Prep for Holiday Pie Season with These 4 Tips (and a New Recipe)

Take your fall baking to the next level with simple and effective pie-making tips from Kate McDermott's new cookbook, Art of the Pie.

The chill in the air can mean only one thing: It’s pie season. If you’re a pie veteran, someone who rolls up his or her sleeves and pulls on an apron enthusiastically each fall, we’ve got the perfect book for you. And if you’re a pie rookie, someone who shudders at the thought of crusts crumbling and fillings overflowing, we’ve got the perfect book for you too. They’re one in the same: Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott.

Art of the Pie is full of tips that are as simple to implement as they are effective in taking your pies to the next level. It features all the classics you’d expect to find (Blueberry Pie, Quintessential Apple Pie, Lemon Meringue and Pumpkin Pie, to name a few) as well as some new and some forgotten dishes, like a Shaker Lemon Pie, Chess Pie, and rhubarb paired with spices and berries and custard — oh, my!

McDermott is a veteran at coaxing the best out of pie bakers (experienced and novice alike) at Pie Cottage, the studio where she teaches the recipes and techniques featured in Art of the Pie. Our favorite bites of advice are below, as is McDermott’s recipe for Cranberry Pie (pictured above) for you to try at home.

Here are our picks for the best of McDermott’s pie-making tips:

1: Freeze smart now to bake easier later

“You can make and freeze fillings in pre-formed discs, which can later be placed directly into a waiting, unbaked pie shell,” McDermott explains in the book. Simply line an empty pie pan with plastic wrap, freeze your filling, double-wrap and label it before deep-freezing until use. “When it is time to bake, pull the disc out of the freezer, unwrap and place it, unthawed, into an unbaked pie shell in a pan that is slightly larger than the frozen disc. Be sure to add 15 to 20 minutes extra baking time.”

2: A sheet pan can save you from soggy bottoms

“I set a baking sheet in the oven during the preheat and place the pie directly on it so that the bottom crust can get a good blast of direct heat when it begins its bake,” McDermott writes. “This can help with the dreaded soggy bottom.”

3: Pie need not be fussy or frilly

“Frozen fruit may be used in fruit pie. Do not thaw frozen fruit but use it as if it were fresh when making the filling. Thawed fruit will make a pie that is very runny,” McDermott writes. And her secret to her best apple pie? “I don’t peel apples as most skins become soft in the baking, plus their tannins add flavor to the pie.”

4: Variety is the spice of life

McDermott’s other trick to make exceptional pies (especially apple, but this applies to her mixed fruit fillings as well) is to vary the filling components. She elaborates on her sampling for her Quintessential Apple Pie: “A mix of six to eight different varieties, some for tart, some that hold their shape, and some that don’t, will give you a pie with exceptional flavor and texture.”

This is just a small glimpse at the wealth of delicious knowledge that Art of the Pie offers its readers. Get all the recipes, plus McDermott’s rules for pie and for life, and all the confidence you need to transform your pie game, in your very own copy of Art of the Pie.

Cranberry Pie

Try this cranberry pie in the fall or winter when you are craving the bright taste of a sour cherry pie. Add pecans to this filling if you’d like, as well as some orange zest or liqueur, and serve it with champagne. There is a lot of naturally occurring pectin in cranberries, so not much thickener is needed.

Yield: One 9-inch shallow pie


1 quart, about 4 cups (396 grams), whole cranberries, fresh or unthawed frozen, divided

1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) cornstarch

A pinch or small grating of freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon (a pinch) salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh orange zest or 1 tablespoon (15 grams) orange liqueur

1/2 cup (60 grams) chopped walnuts (optional)

1 recipe double-crust pie dough

1 knob butter, the size of a small walnut, cut into small pieces for dotting the top of the filling

1-2 teaspoons (4-8 grams) sugar, for sprinkling on top of the pie

Egg Wash: 1 egg white plus 1 tablespoon (15 grams) water, fork beaten


Place 3 cups of the cranberries in a food processor and pulse until they are slightly chopped. In a medium bowl, place the chopped and remaining whole cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg, salt, zest or liqueur, and optional walnuts, and mix well.

In a pie plate lined with an unbaked pie dough, pour in the cranberry filling and dot with butter. Roll out the remaining dough, lay it over the fruit, and cut 5 to 6 vents on top, or cut strips and make a lattice top. Trim excess dough from the edges and crimp.

Chill the pie for a minimum of 1 hour before baking. Lightly brush some of the egg white wash over the entire pie, including the edges.

In an oven preheated to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), bake on the middle rack for about 40 minutes. When there are about 10 minutes of bake time left, open the oven, pull the pie out, and quickly and evenly sprinkle the top of the pie with sugar. Close the oven and bake until the crust is just golden, or until you see steady bubbling coming out between the vents.

Remove the pie from the oven and cool completely before serving.

Related Links:

How to Make a Perfect Souffle

How to Make the Best Cinnamon Toast

Cinnamon Bun Dough, 5 Ways

50 Things to Make in a Muffin Pan

Recipe and image reprinted with permission from Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott, a publication of Countryman Press, © 2016.

Image credit: Andrew Scrivani.

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