dispatches from pie land

berry pie 4

Joey makes me valentines in February, and I make him fruit pies in July. It keeps the peace.

And so I’ve gotten better at pie. Passable, at least.

This last week, our whole world has filled with black raspberries. I made a bunch of batches of pie crust at once (so easy with this recipe), and every time we head down to town or out for a walk, we bring some sort of container. So there’s been a lot of pie.

dog with berriesBerry Picking 1

Berries with Danskos

My basic formula is somewhere between 6 and 8 cups of berries, 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, the zest and juice of a lemon, and a heaping 1/4 cup cornstarch. Black raspberries tend to appreciate a bit of spice, so this week’s pies have had cinnamon and ginger in them too.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever make beautiful pies, but I do make a pretty tasty one. I thought I’d take a moment here, just to go over a few of the pie basics I’ve learned over the years. Years ago I started out feeling like pie was something I just couldn’t do, and now it’s one of my favorite things to bake. If I can get there, anyone can. So here’s a few tips and tricks, just in case your world is full of berries, too.

Berry pie 1 berry pie 2

Berrie pie 3


1. Start with this dough, and double or triple the recipe. Then you’ll have crust in the freezer, and it will feel so easy. This dough isn’t finicky or intuitive at all. It just works.

2. Keep it all cold. It’s a cruel trick that the best time to make pie is also the worst time to make pie. Pie dough doesn’t like the heat, so you need to coddle it a little. Keep it in the fridge until the moment you’re ready to roll it. Put the whole pie back into the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before you bake it. Even chill your hands under cold water before you touch the dough. Take every opportunity to keep the butter cold.

3. Don’t over-sweeten. Keep your pie tart, and add sweetness with the ice cream. Then you avoid the weird syrupy fruit quality that makes people think they don’t like fruit pie.

4. Make pie on ordinary days, not just for special occasions. Then you get to eat it for breakfast.

5. Keep your eyes out for berries. In some places of the world right now (like my place), they are everywhere. For free.  If you can’t pick enough for a pie at once, throw them in the freezer and collect them there until you have enough. Don’t wash your berries. Find them somewhere where they don’t spray. (The side of the road is perfect for that.)

Hello from pie land over here. We’re heading up to Maine for a few days, but I’ll be back with more pie, most likely, and a new site, too! Hope all is well in your corner of the world.




  1. Melanie says

    “I’m not sure if I’ll ever make beautiful pies” This line made me laugh, because the first thing I thought when I saw the top picture was “what a gorgeous pie!”. Hope my pies turn out as pretty!

  2. ceci says

    Second Melanie’s comment – your pie looks lovely, so full and rich! I wish black raspberries grew along my roads…..


  3. Penelope says

    Thank you! (I am the clueless Australian who asked for a pastry recipe on Instagram.) It’s perfect pastry-making winter weather here, and I have a cupboard full of fruit I canned in summer, challenging me to find a way to use it. Pie seems like an excellent solution.

  4. says

    I very much want to make at least one beautiful pie in my lifetime. At least with every failed attempt I get to eat pie.

  5. Sarah says

    Yes! Pie for breakfast! And for birthdays. For my 40th this June, it was rhubarb pie – and there was enough left for breakfast the next morning. Yum.

  6. says

    You know, I still struggle with pies….. but since I recently realized that I could make my own mayonnaise, there’s always hope! You inspire me, always.

    New site notes:
    love the look, and the new shot of you (plus MORE shots of you), but when I click on the individual posts, pictures aren’t loading. Might just be me, it often is. I’ve refreshed and tried to come at this from several angles, FYI.

    • alanac says

      Yes, yes- mayonnaise! Pie will come :)

      And thank you so much for your feedback, Julie. Working on the photo issue now!

  7. Lisa M says

    I, too, love the new look of your site! And I also can’t get pictures to load. I want to know how to get my pies that pretty! I use your crust recipe and it tastes great but never looks that pretty.

    • alanac says

      Thank you, Lisa! We’re working on the photo issue right now- I promise!
      And I’ve definitely found over the years- that my pies have gotten better as I’ve taken the need for cold seriously. I now chill my hands under cold water, and I chill the pie before I bake it, and I even slip it back and forth out the fridge as I go. That’s made a HUGE difference.

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