'Sister Pie' cookbook shares the Detroit bakery's favorite recipes

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
Pie Sandwich Cookies from "Sister Pie" cookbook by Detroit bake Lisa Ludwinski.

Since opening in West Village just a few years ago, Sister Pie bakery has been one of the darlings of the local food scene. Now with the release of its cookbook, the creativity of the Detroit shop can be enjoyed by home bakers anywhere. 

The people- and planet-conscious business has gotten accolades not just from local media but also recognition from publications including the New York Times and Bon Appétit magazine.

"Sister Pie" from Detroit baker Lisa Ludwinski comes out Tuesday.

Owner and baker Lisa Ludwinski has been recognized by the national food scene, too. The past two years she was named a semifinalist in the James Beard Foundation Awards for Outstanding Baker. She was also one of the Eater Young Guns in 2015.

In "Sister Pie: the Recipes and Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit," (Lorena Jones Books, $25) out Tuesday, Ludwinski tells her story of going from a Milford native studying theater at college to opening up a successful triple-bottom-business — one that strives for profitability while also being eco-friendly and ethical — in Detroit with the help of fundraising dance parties and a $50,000 Hatch Detroit grant. 

Ludwinski says the cookbook and the windfall of press and events that come with it feel like an opportunity to talk about the community that has shaped Sister Pie into what it is today. 

"These folks, and I'm talking about our staff, customers, neighbors, family, and friends, challenge and inspire us to be better," she said. 

Lisa Ludwinski is the author of "Sister Pie" cookbook and the owner of the bakery of the same name in Detroit's West Village.

The 256-page cookbook is well-organized, detailed and filled with 75 sweet and savory recipes. The full-color photographs from E.E. Berger make Ludwinski's words and instruction come alive. 

"Sister Pie," the book, is approachable for new bakers, and interesting for seasoned home cooks. It starts with a narrative from Ludwinski about Sister Pie's beginnings, and outlines the ingredients and tools that she and her staff like best and use most when making recipes from the book. 

"One thing I really hope people gain from the book is an ability to improvise pie-making. It's all about developing fundamental skills through repetition and patience," said Ludwinski. "I want people to use these recipes and techniques as a guide to confidence in the pie kitchen." 

This is evident in the first section of the book, where Ludwinski gives recipes for different types of pie dough and crusts that serve as a starting point for creating your own blend of flavors. She offers plenty of pie recipes from start-to-finish, too, and they are organized by season with some "anytime pies," such as salted maple pie and Sister Pie's popular savory hand pies. 

Brandy Pecan Pie from "Sister Pie" cookbook from Detroit baker Lisa Ludwinski.

Beyond pies, the cookbook also has recipes for cookies, brownies, blondies, breakfast bakes and Polish treats like paczki and pieraczki, a pierogi/paczek hybrid. The last few recipes in the book are not baked goods at all, but a variety of fresh salads and salad dressings. 

The book launch has kept Ludwinski busier than usual. She'll appear at Pages Bookshop (19560 Grand River in Detroit) from 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 4 for a discussion. An Oct. 9 book launch dinner at Frame in Hazel Park featuring her and chef Kate Williams has already sold out. (You can join the wait list at framehazelpark.com.) 

The baker says that now that the book is completed and published, she's looking forward to creating new recipes and growing the bakery's pie class offerings, which regularly sell out at $80 per person. 

Besides that, Ludwinski says she is interested in more wholesale accounts, more space and she's working on getting health insurance for her staff. 


Twitter: @melodybaetens 

Recipes reprinted with permission from "Sister Pie," copyright 2018. Published by Lorena Jones Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Aged Gouda pie crust is one of the recipes in "Sister Pie" by Lisa Ludwinski.

Aged Gouda Pie Dough

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted European-style butter, straight from the fridge
1 ounce aged Gouda, grated
1⁄2 cup ice-cold water and apple cider vinegar mixture, or more if needed

In a large stainless steel bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt  and stir to mix well. Place the sticks of butter in the bowl and coat on all sides with flour. Using a bench scraper, cut the butter into 1⁄2-inch cubes. Work quickly to separate the cubes with your hands until they are all lightly coated in the flour mixture. Grab that bench scraper once again and cut each cube in half. I always tell my pie dough students that it’s unnecessary to actually cut each cube perfectly in half, but it’s a good idea to break up the butter enough so that you can be super-efficient when it’s pastry blender time.
It’s pastry blender time! Switch to the pastry blender and begin  to cut in the butter with one hand while turning the bowl with the other. It’s important not to aim for the same spot at the bottom of the bowl with each stroke of the pastry blender, but to actually slice through butter every time to maximize efficiency. When the pastry blender clogs up, carefully clean it out with your fingers (watch out, it bites!) or a butter knife and use your hands to toss the ingredients a bit. Continue to blend and turn until the largest pieces are the size and shape of peas and the rest of it feels and looks freakishly similar to canned Parmesan cheese. Speaking of cheese, now is the time to add the Gouda and mix it in quickly with the pastry blender until it is evenly distributed.

At this point, add the water-vinegar mixture all at once, and switch back to the bench scraper. Scrape as much of the mixture as you can from one side of the bowl to the other, until you can’t see visible pools of liquid anymore. Now it’s hand time. Scoop up as much of the mixture as you can, and use the tips of your fingers (and a whole lot of pressure) to press it back down onto the rest of the ingredients. Rotate the bowl a quarter-turn and repeat. 

Scoop, press, and turn. With each fold, your intention is to be quickly forming the mixture into one cohesive mass. Remember to incorporate any dry, floury bits that have congregated at the bottom of the bowl, and once those are completely gone and the dough is formed, it’s time to stop.

Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a lightly floured counter, and use your bench scraper to divide it into two equal pieces. Gently pat one into a 2-inch-thick disc, working quickly to seal any broken edges before wrapping it tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap. Pat the other half into a 6-by-3-inch rectangle. 

Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight. When you go to roll out the crust, you want the disc to feel as hard and cold as the butter did when you removed it from the fridge to make the dough. This will make the roll-out way easier.

You can keep the pie dough in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to 1 year. If frozen, remove the dough and place in the refrigerator to thaw one full day before you intend to use it. 

Makes enough for one 9-inch lattice-topped pie. 

Blackberry Peach Coffee Cake is one of the recipes inside the new book "Sister Pie" from Detroit baker Lisa Ludwinski.

Blackberry Peach Coffee Cake, For Jane

1 1⁄2 cups buttermilk
1⁄2 cup yogurt (we prefer to use full-fat plain Greek yogurt)
2 large eggs
1⁄2 cup canola oil
1⁄3 cup turbinado sugar (natural brown sugar)
1 1⁄2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1⁄2 cups rolled oats
3⁄4 cup whole wheat flour
3⁄4 cup spelt flour
2 1⁄4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1⁄4 teaspoons baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
3⁄4 cup (1 1⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter, straight from the fridge

1 1⁄2 cups sliced peaches
1 cup blackberries
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, divided into 12 equal pieces
2 tablespoons Sugar-Sugar (a Sister Pie original ingredient blending equal parts turbinado and granulated sugars). 

Mix the batter: In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, yogurt, eggs, canola oil, turbinado sugar and vanilla until the ingredients are homogeneous and smooth. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oats, whole wheat and spelt flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, allspice, cardamom, and ginger, then add the wet ingredients. Use a silicone spatula to gently fold in the wet ingredients until no dry spots remain. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and place in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 20 minutes. 

Make the streusel: Combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large stainless steel bowl. Place the butter in the bowl and coat on all sides with the flour mixture. Use a bench scraper to cut the butter into 1⁄2-inch cubes directly into the flour mixture in the bowl. Work to break up the cubes with your hands until they are lightly coated with the flour mixture. Continue to use the bench scraper to cut the cubes into smaller pieces — the idea is that you are cutting each cube in half. 

Switch to a pastry blender and begin to cut in the butter with one hand while turning the bowl with the other. It’s important not to aim for the same spot at the bottom of the bowl with each movement, but to actually slice through butter every time to maximize efficiency. Once most of the butter is incorporated, use your fingers to fully break down the butter until the streusel resembles wet sand. The streusel can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator before assembling and baking. 

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang of 1 to 2 inches so you can easily lift the coffee cake out of the pan after cooling. 

Use a silicone spatula to transfer the batter to the baking pan. Use a knife or offset spatula to evenly spread the batter across the pan, making sure to smooth it from edge to edge. Evenly cover the batter with the peaches and blackberries, then distribute the
12 pieces of cream cheese over the batter, placing 4 pieces across the long sides of the pan and 3 along the ends of the pan, and so forth. Sprinkle with the Sugar-Sugar, then use the offset spatula to gently press the cream cheese down into the batter. Cover with the streusel. It’s okay if some of the fruit is still visible. In fact, it’s better than okay. 

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until a knife inserted into the middle of the coffee cake comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool. Once the bottom of the pan is at room temperature, carefully lift the coffee cake out of the pan and onto a cutting board, using the parchment overhang for handles. 

Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the coffee cake into 16 pieces. Store leftover coffee cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Makes 12 servings.