Cookbook Review: Dinner Pies

by Ken Haedrich
Food Photographs © Melissa DiPalms

Facts: Harvard Common Press, 272 pages, $40.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $16.21, Kindle $9.99)
Photos: 25
Recipes: About 100

The weather is cooling; winter is around the corner. What a convenient time to release a book about savory pies. Ken Haedrich “can scarcely remember a meal that I felt could not have been improved by putting some sort of crust over, under, or around it.”

The man is a self-proclaimed crust junkie. This is his 15th cookbook. “Pie,” released in 2011, was dubbed a “masterful pastry tome” by The New York Times.

Dinner Pies from Shepherd’s Pies and Pot Pies to Turnovers, Quiches, Hand Pies, and More” opens with Haedrich sharing the why and wherefores of his favorite tools, i.e., pie and tart pans, baking sheets, rimmed or rimless, removable bottom etc.

He is very detailed and deliberate in these first 8 pages for the benefit of less experienced bakers — a result of his years as a cooking teacher. Following the review of equipment, he continues with insights about the ingredients, i.e., why use butter, when to use shortening, which cheese works best for which pie? and lots of insider tips about the dough itself — even how to successfully get the dough into the pan. A reader can’t help but pick up a tip or two or ten.

The recipes are more diverse than I’d imagine, beginning with thirteen recipes for doughs and pastries: Cornmeal Pie Dough; Tender Buttermilk Biscuit Crust; Yeasted Butter Pastry; and Flaky & Sturdy Hand Pie Pastry, just to name a few. The fillings are approachable: Curried Chickpea & Rice; Kale, Potato, & Ricotta; Creamy Red Potato & Parmesan; and Moroccan Lamb. In addition to globally-inspired pies, he presents traditional savory pies (Shepard’s, Cottage, Chicken Pot Pie).

You can find out more about Haedrich and find recipes on his website The Pie Academy . Throwing a holiday party? You may want to pass a platter of his Mini Hot Crab Tarts .


Mini Hot Crab Tarts
Cook time
Total time
You’ve had hot crab dip before; this is hot crab dip in your own private pastry, a delectable little two- or three-bite nibbler that’s the perfect party appetizer. Not only do these taste incredible, they can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated. Just arrange them on a baking sheet and reheat for about 10 minutes in a 300°F oven just prior to serving. This recipe makes enough for a small gathering, but for a larger one you’ll want to double the recipe.
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 12 tartlets
  • 1 Go-To-Pie Dough, divided as instructed in step one (recipe below)
  • For the Filling
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning or other seafood seasoning
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers, plus a little of the pickling juice
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 ounces drained and flaked canned crabmeat
  • 1 cup grated sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • For the Go-To Pie Dough
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening (or 10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter) cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • Scant ⅓ cup cold water
  1. Prepare the dough (see below, #6), dividing it into three equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a ½-inch-thick disk and wrap the disks individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1½ hours. Get out a standard 12-cup muffin pan and a 3- or 3¼-inch round biscuit cutter and set them aside.
  2. Working with one piece of dough at a time (and leaving the others in the refrigerator) roll it into a thin circle 8½ to 9 inches in diameter on a lightly floured work surface. Keeping the cuts close together, cut the dough into rounds with your biscuit cutter. You should be able to get four circles out of each piece of dough. Slide each round down evenly into a muffin cup, pushing it gently so you don’t stretch it. The dough should have a nicely defined (not rounded off) crease around the bottom perimeter of the cup. Repeat with the other two pieces of dough, lining the rest of the cups. Refrigerate the muffin pan. (Gather your scraps and press together. Wrap well, freeze, and use later to make a small pie.)
  3. While the shells chill, make the filling. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Sauté gently for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring in the garlic and seafood seasoning right at the end. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Using an electric mixer, gently beat the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream until smooth. Blend in the chopped jalapeños, 2 to 3 teaspoons of the jalapeño juice, the mustard, and the Worcestershire sauce. Add the onion mixture, scraping the pan well to get out all of the seasoning. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the crabmeat, cheddar cheese, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ground black pepper to taste; stir until evenly mixed. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  5. Divide the filling among the shells, smoothing the tops. Bake until slightly puffed and golden, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Run a spoon around each tart to loosen, then lift them out and let them cool a bit more on the rack. These are best served warm and can easily be reheated on a baking sheet in a moderate oven for 10 minutes. Do not microwave.
  6. Method for the Pie Dough
  7. Put the butter and shortening cubes in a single layer on a flour-dusted plate, with the shortening off to one side of the plate by itself. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Combine the flour, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl and refrigerate that mixer also. Pour the vinegar into a 1-cup glass measure. Add enough cold water to equal ⅓ cup liquid. Refrigerate.
  8. When you’re ready to mix the pastry, transfer the flour mixture to a food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Remove the lid and scatter about 6 tablespoons of the butter – a little more than half of the total fat – over the dry mixture. Pulse the machine five times –that’s five 1-second pulses−followed by an uninterrupted 5-second run. Remove the lid and add the remaining fat. Give the machine six or seven 1-second pulses.
  9. Remove the lid and loosen the mixture with a bi fork; you’ll have a range of fat clods, most quite small but a few larger ones as well. With the lid off, drizzle about half of the liquid over the mixture. Replace the lid and give the machine three very quick, half-second pulses. Remove the lid, loosen the mixture with your fork, and add the rest of the liquid. Pulse briefly three or four times, just like before. The mixture will still look crumbly, but the crumbs will be starting to get a little clumpier.
  10. Transfer the contents of your processor to a large bowl, on large enough to get your hands in. Start rubbing the crumbs together, as if you were making a streusel topping−what you’re doing is redistributing the butter and moisture without overworking the dough. (Note: If your dough mixture came out of the food processor more clumpy than crumb-like, don’t worry. Just pack it together like a snowball, knead it very gently two or three times, and proceed to step 5.) You can accomplish the same thing by “smearing” the crumbs down the sides of the bowl with your fingers. When the dough starts to gather in large clumps, pack it like a snowball and knead gently, three or four times, on a lightly floured surface.
  11. Put the dough on a long piece of plastic wrap and flatten it into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1½ to 2 hours; overnight is fine. (You can also slip the wrapped dough into a gallon-size plastic freezer bag and freeze it for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.)


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