Curious about how I rate cookbooks? You can always check out my rubric HERE.
I wasn’t aware of Sister Pie until my good friend, Casey, gave me the Sister Pie cookbook for my birthday earlier this year (basically, ages ago). I’ve never considered myself much of a baker, and Casey has always been the person I turned to with questions. She also casually won The Great Chocolate Showdown (which still blows my mind). I trust her authority in all things baking, so if she was gifting me a cookbook, it had to be good. It was! I’m so glad I spent the time trying out Sister Pie recipes!
I learned that Sister Pie is a Detroit-based bakery founded and owned by Lisa Louise Ludwinski. While Lisa grew up in Michigan, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in theater. Once she got here, though, she says, “I got distracted by food.” She ended up working at Momofuku Milk Bar, learning under Christina Tosi and team, and moonlighting for a summer at the famous Brooklyn pie shop Four & Twenty Blackbirds. After about six years in NYC, she decided to move back home to Michigan and to launch her own pie business.
Even without ever having been there, I certainly got the sense that Sister Pie isn’t just a bakery. It’s a business that cares just as much about people, and is firmly grounded in its community. I have a great deal of respect and a love for socially-minded, female owned businesses.
As for Sister Pie recipes, making whole pies entirely from scratch is a lot of work! Cooking from her cookbook was like taking a masterclass in pie. It’s incredibly thorough and well written. I grew up using Pillsbury pie crusts, but now I feel like I can make my own with a certain degree of confidence. There’s even instruction on out to roll it out, crimp it like a pro, and create an iconic lattice top.
I had to be a bit more strategic about trying recipes from Sister Pie. Not only are pies time consuming to make, but they also require A LOT of butter (not that I’m complaining). There’s also only so much pie two people can eat (again, not complaining). One of the things I loved most about this cookbook, oddly enough, is that it wasn’t just about pie! There are entire sections just for cookies, breakfasts and salads. So instead of making a whole bunch of pies that would probably go to waste, I focused on trying at least one recipe from each section of the book.
The Sister Pie cookbook overall feels homespun, personal and very accessible. It’s not aspirational or showy in any way – it’s just real women baking pies for real people. The photographs never feel especially staged or overly styled. They are simple and communicative, giving the reader at once a sense of place and purpose.
A lot of room is dedicated to instruction. I found the process photos about preparing the dough to be very helpful, and most recipes include a photo of the finished product.
I also want to note that I really loved the typographic design in particular. The balance of typography is well done, especially with the doodled elements mixed in.
As I said, making whole pies from scratch requires a lot of work, time and butter! There’s a reason this cookbook sat on my shelf for a couple of months before I had time to devote to it (cough, Covid-19, cough).
I don’t want that lower cookability score to scare you away, though! Just know going into it that it’s a lot of project baking. It’s definitely the kind of cookbook that requires reading a recipe in advance, reading all of the accompanying instructions for the components, and making a plan based on what needs to be chilled, what needs to sit overnight, what needs to be blind baked, etc.
Sister Pie recipes I tried:
- Strawberry pistachio crumble pie, with the all-butter pie dough
- Sweet potato, black bean and feta hand pie, with the all-butter hand pie dough
- Peanut butter paprika cookies
- Cream cheese, radish and dill scones
- Rhubarb blondies
- Pie sandwich cookies
- Eggplant, summer squash and lentil salad
- Caper miso dressing
On the other hand, I very much appreciated just how low-tech Lisa’s approach is. Not once did I need to turn on my KitchenAid mixer! Everything is pretty much done by hand. She only asks that you use a pastry cutter, rolling pin and maybe an offset spatula. To be honest, I don’t own a pastry cutter, and the rolling pin I have is kid-sized. I did everything by hand, with reasonably good results.
I enjoyed everything that I made. I did feel like some of her interesting flavors weren’t highlighted enough in some of the bakes. As in, I would have liked to taste MORE paprika in the peanut butter cookies, and MORE pistachio in the strawberry pie. But I also feel like maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of The Great British Baking Show, and I’m just channeling my inner judges haha.
I LOVED that it’s not just about pie! Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pie, but realistically I’m only baking them from scratch a few times of year. Instead, the book includes a wonderful range of recipes, including cookies, breakfast bakes, salads and dressings. I think that very fact makes the Sister Pie cookbook much more useful, especially in my kitchen.
I also think it’s a great cookbook if you’re someone who likes to impress with baked gifts, especially around the holidays. Lisa’s flavor combinations are new and interesting. Her pies feel special, and would make great gifts or contributions to office parties.
Fomentation Factor 5/5
These aren’t your standard pies, and Lisa isn’t your standard business owner. Once I really got into the cookbook, I was genuinely inspired. Her persistence and open-heartedness as an entrepreneur, and her bravery as a baker, are contagious.
Despite how much time it takes to make a whole pie from scratch, I felt like I just kept bookmarking more and more recipes to try.
My absolute favorite recipe was for the pie sandwich cookies. I thought it was genius, repurposing extra pie dough for these little bites! And they are so customizable – I filled mine with an orange blossom buttercream and rolled a few in dukkah.
Sister Pie Total Score
All together, I give the Sister Pie cookbook a score of 15.5/20!
I found my COOKBOOK BOOKMARKS to be very useful while baking and cooking my way through the Sister Pie cookbook!
To get a set for yourself, subscribe to my email list! You’ll get a free downloadable file for my cookbook bookmarks. Once you’ve downloaded them, you can print as many copies as you like. Bookmark as many recipes as you need to! Really, it’s such a basic, analog tool, but they make such a difference to my peace of mind.