Several weeks ago, while pie-binging my way through Texas, Illinois, Michigan, and back home again – all this for a story you’ll hear more about very soon – I encountered an old friend I hadn’t seen in quite a while: sawdust pie.
I first heard about sawdust pie way back when I was working on my pie opus – PIE: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie – and if the name didn’t exactly grab me, the ingredients did. How could a pie made with equal parts sugar, coconut, chopped pecans, and graham cracker crumbs – all the sawdusty stuff in sawdust pie – go too far astray?
At a glance, it’s hard to know what to make of sawdust pie. For one, it doesn’t fit neatly into any pie genre you’re familiar with. The texture is closer to a coarse cake or macaroon than anything pie-like. For another, the only liquid in most recipes for sawdust pie is egg whites – beaten, in rare cases, but typically not.
And yet, even while it defies pie logic and has a name that’s easy to resist, sawdust pie charms us with its unusual texture, one-of-a-kind personality, and great taste.
Most recipes for sawdust pie adhere to a pretty standard formula, but variations do crop up. Chocolate chips are sometimes added. I’ve seen extra graham cracker crumbs spread over the top – for what reason, I’m unsure. Vanilla extract appears to be optional, a touch of salt advisable, and I’ve started adding a little melted butter to my sawdust pie. I just like the richness and moisture that it adds.
But the variable that seems to have the greatest impact on sawdust pie is the total elapsed baking time, which varies, in recipes I’ve come across, from about 30 minutes on the low end to 45 minutes on the high. Thirty minutes, which I think is too little, will leave you with a crusted top but very moist interior just below; it’s barely done.
Forty-five minutes, on the other hand, makes for a more cake-like filling, something like you see in the photos here. The bottom part of the filling will still be moist, just not quite so. Be advised that my pie, pictured here, was baked in a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan. There’s a lot of filling, so you need to go big on the pan size.
One caveat: do cut the pecans by hand, and finely, rather than using the food processor. If they become too fine and powdery it will change the texture of the filling and make it a little drier.
I like my sawdust pie with ice cream and caramel sauce. At Raleigh, North Carolina’s Angus Barn restaurant, whose wonderful sawdust pie I had recently, they serve it with banana slices and a drizzle of caramel. Nobody’s going to argue if you serve it with fresh whipped cream, either.
OOPS! – BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Seems that more than a few of you missed our special holiday book promotion, whereby we were giving away one of Ken’s cookbooks to anyone who ordered $45 or more worth of merchandise from The Pie Academy Online Store over the holidays. (Read all the details here.)
Is that deal – you’ve been asking – still good?
Well, heck – why not? It’s close enough to Easter that we can safely call it our Big Easter Deal. So if you want to stock up on Ken’s cookbooks, look sharp in our Pie Academy apron, take on your pie dough with our gorgeous Pie Academy rolling pin (in maple, and now cherry) – then this would be the time.
Any questions, just give a holler by clicking on the Contact tab above. Can’t wait to hear from you.