“Teeny’s Tour of Pie: Mastering the Art of Pie in 67 Recipes.” by Teeny Lamothe. Workman Publishing, 2014. $$$

In the movie “City Slickers,” crotchety cattle-drive trail boss Curly doesn’t share much, but he does share his philosophy of life: “One thing,” he tells the dudes he’s assigned to oversee, holding up one forefinger. “One thing.” They’re baffled, until (spoiler alert) they realize he’s telling them that the secret of a satisfying life is to find and focus on one passion.

Teeny Lamothe is one of the lucky people who knows what her “one thing” is and does it. A woman who grew up making kid-size pies at her mother’s elbow, she returned to pie-making mode in her mid-20s and dived in with a single goal: to become a professional pie baker. She designed a vagabond version of an independent course of study, what she calls her Tour of Pie, a year of apprenticeships at nine pie shops from Washington state to New York to Georgia.

The resulting cookbook is full of her stories from that year, stories that flow easily in a young, friendly and often funny voice. She describes failures as well as successes, and can expand on just about any topic that involves pie creation, starting with tools of the trade, from the traditional ones like rolling pins to items you’d maybe never heard of, like “pie birds” and “pie beads” and crust covers – yes, there actually is a way to avoid the dreaded tinfoil method! (Well, it was news to me!)

I in particular appreciate that this is a how-to book. I did not grow up baking pies under my mother’s expert guidance; I need Lamothe’s “5 Commandments of Crust” and the photos of the crust-crimping process. I need someone to tell me to chill the ingredients before making the dough, and the dough before making the pie. She covers not only the what and the how, but the why, and in a very readable way. Post-it notes throughout offer snippets of pie-baking wisdom.

For those of you who already know these basics, there are the stories and, of course, the 67 recipes. Lamothe offers eight types of crust, from all-purpose to whole wheat to pretzel (!) and gluten-free, as well as crumbles and homemade whipped cream with variations. The pies themselves – some extremely appealing (Blubarb; Zested Lime Curd; Georgia Peach), others a tad outré, like “Bourbon Bacon Pecan” and the somewhat scary “Pickled Beets with Goat Cheese and Candied Walnuts” – are organized by season, to take advantage of fresh ingredients, although no one’s going to grate your knuckles with a zester if you make summer’s Lemony Blueberry Crumb Pie in spring, as I did.

Oddly, the first pie I was moved to make was not a sweet, toothsome, bubbling berry pie, but a chicken potpie with kale and cannellinis. Actually, six of them, 5-inchers. I think if I’d used fresh whole-wheat flour instead of the stuff that had been mouldering in my cupboard for, oh, maybe 15 years, these labor-intensive pies would have been really delicious. The filling was great.

My second attempt was the Banana Cream Pie with Vanilla Wafer Crust, chosen mainly to get as far as possible from anything resembling whole wheat. The crust was a snap: crushed vanilla wafers held together with butter. Mmmmm. Who needs a special filling, anyway? I filled it with instant vanilla pudding and enjoyed every bite. So I guess this pie doesn’t really count.

Third was Lemony Blueberry Crumb Pie. This is a “summer” pie that a friend and I made on March 27, barely spring. I refused to make the vodka-infused whole-wheat crust the recipe calls for, opting instead to go tame with a buttery all-purpose crust. Instead of 4 cups of fresh blueberries, which would have cost about $40 at this time of year, we used blueberries we’d frozen from last summer and halved the recipe because we had only 2 cups left. Finally, a pie that was something to rave about.

My one complaint about this cookbook has nothing to do with recipes, but with the Table of Contents. It lists chapters and what page they start on, but not the pies and their pages. I found it difficult to relocate recipes. Yes, the index contains them all, but if you can’t remember the exact name, you have to troll for it. This may sound like a small thing, but it was darned irritating.

So, stir together pretty good stories charmingly told, useful tips, delicious pies, and you’re off on a light-hearted Tour of Pie with Teeny Lamothe. Maybe you’ll be inspired to pursue your own “one thing,” be it pie or whatever else you have a taste for.

— DEBBI HARDY

LEMONY BLUEBERRY CRUMB PIE

Makes 1 (9-inch) single-crust pie, 6-8 slices

OAT-AND-NUT CRUMBLE:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a large bowl mix together the flour, oats, almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt with a fork or your hands until combined.

Pour the melted butter over the mixture and stir with a rubber spatula or your hands until everything is thoroughly combined. The crumble mixture should clump easily when pressed together in your hand.

BUTTERY ALL-PURPOSE CRUST:

2½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

¾ cup (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

¼ cup cold vegetable shortening

¼ cup cold vodka

6 tablespoons cold water, plus extra as needed

THE FILLING:

4 cups fresh blueberries

1-2 tablespoons freshly grated zest of lemon and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2/3 cup granulated sugar

7 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

To make the crust, in large bowl combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and shortening and cut the mixture together using a pastry cutter until it forms small pea-size crumbs coated in flour.

Pour the vodka over the dry ingredients a few tablespoons at a time while using a rubber spatula to press the dough together. Similarly, add the water and continue to press the dough together to form a large ball. The dough should be fairly wet and sticky; if for some reason it seems particularly dry, add a little extra ice water a tablespoon at a time until everything comes together easily.

Divide the dough into 2 equal balls, press each into a 1-inch disk, wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling out.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the middle position.

To make the filling, place the blueberries in a large bowl, add the lemon zest and toss to combine. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon to combine.

Add the lemon juice to the sugar mixture along with 1 tablespoon water and whisk until smooth. (If the cornstarch and sugar clump, you can add an additional 1 tablespoon of water.) Pour the mixture over the blueberries and toss gently to coat. Set aside.

Place 1 disk of dough on a floured work surface and with a floured rolling pin roll it into a rough 11-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Lay the crust into a 9-inch pie plate, gently press it in, and trim any excess dough from the edge with a paring knife, being sure to leave a 3/4-inch overhang. Tuck the overhanging dough under itself and crimp. Place the lined pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet.

Pour the blueberry filling into the unbaked pie crust. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the filling.

Bake until the filling is thickly bubbling and the crust and crumble are golden brown (cover the crimp with foil if it begins to brown too quickly), 45-55 minutes. Let the pie cool before serving.