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How to Objectively Taste an American Pie - An Interview with Executive Pastry Chef Megan Garrelts

 
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Once you understand the story of the American pie, eating a slice of this classic will immerse you in a historical and cultural experience.

But to fully appreciate this centerpiece of Americana, the technicalities of texture and taste cannot be overlooked. 

To reach beyond our immediate reactions of "This pie is yummy" or "I don't really care for this pie," we challenged ourselves to find out:

What makes a truly good slice of American Pie?


We asked Megan Garrelts, Executive Pastry Chef of Bluestem & Rye Restaurants in Kansas City (and American Pie enthusiast extraordinaire!) to prepare us for the American Pie tasting experience. Chef Megan explains:

Pie Crusts

  • Crusts should be baked all the way through, yielding a light and flaky texture
    • Some pies are underdone (i.e., under-baked), making the crust fairly gummy and soggy, giving it a poor texture.
    • Overworking the dough is another big mistake. Overworking yields a tough crust. 
  • Crust color will vary.
    • A 100% lard or shorting based pie will have no color. 
    • All-butter crust pies will have the most color. 
    • Our pies are 50/50 lard & butter, so we have some caramelization and a bold blonde shade to our crust after baking. 
  • Crust thickness 
    • Contrary to what many of us believe from watching cooking shows, Chef Megan assures us there is no "industry standard" crust thickness.

Pie Fillings

American Pie fillings are, of course, just as important as crusts. Chef Megan says:

  • A filling that holds its shape when sliced is a good filling.
    • Whether fruit or custard, the filling should not sag or ooze out of the shape of the sliced crust when served. 
  • Flavor is also a must.
    • Flavor should be well balanced, not too sweet.
    • Too much sugar not only makes a pie too sweet, but also adds extra moisture that can cause the filling to fall out of the crust after slicing. 
 
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About Chef Megan Garrelts

James Beard Semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef

Recipes featured in Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Wall Street JournalSaveur, and more

Chef Megan's pie philosophy:

I don’t care for a lot of creative ideas when it comes to pies. Keep it simple, good, and approachable. Guests tend to buy a lot of pie at both Rye locations because our pies are approachable and nostalgic.

Chef Megan's favorite pies:

My favorite pie to eat is pumpkin pie. I love the autumn season and when I’m eating pumpkin I know the leaves will be falling soon (or already). My favorite pie to make is any fruit pie, like apple or nectarine. The process is a bit longer with peeling and prepping fruit than a custard based pie; the wait is half the fun!

Reflections on the American Pie

Apple Pie, nothing is more American and a staple in the cataloging of pies than that!


Have you learned something new? Do you have a favorite American pie? 

Tell us about it!

Check out Chef Megan's newest release: 

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Pin this post for your next pie tasting adventure!

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