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Take Aim at Amish Pies for Special Holiday Desserts

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"Me, Myself, and Pie: More Than 100 Simple and Delicious Amish Recipes" by Sherry Gore (Zondervan, $24.99).

"Me, my family, friends, and pie" could be a theme for my sweet holiday season and that of many other lucky celebrators. Sherry Gore, though, wants to put us in the baker's apron and tweak that slightly to "Me, Myself, and Pie," the title of her book.

Gore is a member of the Amish community, who previously penned the acclaimed "Simply Delicious Amish Cooking," and in this tome turns her attention to pie making, her primary love and expertise.

Appropriately, she first lightheartedly addresses a few differences between the Amish community and others.

She has a "Hoosier cabinet where (she) store(s) a litany of canning jars, vintage pie plates, lucky thrift store finds, and Amish/Mennonite cookbooks, and looking around you'll find no microwave in sight.

"I do use electricity for my own cooking and baking, as do others in my community, but most Amish people, especially those in Old Order communities, do not. Their hand-crafted oak cabinets and drawers brim instead with wooden spoons, wire whisks and mechanical egg beaters — the delightful armory of a cultural and yet capable kitchen. Some still prepare meals using a wood cookstove, while others enjoy the ease of natural gas or propane. Some without electricity even build separate kitchens down in the basements, for when summer heat spikes; a smart farmer has a cool place for produce, dry goods, and his wife."

If that wife is preparing pies from Gore's collection, then that is one lucky farmer. Traditional pies that cross all cultural lines are present, but so are plenty of less familiar treats, many of which would be perfect meal-end surprises for grateful guests.

Caramel pies, like half candy, half pie, are memorably sweet and smooth. Raisin Cream Pie is an Amish generations'-old staple. Apple Snitz Pie, which uses soaked dried apples, dots Amish potlucks.

Gore gives lots of tidbits for the perfect pastry crust. However, some of her additional simple, yet special crusts, like gingersnap, chocolate shortbread and pretzel-graham cracker, jump off the page even more. If you'd like to extend Gore's ample talents to beyond dessert, there's also a hefty chapter of rich savory pies and quiches.

A homemade Amish pink-and-white quilt is used as the backdrop for the front and back of the book, which is appropriate since the recipes and advice are equally warm and comforting.

Gore, a regular correspondent for The Budget, the national Amish newspaper, also weaves personal stories about herself and the community throughout. That, combined with the rollicking recipes and gorgeous photography, makes this a perfect mix for an outstanding holiday or hostess gift. The simplicity of the delicious Amish specialties, and Gore's straightforward instructions, also makes this a wonderful starter-baking cookbook.

CARAMEL PIE

3 / 4 cup sugar

3 / 4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

6 tablespoons butter

1 / 2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 / 4 cup light corn syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 (9-inch) baked graham cracker or pastry crust

2 cups whipped topping (optional)

1 /3 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Semisweet chocolate shavings (optional)

Yields 1 (9-inch) pie.

Mix the sugars, butter, half-and-half, cornstarch and corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Gently heat on medium-low, stirring often, until the sugars are dissolved and the mixture reaches a low boil, reaching 250 F on a candy thermometer.

Carefully remove from heat, add vanilla and beat with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is creamy and smooth; then pour into a cooled crust. Chill for 2 to 3 hours before topping.

To garnish: Decorate with whipped topping. Sprinkle with pecans and chocolate shavings.

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST

1&1 / 2 cups graham crackers, finely ground

2 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 / 8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Yields 1 (9-inch) pie crust.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Pat into bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake at 375 F until golden brown for 6 to 7 minutes, not one minute more. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before filling.

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "After-Work Gourmet" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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