A vegan and gluten free tart with apples, pears, and cranberries inspired by A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Happy holidays, all! I hope that no matter where you are or what you’re celebrating this season – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Saturnalia – that you are joyous, healthy, and surrounded by loved ones.
If you’re like me, balancing the holidays with work and family and travel can be a little stressful, but it doesn’t have to turn you into a Scrooge. Relax, unwind, and bake away the stress with this easy tart, fit for the whole family. And I mean, everyone.
A creamy mushroom and root vegetable savory pie inspired by The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
I wasn’t a very strong reader as a kid and it was hard for me to find books that I found engaging. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit bridged the gap between the casual reading of popular literature, and a lifetime literary obsession. I discovered a whole genre, a lineage, of fantasy and a way of thinking I had thought particular to me. Disappearing inside this world, which was somehow the joint creation of a man thirty years gone and of my own imagination, was magical.
A variation on hunter or shepherd’s pie; a savory lamb pie inspired by The House on the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, by Matt Bell.
When you crave “green space” in New York City, you head to a park where hundreds of other sweaty (often shirtless) people are fighting for a place to lay their picnic blanket. The operative word for most people is “green;” that desire to get out, get a little sun, and wiggle their toes in cigarette-butt-studded grass. Throw a Frisbee around. For me it is the opposite. When I crave trees and running water, what I really need is the space. I love being alone in the woods with nothing but leaves and rotten logs and spider webs strung between blades of long grass. Give me a lake! God, the things I can do with a lake.
So when I read the title of Matt Bell’s The House on the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods I thought, “that sounds like a house I’d want to live in.” I was grossly, painfully, disturbingly wrong.
Pumpkin spice hand pies inspired by the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.
It’s almost Halloween; goblins, ghouls, and ghosts are abroad in the muggle world. If you’re like me then you’ve done your apple picking, your pumpkin hunting, and your woodland hiking. But at the end of a long day of jumping in leaf piles, you need something a little sweet to go with that cup of hot apple cider. I wanted to get this recipe out before that particular flavor of witchy October magic passes, while there’s still time to curl up with a pumpkin beer before we start mulling cider and delving into winter holiday territory. So here it is! This one goes out to anyone who spent their preteens waiting for their Hogwarts letter.
Maple and oat chess pie with dark chocolate seams, inspired by Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
At this point Frankenstein has become so ingrained in our popular consciousness I think it’s difficult to read the novel without any kind of preconceived ideas. The green, flat-headed monster with bolts protruding from his neck has become such an iconic part of the horror canon (especially in cinema) that it’s sometimes difficult to reconcile pop-culture with the literary reality.
Shoofly pie with pecans and a poached apple garnish, inspired by The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
It’s really hard to sell people on this pie. The particular, bitter tang of molasses cut with woody pecans, balanced with the sweet, syrupy taste of an apple poached soft in cider, cinnamon, and brown sugar; it all takes a backseat to the creepy-crawly stigma of Kafka’s disturbing novella. It is, however, an excellent pie for Autumn!
Chocolate ganache infused with lavender and earl grey in a lemon sweet pastry crust, inspired by Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Can you believe that after earning a bachelors degree in English I still hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice? Somehow we just never crossed paths in the classroom. It seems criminal not only to have never read Pride and Prejudice, but to have never read any Jane Austen at all! Especially considering how much I enjoy romantic tension built on people not touching. (Give me pithy banter and absurd social decorum, I love me a period piece.) I was appropriately ashamed of the hole in my education, and rectified the oversight with a tart.
A blackberry-peach fruit pie inspired by The Princess Bride by William Goldman
I grew up on the film adaptation of The Princess Bride, to this day it’s probably my favorite movie of all time. Like the kids of Florin and Guilder, I spent my childhood terrified of the Fire Swamp and the ROUSs, but the humor, adventure, and romance of the movie woke something story-hungry in me at an impressionable age. However, even knowing every line from the movie by heart (my family and friends refuse to watch it with me anymore), I had never read the book! Inconceivable! I figured if I was going to call myself a true fan, I had to go back to the beginning.
Rose and white chocolate custard studded with fresh raspberries in a Nilla wafer and gingersnap combination crust, inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland specifically for this project. For me, it belonged to that list of books that every college professor and classmate assumes you’ve read and so you must smile and nod when they talk about them, lest you look like an illiterate buffoon in front of your academic peers. (Other books on this list include, Paradise Lost, The Canterbury Tales, and most of Jane Austen’s work.) Now, having read it, I can see why it has such a fanatic following: it has a staggering amount of depth for such a slim volume.
An Orange, Lemon, and Key-Lime Pie with a Graham Cracker Crust, Inspired By The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
It took me a couple of readings and a few years of living in New York City to understand the complexity of wit and emotion in Gatsby. When I first read it in 11th grade I didn’t like the characters, they seemed shallow and dysfunctional, and yet it seemed like all my friends were invested in this great American romance. When I read it again a few years later I realized that not only had my instincts about the book been right, but that its genius also stems from the way social commentary is layered into the characters’ personalities. Lesson learned: you don’t have to like a character for them to be well written.