Celebrate "Pie It Forward Day" With a New Cookbook by GeekMom Sponsor Abrams!

Pie It Forward cookbook

March 14 — or 3.14 — is Pi Day! And this year, it’s also Pie It Forward Day, in honor of the new book of pie recipes by master baker Gesine Bullock-Prado. GeekMom sponsor Abrams gave us a chance to look at the lusciously-photo-illustrated Pie It Forward and talk to her about how to step up our own game in the baking department.

Gesine (pronounced Geh-see-neh, with a hard “G”), has devoted herself to the pastry arts since 2004, when she left the Hollywood production company of her sister Sandra Bullock and moved with her husband to a farm in Vermont to open her own bakery and mail-order company. Her 2009 book, a memoir called My Life From Scratch, describes the life transformation, with recipes. Gesine’s first true cookbook was Sugar Baby: Confections, Candies, Cakes & Other Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Sugar, which came out last year.

Now in Pie it Forward, Gesine stretches the definition of pie to include fruit pies of all varieties as well as tiramisu tart, German apfel strudel and frangipane pithivier (look it up: page 102). There are also savory selections such as Cornish pasties, Fried Green Tomato Tart, and a Bavarian calzone.

But to start, Gesine explains the right way to make a delicious pie, including a whole section on “The Basics” regarding crusts and fillings. As a novice in the pie-baking department myself, I had a few questions for her, which she answered below. And as a bonus for GeekMom readers, she also sent step-by-step photos for her Chocolate Cream Pie. Keep reading for the recipe:

GeekMom: Pie-making, and especially pie crust-making, seems very unforgiving. For a busy mom who doesn’t have a lot of time, experience or equipment, it can seem intimidating. What advice do you have for the novice who wants to learn to make a respectable pie?

Gesine Bullock-Prado: This is exactly why I think the phrase “easy as pie” is cruel and unusual. Pie crust isn’t hard to perfect but requires some knowledge about how the science of baking works. The ingredients you work with MUST be cold, including the flour and water. If you work with warm ingredients, the fats and liquids saturate the flour and make for a brick of a crust. Instead, you want the fats to exist independently of the flour so the butter can provide steam in the oven (flaky!). There should be visible bits of fat in the finished rolled crust, this provides lift and flakiness. A measure of salt and sugar are crucial to give the crust flavor (yes, butter does that too but you’d be surprised how much salt matters). Adding too much water is also a common mistake. It’s easy to do, though, because a truly great crust often looks just a bit dry and shaggy when you’ve added the prefect amount of water. By pressing it into a round and refrigerating it, you allow the gluten to relax and the water to saturate the flour a bit more, making the crust easier to roll.

GM: I know the crust is all-important. Is it better to master one type of crust before going on to another, or should a beginner try a variety to see which they like best?

GBP: Pie It Forward contains different crusts for very different pies. My favorite ultra flaky pie crust is quick puff, a very traditional French method. It’s not hard but it’s definitely more of an involved technique that is worth learning (there’s a photo demo in the book). A foray into quick puff is a gateway to learning traditional puff and things like croissant, so I’m warning you it can lead to advance pastry work in the home kitchen. My easy all butter crust is similar to quick puff but not as flaky (and not quite as buttery) but is a great way to start on your journey. I have lots of photo demos on www.pieitforwardcookbook.com so you can get a very good idea of what the steps look like to making a great crust.

GM: The official Pie It Forward recipe is Wild Blueberry, but fresh blueberries are pricey this time of year. Is it OK to substitute frozen?

GBP: You CAN use frozen berries. Find the best quality around. Just be very aware that by freezing the berry you are adding a ton of extra moisture and the berries themselves are degraded by the freezing and thawing so won’t come out as plump as a fresh berry would in the finished. Add a teaspoon extra of the thickening agent in the recipe.

Chocolate Cream Pie is a sure kid-pleaser. Image: pieitforwardcookbook.com

GM: What are some ways to get kids involved in pie-making?

GBP: If your kid’s digits are clean and run on the cold side, getting them to do the hard work of adding the butter to the flour in quick puff is a life saver and fun for the kids. Kids also love making (and eating) pie pops. Fresh fruit tarts are the most fun for girls of a certain age. They are beautiful fruity art pieces and arrangement is crucial to how the pie looks.

GM: Which recipes in the book appeal more to grown-up tastes? What would you suggest for a special occasion?

GBP: There are, of course, the event pieces I created in the back of the book that require decor sides and a bit of time but if you want something beautiful with a little less work, I love the poached pear tart (wine poached, that is). It’s beautiful and combines pistachio and red wine poached pears to gorgeous effect. The Yuzu Ginger Rice Pudding tart is crazy good and a combination of ingredients and techniques you don’t often see in pie but is whimsical with the spiky meringue and full of insane flavor. Fresh fruit tarts are always the perfect capper to a summer meal while the Sticky Toffee Pudding Tart is the ultimate winter treat.

GM: I caught the Earl Grey joke on one of your blogs. This being GeekMom, I have to ask: Who’s your favorite Star Trek captain, and what pie would you bake for him or her?

GBP: Capt Jean Luc Picard with the Earl Grey Truffle Tart, of course (page 138). I mean, what else would I serve the man? Sigh.

For more tips and photos — including a photo demonstration of Gesine’s Chocolate Cream Pie, above — visit Gesine’s blog PieItForwardCookbook.com. You’ll find the recipe in Pie It Forward, available from Stewart, Tabori & Chang, an imprint of Abrams.

GeekMom and Kodak Bring You Some Magical Giveaways (Now Ended)

In four short weeks, Hogwarts fans will be lining up to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the last movie in the series based on the great adventure novels of J. K. Rowling, which opens July 15. And in honor of the event, GeekMom has joined with Kodak to give you a chance to show off your magical celebration of this momentous occasion.  For the next month, we’ll be giving away four packages that include the Kodak ESP C310 All-in-One Printer and the Kodak Design Gallery Software featuring Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows™ Part 2! (See entry information below…)

The Kodak Design Gallery Software lets you make your own fun Harry Potter printables using over 300 images and graphic elements. You can use it to make invitations, banners, collector cards, door hangers, posters, and lots more cool printable projects using images from the movies. It also includes a collection of Harry Potter crests, borders, patterns, icons, swatches, and phrases. Using the unique customization tools, you can add your own photos, type in your own text, draw, color, rotate and scale the images to create your own personalized designs. Or select a pre-designed template, add any special touches you want, and just print!

The Kodak ESP C310 All-in-One Printer that will be included with all four giveaways is a wireless printer with an easy Wi-Fi setup. And it’s affordable — it’s priced at $99, and it uses KODAK 30 Series Ink Cartridges with the lowest ink replacement cost in the industry. Like all KODAK All-in-One Printers, the C310 Printer delivers crisp, sharp text documents, brilliant graphics, and KODAK Lab-Quality Photos that dry instantly and last a lifetime.

On Wednesday we’ll be sharing some of the designs made by GeekMom Jenny Williams and her family using the Kodak Design Gallery Software and the Kodak ESP C310 All-in-One Printer. In the meantime, enter to win a Kodak Design Gallery Software featuring Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows™ Part 2 DVD and a Kodak ESP C310 All-in-One Printer of your very own by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post, telling us your plans for the culmination of the great Harry Potter movie series next month! You have until midnight Friday night to enter this week’s drawing. And we’ll have a drawing each week, so you have four chances to win!

We’d also love to see your Harry Potter-related photos and images, so put a link to them in your comment, or just add them to the GeekMom Flickr group! We’ll feature the best in future posts.

And be sure to visit Kodak.com for more Harry Potter goodness over the coming weeks. Thanks to Kodak for inviting GeekMom readers to be a part of their celebration!

(UPDATE: We’ll be giving away four Kodak packages, each with the Kodak Design Gallery Software featuring Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows™ Part 2 DVD and the Kodak ESP C310 All-in-One Printer!)

Kitchen Topology With Challah


Round loaf of challah bread
Figuring out how to braid a round loaf takes patience and math. Images: Kathy Ceceri


Tonight is the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. For me, holidays mean food, and for Rosh Hashanah the traditional treat is a round loaf of light and fluffy challah. Challah is an egg bread, usually shaped into a long braid. For the Jewish New Year, however, the loaf is round to symbolize the circular nature of the seasons. The bread is served with honey and apples for a sweet New Year.

Making challah–or any yeast bread–isn’t hard. The hard part, at least for me, is the braiding. Like most homeschoolers and other geek parents, we’ve done plenty of kitchen chemistry and even kitchen biology with the kids. But it occurred to me today as I set out the ingredients for our New Year’s challahs that we’re also doing kitchen math–in this case, kitchen topology.

Topology looks at weird shapes like Moebius strips and Klein bottles. It also includes the study of knots. In math, unlike sailing and rock climbing, knots are always made out of a continuous loop. And our round braided challah certainly fit the bill.

Here’s how to braid a round loaf:

    1. Divide the dough into four parts and roll them into long skinny strands.
    2. Arrange the strands like a tic-tac-toe board.
    3. Weave the strands so that they go over-under.


    1. Starting with the two strands pointing towards you, take the strand that is “under” and put it over the strand next to it. Continue going around the loaf putting the “under” strand over its neighbor.
    2. There are now two new strands sticking out from each side of your loaf. Take the new “under” strand and go around in the opposite direction, putting the “under” strand over its neighbor.


  1. Reverse direction and go around again in the same fashion. (If you have enough left, go around twice more, switching directions each time.) When finished, pinch the nearest ends together.
  2. Now take the pinched-together ends of the loaf and pull them up to form a bowl. Holding onto to them, flip the loaf over.  Voila! You have a perfect round braided loaf.

Here’s a video to show you how to do the tricky part:

Top 10 Ways to Know You’re Married to a GeekDad

bed-on-stiltsNot all GeekMoms are married to GeekDads. And GeekDad-ism, like many things, exists on a continuum from “enjoyed the first Star Wars movie” to “named his first daughter Leia.” Even though my husband falls somewhere in-between, his latent GeekDad tendencies are obvious. Here’s my Top 10 Ways to Know You’re Married to a GeekDad:

1. You spend your honeymoon at a theme park. (Sadly, Legoland wasn’t built then…)


2. You never know when you’ll walk into the dining room to find the table covered with a computer broken down into all its component parts.

3. He installs stilts under the legs of your bed so his comic book boxes can fit underneath.

4. He keeps his spare change in a Miss Piggy bank (with a coin slot where her cleavage would be).

5. The ornaments on your Christmas tree consist of Romulan Warbirds, shuttlecraft, and Borg cubes.

6. He asks you to dress up as Catwoman for Halloween. (Sorry, no photo of that one!)

7. He’ll patiently spend an hour building a tower for your four-year-old Superman to break down – and then comfort him when it collapses prematurely.

wall-of-cups12 wall-of-cups21 wall-of-cups3jpg1

8. He spent more for his bicycles (and each of the kids’ bicycles) than for some of the cars you’ve owned.

9. Your kids’ college fund consists of a trunkful of first issues of his favorite comic books.

10. He’ll sit down with the kids and read through the trunkful of first issues, college fund be damned. (Well, maybe not Watchmen #1.)

Miss Piggy Bank image: Muppet Wiki
All other images: Kathy Ceceri