Magpie Artisan Pie Bakery & Boutique on Philadelphia’s South Street is the brainchild of baker Holly Ricciardi. Her charming store quickly became a pie mecca with her famed pastries making it onto many lists for best pie in America.
For Ricciardi, her career change from successful advertising exec to pastry chef was a no brainer. Her childhood home was filled with the smell of sweets baking in the oven, and with pie being an institution in her native Pennsylvania (and a personal favorite), how could she not make her pastry shop debut with pie? Now, with the release of her first cookbook, Magpie, Ricciardi is bringing a little bit of that pie-making magic to home cooks everywhere.
In her book, she expertly breaks down the process that goes into making her famed pies, both sweet and savory. The novice pie maker need not be intimidated by decorating, baking, or crafting pies with Ricciardi’s detailed instructions and accompanying instructional photographs.For the more advanced baker, Ricciardi’s book has plenty to offer in the way of inventive flavor profiles and tips, like freezing your raw pie shell briefly before baking to prevent the crust from shrinking in the oven.
We had the opportunity to ask Ricciardi a little bit more about her cookbook, pies, and passion for baking.
The Daily Meal: What first drew you to baking? And pies?
Holly Ricciardi: Growing up, my family baked everything from scratch, so I learned the basics and gained a passion for baking at an early age. Even when I grew up and pursued a graphic design career I always found myself baking at the end of the day as a comforting activity. I realized that baking was what I should be doing full-time. When deciding what to specialize in, pies were very representative of central Pennsylvania, where I was raised, and I have fond memories of my family's pies.
How do you find your inspiration for the pies and flavors you create?
I do a lot of twists on classic pies, adding flavor profiles that complement the main ingredients and are sometimes a little unexpected. I took my grandmother’s butterscotch pie recipe, for instance, and added bourbon to it in our signature “butterscotch bourbon pie.” Our pecan as well is similar to a classic, but to cut the sweetness I add coffee and cinnamon to add more depth in our “Chocolate Coffee Cinnamon Pecan Pie.”
What is your advice for first-time bakers who are intimidated by the process of making pie?
Pie baking is not as hard as people think — it just takes time and patience. I find that many people are intimidated by the dough, but our recipe is extremely forgiving as long as you let it rest and keep it cold. Pie can also be done in many stages so if you’re worried it’s too big of a task to take on at once, make your dough ahead of time and keep it in the freezer; that way, when it’s time to tackle a new pie half of the job is already done for you!
What are some baking tools that you can’t live without?
A food processor for me is a must. I always make my dough in my Cuisinart food processor. It allows me to use frozen butter which leads to a beautifully marbled dough with visible bits of cold butter. A baking tool I canlive without is pie weights — we never use metal or ceramic pie weights to blind bake our crusts. Dried beans are a cheap, durable product to fill a crust all the way to the top to ensure a picture perfect crust every single time!
How do you hope readers will use this book?
I hope that readers will use this book as a guide to create their own pies. We have a lot of suggestions for spin-offs of the recipes we provide. I hope that if a reader finds a crumb topping recipe in the book that they love that they won’t hesitate to try it on different fruit pies, or put it on top of a hand-pie version of the pie.
What is the ultimate take-away for readers?
The versatility of pie. In comparison to other areas of baking, pies leave a lot of room to play around. With one dough, we create cream pies, fruit pies, quiches, or pot-pies. A lot of our recipes echo basic techniques, and once you get those down your options are endless!
Is there anything else you would like to share about the book or pie-making in general?
I think that a lot of peoples’ relationships with pie are very narrow. They either stick to a few safe, classic flavors or they only indulge near Thanksgiving. Pie can be made for any time of year, any occasion. Don’t be afraid to swap out a birthday cake with a birthday pie!
Want to try a recipe?
Cranberry Curd Mini Meringue Pies
Cranberries: so good and so underused! This lovely seasonal fruit is readily available in supermarkets throughout North America from mid-September through November, and way too delicious to be relished only in sauces and condiments. I love to throw cranberries into pies along with other fruit, but they also hold their own beautifully. Here, the berries make a gorgeous curd, with big flavor power from their innate tartness and great consistency from their natural pectin. Condensed milk brings sweet creaminess and lightens the color from dark garnet to deep blush pink. These pies are very refreshing at the end of a big meal — the perfect conclusion to a holiday feast. Feel free to top them with whipped cream instead of meringue. — Holly Ricciardi
The inspiration for this pie is hummingbird cake, a Southern classic traditionally made with canned pineapple. We use fresh pineapple, which, along with bananas, dried apricots, and a crumb topping made with coconut, pecans, and cinnamon, heightens the lush feel. In the dead of winter, a slice of this pie is like a quick trip to the sweet South. — Holly Ricciardi
Lime Custard Pie with Basil Cream and Pistachio Praline
Magpie Flakey Pie Dough
Magpie’s signature flakey pie dough is the perfect, tender base for all of Holly Ricciardi’s pie creations.
Smoked Gouda Butternut Squash Pie
Why do we eat Thanksgiving dinner only once a year? It’s one of my favorite holiday meals, so I turned the feast into cozy potpies. Keep some shells, filling, and stuffing in the freezer and you can whip these up in no time, anytime. — Holly Ricciardi