Suzi's Blog

Cookbook Review: Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott


This is not a brand new cookbook, 2012, and it’s still far too young to be a Throwback Thursday offering, so I’m just tossing this out to you because it’s so very delightful. And, officially, it’s fall. For many of us, fall is pie season. We may avoid spring berry pies and summer custards, but all of us succumb in the fall. There’s Thanksgiving, of course, and just about no one can pass up a silky pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Or fall apples baked to pie perfection.

Born and raised and living in the South, Nancie McDermott knows pies and Southern pie tradition. Southern Pies is filled with recipes, both familiar like Black Bottom and distinctively regional like Peanut Butter Banana Cream.

Beyond the recipes, this book is a treasure of research and history. Nancie has drawn on her own expertise plus historical books and other dessert experts. The result is this compendium of wonderful pies that you rarely see north of the Mason-Dixon Line. In fact, many of these treats are rare now even south of the line. To find them, you need to visit home bakers, or diners off the freeway, or the pages of dusty books lying on the shelves of small antique stores.

But there is richness here and pie ideas to try throughout the year and particularly in the coming holiday season.

From a friend Suzen and I have in common, Stephen Schmidt, Nancie presents an Almond Custard Pie made with a dash of rosewater. Stephen is a baking guru with insights in British baking and how it came to America and morphed in the new land.

It is, in fact, the colonial and British roots that so permeate Southern recipes. In Southern Pies you will find dashing recipes for:

  • Butterscotch Pie
  • Cream Apple Pie
  • Pecan Chiffon Pie
  • Lemon Chess
  • Sweet Potato Pie
  • Buttermilk Pie
  • Molasses Pie

You can have apple pie, or you can have Cream Apple Pie. It’s worth a test drive. And the many recipes here for sweet potato and chess variations can keep you busy for more than one fall pie season.

Coconut was, and remains, an ingredient dear to Southern bakers. Pies, and cakes too, appear in all kinds of coconut variations in Southern recipe books. Here you will find a Creole Coconut Pie made with white wine or apple juice. And there’s the Amazing Coconut Pie where a coconut custard is poured into a pie tin and, as it bakes, the pie creates its own crust. Quick, easy, and very Southern.

The Buttermilk Pie reflects multiple Southern traditions. Real buttermilk, not today’s manufactured product, is the leftover from churning to make butter. That leftover, the buttermilk, could safely sit without refrigeration. And frugal Southerners, without a refrigerator, would use buttermilk in many ways, from biscuits to pies.

Lemon, coconut, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts appear on almost every page of Southern Pies. Chocolate pies are here too, but chocolate is a “recent” addition to the typical Southern pantry. If you want to be orginally Southern, you should try the Molasses Pie. You’ll enjoy this Southern Pies for both its recipes and its description of our pie heritage.

Southern pie baking in rural areas was a way to use every last bit of the energy of a fire. After the meat and bread were baked, then, when the oven was still warm, a pie could be nestled into the oven for a slow and final bake. That “use-everything-and-use-it-well” philosophy is reflected in these recipes. A custard may be a simple idea, but perfectly made and meticulously flavored, each bite is to be relished and remembered. Southern Pies shows you how very many ways that flavoring can be achieved.

Yes, Suzen and I are going through the book page by page. One of these gems will grace our Thanksgiving table. We’ll let you know. Honestly, I don’t think I can get Suzen to bite on the Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie. But maybe in your household?



Cinnamon Sugar Scone from One Bowl Baking

They are there. And they are not moving. Last night’s rain has weighed down the falling leaves and a rake, not the wind, will be the solution to a messy looking yard.

Before you go outside, something warm and sweet would give you just the incentive needed to put on gloves and start swinging that rake. These scones are lovely. Easy to make, because they come from One Bowl Baking, they are soft, rich, and permeated with cinnamon flavor.

Truth is, we double the amount of cinnamon sugar filling and used it both in the layers, as indicated in the recipes, and sprinkled on top. No butter, jam or other adornments are needed. A cup of espresso is a desirable mate.

These scones are a treat but save for just a day or two. So, having a second one before you venture outside is perfectly wise.

Cinnamon Sugar Scones

Yield: six 4-inch scones


For the scones:

  •  1 ¾ cups (8 ¾ ounces or 245 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  •  ½ teaspoon salt
  •  8 tablespoons (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into ½ inch cubes
  •  ¼ cup (60 mL) half-and-half, cold
  • 1 large egg

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar to sprinkle on top


Place an oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

To make the batter, in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the dry mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal, but is not clumping up. Stir in the half-and-half and egg until combined.

To make and use the filling, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10 x 6-inch rectangle. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon over half of the rectangle, then fold it in half. Roll the dough out again into an 8 x 6-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon over half of the rectangle, then fold in half.

Pat the dough into a 6-inch circle and cut into 6 wedges. Evenly space the wedges on the pan, sprinkle with sugar, and bake until golden and just firm, 15 to 17 minutes.

Let the scones cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sources: One Bowl Baking by Yvonne Ruperti Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/10th second at ISO-3200