One Pie Lesson and You’ll Never Fear Dough Again
From her start as “pie baker to the stars” at Malibu Kitchen in California back in 2001, Beth’s pie expertise has expanded far beyond that little seaside cafe. The author of the bestselling cookbook, “Ms. American Pie: Buttery Good Pie Recipes and Bold Tales from the American Gothic House” and the memoir “Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie,” has taught pie-making to celebs like Marie Osmond, Cristina Ferrare, and Eve Plumb (aka “Jan Brady”). She has taught Japanese businesspeople in Tokyo, kids in a South African township, and groups of at-risk high school kids. She has done countless pie demos — often on live television.
During her round-the-world trip of 2015, she taught pie classes in New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, India, Lebanon, Switzerland, Germany and Hungary as a way to spread happiness and promote cultural understanding. In addition to teaching classes, she made 75 pies for the American Embassy’s 4th of July Party in Bangkok, and delivered a dozen pies to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon. By taking her class you will hear stories from her travels as well as about her adventures living in the American Gothic House, where she lived and ran the Pitchfork Pie Stand from 2010 to 2014.
While Beth isn’t offering regularly scheduled classes any longer, she is still available for a pie class if you organize your own group. Howard will either travel to you or host you in her kitchen on a farm — aka CAMP DOUG(H) — in Southeast Iowa. The four-hour session includes hands-on instruction, ingredients, and baking time. There is time for personal discussion, and enjoying coffee and a slice of pie. Each person leaves with their own finished large pie (usually apple) and often a little extra. Because classes are held on a working family-run farm, you might even get to pet a goat, cuddle with a baby pig, or ride on a tractor. Beth will also sign books. Ages 5 and up. Great for families, birthdays, book clubs, and bridal showers.
If you have a large group event (like a trade show, corporate function) but no oven to bake pies, Beth can do a demo of how to make a pie from scratch, using her easy-to-learn, no-fuss techniques and shortcuts. One-hour session. Flat rate, plus travel fee. Price varies.
How about doing a pie class with your book club? It’s the same four-hour session as the group class, but with some added discussion and Q&A about Beth’s books and the writing process.
PRIVATE PIE CLASS
A four-hour private class in your home or other baking-friendly space for one to four participants. Flat rate, plus travel fee.
CHARITY CLASSES/ DONATIONS
One of the most important aspects of pie is sharing. Therefore, Beth often donates her time to teach at-risk youth, grief groups, and others. Please contact for further information.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for dates and availability.
Making Pie is as…Well, Easy as Pie!
Butter or lard? How long do I knead the dough? How many apples? Flour or cornstarch to thicken? How do I keep the dough from sticking or cracking? How do you get that shiny glaze on top? How do I know when my pie is done? These are some of the many questions Howard answers in her pie lessons. She will demystify the art of making dough, help you become a whiz at rolling out a thin crust, and you will leave with your confidence so buoyed you will never, ever buy that pre-made stuff from the store again!
Remember, pie is not about perfection! Pie should look homemade. So just go for it and have fun.
Three tips for easy dough: 1) Use enough water so your dough is pliable (dry dough cracks and is hard to roll), 2) Don’t overwork the dough or it will become too tough to roll, 3) Use flour liberally when rolling to keep it from sticking.
Beth’s Apple Pie Recipe
2-1/2 cups flour (white all-purpose)
1/2 cup butter, chilled
1/2 cup Crisco (or other brand of vegetable shortening)
Dash of salt
Ice water (fill one cup but use only enough to moisten dough)
In a deep bowl, work the butter and shortening into the flour with your hands until you see marble-sized lumps form. Think mixed nuts, but no bigger than almonds. Add ice water a little at a time, sort of “fluffing” the flour. Keep your movements light, as if you are tossing dressing into a salad with your hands. When the dough feels moistened enough, do a “squeeze test” and when it holds together you’re done. Do not overwork the dough! It takes very little time and you’ll be tempted to keep touching it, but don’t! Now divide the dough in two, form each half into a disk shape and roll flat and thin to fit your pie dish. Sprinkle flour under and on top of your dough, and keep rolling surface and pin free from gunk to keep dough from sticking. Trim excess dough to about 1 inch from the dish edge with a scissors.
7 large Granny Smith apples, peeled (depending on size of apple & size of pie dish, have about 3 lbs. available)
*It’s also okay to use a variety of apples, try Braeburn and Royal Gala. Do not use Fuji or Delicious, they are too juicy and have no taste. Approximate rule of thumb is 3 pounds of fruit per pie.
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
Dash of salt
1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon (depending on how much you like)
1 tablespoon butter (put dollop on top before covering with top crust)
1 beaten egg (you won’t use all of it, just enough to brush on pie before baking)
Slice half of the apples directly into the pie, arranging to remove extra space between slices. Cover with half of your other ingredients (sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt), then slice the remaining apples and cover with second half of ingredients. Add dollop of butter on top, cover with top crust, seal and crimp edges, then brush with beaten egg (this gives the pie a nice golden brown shine; be careful not to let egg pool in crevices.) Use a knife to poke vent holes in the top (get creative here with a pattern), then bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn oven down to 375 degrees and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes until juice bubbles. Keep an eye on it as it bakes. If it gets too brown turn down the temperature. To be sure it’s done, poke with a knife to make sure apples have softened. Do not over bake or apples will turn mushy.
For helpful troubleshooting pie tips see Beth’s article on Culinate.com.
For video instruction check out The World Needs More Pie YouTube page.
Testimonials to Howard’s Pie Lessons
“My husband now thinks I’m a domestic goddess. After eating the pie I brought home from you class he couldn’t keep his hands off me. Thanks for the inspiration!” — Pie class student, summer 2015
“This was one of the most enjoyable afternoons I’ve had in ages — and the best looking pie I’ve ever made! Thanks!” — Oma Blaise Ford, Senior Deputy Editor/Home Design, Better Homes and Gardens
“I had a great time last night. You did an excellent job. I’d much rather be baking pie this morning than working on a 50-slide Powerpoint presentation.” — Julia Beck, Marketing Manager, Daimler/Mercedes Benz
“My sister was so impressed with my pie, I may make another tonight for my friend who just had a baby. Your pie making lessons are having a ‘ripple effect’ on the world.” — Jennifer Anderson, Senior Reporter, Portland Tribune Newspaper.
“My pie is DELICIOUS – if I do say so myself. Thanks for the great evening and for the introduction to the world of pie.” — Susanne Flother, Co-founder, Somnium Mattresses
“I wanted to thank you for taking the time and teaching us ladies how to bake. You are absolutely wonderful.” — Eliana Pianko, Financial Advisor, Morgan Stanley
“It really was a fun party and I found it incredibly relaxing — a nice escape from daily life!” — Frauke Venema, HR Manager, Daimler AG
“Best apple pie I ever tasted — and I made it myself!” — Melissa Forman, TV producer