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[Photograph: Daniel & Mark Klutznick]

Hoosier Mama Pie Company started as a joke between pastry chef Paula Haney and her husband. While working at the Chicago fine dining spot Trio under the culinary boundary-pushing Grant Achatz, Haney yearned for simpler comforts, like a slice of pie. As the yearning grew, the joke slowly turned serious. Hoosier Mama Pie Company opened in 2009, staffed only by chef Haney and her assistant, Anne. Though the idea of a pie-only eatery raised the eyebrows of professional and personal friends, the tiny shop in Chicago's Ukranian Village has flourished, and is a humming operation with a healthy staff and a devoted following, serving dozens of slices of pie per day.

Chef Haney vowed to approach pie-making the same way she made her restaurant desserts: with the best ingredients and the best techniques. On top of that, each pie would be taste-tested multiple times, and remade until perfect. The result is The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie, a volume that's worth its weight in gold. Absolutely everything that goes into making a pie is addressed, from the crust up. You are as likely to find a sidebar explaining the gram weight of kosher salt and its advantages as a recipe for a "desperation pie" (a pie made when your stomach is growling and your cabinets are nearly empty) that uses sugar as its main ingredient.

In this way, The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie manages to be both down-home and highbrow. Organized seasonally, both sweet and savory pies are featured, though the majority of recipes are desserts. This isn't one of those books you keep around for the photos, which is just as well, as there aren't a ton to be found. But the ones that are included depict oft-puzzling steps to newbie pie makers, like crimping or lattice work.

For our feature, we've chosen four sweet pies that will fit into a variety of holiday menus. First, the double-crusted, old-school Classic Apple Pie, a pie so popular it can be found year-round at the shop. Next is Jeffersonville Pie, a bourbon maple pecan pie striped with chocolate ganache. Then there's Sugar Cream Pie, an alleged pioneer favorite. In this case, the name says exactly what it is. Last is Cranberry Chess Pie, which takes a Thanksgiving side and stuffs it into a pie. None of these recipes are quick, but the steps themselves are simple to follow, and yield truly great, hearty desserts.

Win A Copy!

Thanks to the generous folks over at Agate Publishing, we are giving away five (5) copies of The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie this week. All you have to do is tell us what you're making for dessert this Thanksgiving!

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