is an intriguing recipe. You bake the entire pie in a large paper bag. And so it steams the fruit, and the fruit becomes very tender. And then at the last moment, you take it out of the bag and finish it off in the oven and just sort of brown the crust and the top.
WERTHEIMER: So it sits in a paper sack?
KANE: It sits in a paper sack. If you bake this pie, it sort of smells papery in your kitchen for the first half-hour or so. But I will tell you that it doesn't taste papery at all.
WERTHEIMER: Do you have a favorite?
KANE: I do have a favorite. Well, today my favorite - there were so many favorites. Today, I would say that my favorite is the Concord grape pie. And that's from the Northeast, and just this lovely sort of berry sweet tart. It's not so much grape-y as it is sort of - I tell people that it's like blackberry pie without the seeds.
WERTHEIMER: Hmm. Now, I suppose you must be hearing from a lot of people who say: How could you leave out X? Is a consensus developing that you should not have left out?
KANE: There's not too much of a consensus. I think there's something - some recipe for everyone in that book, and they'll sort of forgive me for forgetting, you know, their favorite pies in the hopes that they have found a recipe in the book that they love.
WERTHEIMER: Adrienne Kane's book is called "United States of Pie." Thank you for coming in, and thank you for these wonderful pies.
KANE: Oh, you're so welcome. I wish every week could be pie week.
WERTHEIMER: Recipes for some of the pies we talked about are at npr.org.