20 February 2024

Easy as Pie: KidLit Confections Chocolate Walnut Pie

(The recipes, including a link to the index of printable PDF files, can be found at the bottom of this post.)

Why do we say something is "easy as pie" when most bakers would argue that pies are definitely not one of the easiest things to make? Some people spend their whole lives trying to perfect their pie crust recipes, arguably the most difficult part of making a pie. Cutting the fat into the flour to just the right consistency. Adding the water and mixing just enough to bind it without making it tough... pie crust is in some ways the epitome of baking science, and most bakers will tell you that pie is one of the most difficult things you can make.

I was lucky. My mom taught me a pie crust recipe when I was just learning how to bake that had so many shortcuts and tricks...one that, if you followed the steps correctly, resulted in the most flaky and beautiful pie crust--one that got gobbled up by everyone who tasted my mom's apple pie.* I grew up thinking that "easy as pie" made sense, because as far as I knew, pie was probably the easiest dessert you could make! I had no idea how privileged I was. It wasn't until I grew up and took some cooking classes (and watched a LOT of the Food Network) that I realized the "right" way to make a pie crust was both much more difficult and (if I'm being honest) often less delicious than the "cheater" pie crust I was used to. 

Still, once I learned how to do things the "right" way, I couldn't help feeling like an imposter. Here, I was doing something that I thought was easy, and I got the results I wanted...but I did it "wrong." How could I honestly call myself a good baker, if I didn't even know how to do things right? (Turns out, most of the things I'm best at baking or cooking, I do "wrong." I would totally be kicked off of Master Chef in the first round, because I don't know any of those proper techniques--but I would possibly rock a show like Cutthroat Kitchen, where they take away the tools/ingredients for doing things properly and make you figure out how to make a dish without them...)

And it will surprise no one at this point that this contemplation of my favorite easy/not easy dessert reminds me of books and writing and the things we tell ourselves when we're trying to figure out how to live our best lives. 

A couple of weeks ago, in #KidLitChat, a group of us were discussing favorite writing craft books and systems for moving forward on a work in progress. I admitted that I don't really read books about how to write. I've tried. So many times. Because it's the first question people always ask when you get a group of writers together: "What are your favorite books on the craft of writing?" That's when I always pull myself off to the fringes of the crowd and hope that no one notices that I'm not saying anything. Because as soon as I start reading a craft book, my stubborn "you can't tell me what to do!" personality digs in its heels, and I don't want to write at all. Suddenly, this thing that brings me joy and passion like no other feels like homework. And I don't want to do it. 

BUT a library full of books is a master class in immersive, hands-on story creation. If you give me a stack of picture books, I will absolutely devour them over and over again, analyzing every word and phrase--what is said, what isn't, and why?--poring over the pictures and watching how the text and illustrations play off of each other... Or give me a stack of middle grade novels, and I'll analyze the character interactions and plot pacing. I'll dive so deep into the story that it's sometimes nearly impossible to extract myself again when I reach the end. And then I'll go back and study the ways that this author made that unloveable main character feel so very relatable. Or or that author painted a setting so real I could smell the cookies baking in the oven...

It's not that I'm not learning the craft. I'm not writing "cheater" stories any more than my pie crust (or chocolate mousse, or cookies, or ... pretty much everything I cook) is "wrong." It's just a different way of doing things. Because we all have different ways of doing things. And just because someone (or even a LOT of someones) does it another way ... that doesn't mean your way is the wrong way. My neurodivergent brain needs to try things out and see how they work. My best friend's neurotypical brain loves to have a set system to use as her scaffolding. Neither approach (to writing, or to life) is bad. 

And honestly, aren't we glad that there are so many different ways to make a pie?

On that note, some of my favorite recent reads mention pies and cooking--and being courageous. (Bonus: each of these books includes one or more recipes!!)

 And if you would like to access the printable PDF with this recipe, here is your reminder that the link is at the bottom of this post, and the password you'll need to access the PDF from the #KidLitConfections Recipe Index page is: WeNeedDiverseBooks

Fatima Tate Takes the Cake
by Khadijah VanBrakle

Fatima Tate wants to be a baker AND enjoy some innocent flirting with her hot friend Raheem--but her strict Muslim parents would never approve of either...

Seventeen-year-old Fatima Tate, aspiring baker (100% against her conservative parents' wishes), leads a pretty normal life in Albuquerque: long drives with BFF Zaynab, weekly services at the mosque, big family parties, soup kitchen volunteering (the best way to perfect her flaky dough recipe!), stressing about college...

But everything changes when she meets a charming university student named Raheem. Knowing the 'rents would FREAK, Fatima keeps their burgeoning relationship a secret... and then, one day, her parents and his parents decide to arrange their marriage. Amazing! True serendipity! 
Except it's not amazing. As soon as the ring is on Fatima's finger, Raheem's charm transforms into control and manipulation. Fatima knows she has to call the whole thing off, but Raheem doesn't like to lose. He threatens to reveal their premarital sexual history and destroy her and her family's reputation in their tight-knit Muslim community.
Fatima must find the inner strength to blaze her own trail by owning her body, her choices, and her future. Combining the frank authenticity of Elizabeth Acevedo and the complex social dynamics of Ibi Zoboi, FATIMA TATE TAKES THE CAKE is a powerful coming-of-age story that gives a much-needed voice to young Black Muslim women.

Pie in the Sky
by Remy Lai

A poignant, laugh-out-loud illustrated middle-grade novel about an eleven-year-old boy's immigration experience, his annoying little brother, and their cake-baking hijinks! Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Gene Luen Yang!

When Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he's landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn't speak English, and he's often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao.
To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she's at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they'll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama.
In her hilarious, moving middle-grade debut, Remy Lai delivers a scrumptious combination of vibrant graphic art and pitch-perfect writing that will appeal to fans of Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham's Real Friends, Kelly Yang's Front Desk, and Jerry Craft's New Kid.
A Junior Library Guild selection!

Porcupine's Pie
by Laura Renauld and Jennie Poh

Already a Thanksgiving classic, Porcupine's Pie is a heartwarming story about embracing thankfulness and generosity when things don't go as planned.

Porcupine can't wait to share Fall Feast with her woodland friends, so when everyone she greets is unable to bake their specialty due to a missing ingredient, Porcupine generously offers staples from her pantry. When Porcupine discovers that she, too, is missing a key ingredient, the friends all work together to create a new Fall Feast tradition. Porcupine's Pie will inspire children ages 4-8 to act generously. A recipe for "friendship pie" can be found at the end of the book.

Chocolate Walnut Pie


1 unbaked pie crust

1 c. dark corn syrup

1 c. sugar

2 Tbsp. butter, softened (NOT melted)

3 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 c. chopped walnuts

semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out pie crust and place into a 9-inch pie pan. Flute the edges. Sprinkle a layer of chocolate chips into the crust, just enough to cover the bottom. (It doesn’t have to completely fill the crust, and it should be no more than a single layer of chocolate chips—too many will make it difficult to cut the cooled pie!) Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine corn syrup, sugar, softened butter, eggs, and vanilla extract.

KidLit Confections in bold text above a cartoon penguin, sitting on a stack of books and reading THE PRINCESS AND THE FROGS by Veronica Bartles and Sara Palacios. A cartoon hippo in a chef's hat and apron, holding a tray of freshly-baked cookies, stands next to her. Artwork by Philip Bartles
Stir in chopped walnuts to completely coat all pieces. Pour carefully over the top of the chocolate chips in the prepared pie crust. Place on a baking sheet (to catch any filling that might bubble over during the baking process), and carefully transfer to the preheated oven.

Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Then (without opening the oven), reduce heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an additional 45 to 55 minutes, until a knife inserted ¾ of the way between the edge and center of the pie comes out clean.

Serve with whipped cream or your favorite vanilla-based ice cream. (I like pralines and cream for that extra dose of nutty goodness with my pie!) 

Printable PDF Recipes

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