American As…: Recipes for Pies and Pancakes

American as… apple pie, cheesecake, and pancakes. Here’s Part I of my favorite American comfort baking in my global tour of baking.


How to roll out pie crust.
Baking with snowpea.

Jump to the recipes: Fluffy Pancakes, Autumn Apple Pie, Classic Pumpkin Pie, & Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake


Nearly a year ago now, I began a pandemic project to fight the restlessness from sheltering in place by baking recipes from around the world. My adventures in Japanese, French, and Indian baking were delicious, but they sadly went undocumented. Then, just as I got the urge to write again, my life was uprooted by a cross-country move.


I spent two months exploring British baking in my hometown with my father, the home coffee roaster, native Englishman, and self-appointed taste tester. See here for Part I and Part II.


Next, I spent nearly a month in El Paso, attempting to master the art of Mexican Baking through Tres Leches. See here for the full story.


Then, as we traveled across the country from there, more than a month passed when I could barely bake at all. Between road tripping with a dog, a toddler, and two kittens through Kansas and Wyoming and staying at a motel for our first two weeks in California, I suppose you could say the circumstances weren’t quite right for trying new recipes.


But the promise of our farmhouse in the Californian woods lay close on the horizon. There, I would spend my days tending to horses, foraging for edible flowers, and making homegrown wine and lavender moonshine. Maybe I would even write a cookbook called The Floral Baker next.


When we arrived, reality set in, and I quickly learned I knew nothing about living in the woods. So, with a bit of clumsiness and a whole lot of determination, I turned to my plan B: baking what I knew best.


And what was that exactly? I discovered my true calling on the dozens of recipes I had written in chicken scratch on post-its and stuffed into books before moving. Zillions of renditions of brownies, chewy cookies, fruit pies, and pancakes. Of course, having learned to bake as a girl in the Midwest, my sweet spot had to be a very American style of baking.


So, as I settled into my new home in California, I put my global baking journey on pause and turned to some of my comfort recipes.


In the recipes that follow, I revisit my fluffy pancakes recipe and touch upon two favorite fall classic pies. Cheesecake is a new bake for me, but one that in high school I always seemed to order with my best friend as a “vegan cheat” at my favorite hometown cafe, so I’ve also included it here.


Stay tuned for Part II of my American baking “month”, which includes all my favorite comfort chocolate recipes.


The Fluffiest Pancakes

How to make fluffy pancakes.
Fluffy pancakes at our new home in the woods.

Adapted from Café Delite’s Best Fluffy Pancakes

Makes about 5 thick pancakes


¼ cup butter, melted*

1¼ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup whole wheat flour**

3 teaspoons baking powder***

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon coarse ground sea salt

¼ cup cane sugar

1 egg****

2 cups “buttermilk”*****

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon almond extract

About ½ cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil) for greasing the pan


  1. Begin by melting the butter in a small frying pan. Remove from heat when melted and allow it to cool while preparing the other ingredients.

  2. Sift both flours into a large bowl. Then, whisk in the baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, and sugar.

  3. Create a well in the dry ingredients, and gently whisk in the egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract.

  4. Use a spatula to mix in the butter and 1½ cups of the “buttermilk” until combined. Add the remaining “buttermilk” ¼ cup at a time if the batter seems too thick. Allow the batter to rest about 5-10 minutes before baking.

  5. Pour a thin layer of oil into a small frying pan and heat on medium-high. Once the pan is heated, pour about ½-¾ cup pancake batter onto the frying pan and cook until bubbles appear throughout the top surface (about 3 minutes). Then, use a spatula to flip to the second side.

  6. Reduce heat slightly and cook the pancake on the second side until the underside is turns golden brown (about 2 minutes).

  7. Repeat for the remaining batter.

  8. Serve while warm with maple syrup, walnuts, chocolate chips, and sliced fresh fruit.


* For a vegan version of pancakes, see here, or butter can easily be substituted with vegetable oil.

** I’ve tried increasing the ratio of whole wheat to white flour, but the pancakes seem to fall apart if I use any more than ¾ cup of whole wheat flour, so this seems to be the sweet spot.

*** This seems like a lot of baking powder because it IS. The original recipe I used actually said to use 4 teaspoons instead of 3, but this makes it feel as though the pancakes are evaporating into your nose when eating. If 3 seems like too much, this can be reduced BUT the pancakes will not be as fluffy.

**** For a vegan version, an egg can easily be substituted with a “flax egg” (1 tablespoon flaxseed +2 tablespoons water).

***** I make “buttermilk” by adding the juice of ½ lemon to 2 cups of oat or soy milk and allowing it to sit until the liquid becomes clumpy (about 1 minute).


Autumn Apple Pie

How to make apple pie.
The first apple pie we made this fall.

Makes 1 large apple pie


For Cookie & Cup’s homemade pie crust:

2½ cups flour (pastry or all-purpose flour)

1 tablespoon cane sugar

1 teaspoon coarse ground sea salt

1 cup cold butter

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

½ cup ice water


For the filling:

6 apples

Juice of ½ lemon

¾ cup brown sugar

5 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1.5 teaspoons apple pie spice*

½ teaspoon coarse ground sea salt


  1. Make the pie crust following Cookie & Cup’s instructions here. Allow the crust to chill in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes before beginning the filling.

  2. To make the filling, thinly slice 6 apples** and toss with lemon juice in a large bowl.

  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, spices and salt.

  4. Add the dry ingredients to the apples, using a spatula to coat evenly.

  5. Turn the oven to 350° F and set the filling aside to finish preparing the crust.

  6. Take half of the chilled dough onto a floured cutting board and use a rolling pin to flatten it evenly to fit a 9-inch pie tin.

  7. Grease the surface of the pie tin evenly with a thin layer of butter or oil. Then, transfer the crust to the pie tin by placing the pie tin on top of the rolled-out crust, then inverting the cutting board.

  8. Press the crust firmly into the pie tin first with your fingers, then with the back of a fork. Use a sharp knife to cut any excess crust from the edges of the pie tin.

  9. Transfer the filling into the crust.

  10. Create a lattice to crust by rolling out the second half of dough on a freshly floured cutting board. Slice the dough into thin vertical strips about 9-inches long by 1/2 -inch wide.

  11. Neatly place the dough strips on top of the filling. Start in the center with the longest strip, then turn the pie 90° to add the next longest strip. Turn back to the original orientation to add the next longest strip and repeat until the top is complete. Use a sharp knife to cut any strips that hang over the edge of the pie tin.

  12. Cover the outer edges of the crust with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes at 350° F or until the top crust is golden brown.

  13. Serve the pie while still warm along with vanilla ice cream.


* See here for apple pie spice recipe OR use 1 teaspoon cinnamon + ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg + ¼ teaspoon allspice

** I prefer to keep the skin on because it saves SO much time and doesn’t seem to make a difference in terms of taste or texture.


Classic Pumpkin Pie

How to make pumpkin pie.
Pumpkin pie with leaf-like decor.

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction’s The Great Pumpkin Pie

Makes 1 large pumpkin pie


For the crust:

See above for Cookie & Cup’s homemade pie crust + 1 (optional) egg for egg wash if making leaf decor


For the filling:

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree

3 eggs

1 “flax egg”*

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

½ teaspoon coarse ground sea salt

2.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice**

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1¼ cup milk (I use oat)


For the homemade whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon powdered sugar


  1. Either make a half recipe of Cookie & Cup’s homemade pie crust OR make a full recipe if you plan on topping the pie with cute leaf cut-outs. Follow the instructions from Cookie & Cup to make the dough. Allow the dough to chill 45 minutes before rolling it out.

  2. Once the dough has chilled, turn the oven to 350° F and place half of the dough on a lightly floured cutting board. Use a rolling pin to flatten it evenly to fit a 9-inch pie tin.***

  3. Grease the surface of the pie tin evenly with a thin layer of butter or oil. Then, transfer the crust to the pie tin by placing the pie tin on top of the rolled-out crust, then inverting the cutting board.

  4. Press the crust firmly into the pie tin first with your fingers, then with the back of a fork. Use a sharp knife to cut any excess crust from the edges of the pie tin.

  5. Set a sheet of parchment paper on top of the crust, then fill with dried beans to hold the crust in place while blind baking.

  6. Blind bake the crust for 10 minutes at 350° F.

  7. While the crust is baking, make the filling by whisking together the pumpkin puree, eggs, “flax egg”, sugar, maple syrup, salt, spices, and milk.

  8. After the crust has been baked for 10 minutes, remove it from the oven, and pour in the pumpkin pie filling. Line the edges of the crust with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning.

  9. Bake for about 1 hour at 350° F or until the top has started to set.

  10. While the pie is baking, make the leaf cutouts by rolling out the remaining half of the dough on a newly floured cutting board. Using leaf cookie cutters or a sharp knife, cut the dough into leaf-shaped patterns until no dough remains.

  11. Transfer the dough cutouts to a baking sheet.

  12. Add an optional egg wash to the cutouts by whisking an egg and brushing it lightly onto the top surface of each leaf.

  13. Bake the leaves at 350° F for about 8 minutes or until golden brown.

  14. Once the pie has finished baking, remove it from the oven and cool to room temperature. Then, transfer the pie to the refrigerator and allow it to cool overnight.

  15. Make the whipped cream by whipping together the heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar on high until it becomes light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). This can be refrigerated overnight before serving.

  16. When ready to eat the pie, top with leaf décor and serve with homemade whipped cream.


* Made by adding 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed to 2 tablespoons water and allowing to rest for about 1 minute or until the mixture becomes gelatinous.

** See here for pumpkin pie spice recipe OR use 1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon + ½ teaspoon ground ginger + ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg + 1/8 teaspoon allspice + 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.

*** See below for a video of Snowpea demoing how to roll out pie dough.




Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake

How to make pumpkin spice cheesecake.
Pumpkin spice cheesecake.

Adapted from Once Upon a Chef’s New York Style Cheesecake

Makes 1 large cheesecake


For the crust:

2 cups graham crackers

5 tablespoons butter, melted

½ teaspoon coarse ground sea salt


For the filling

1 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons flour

¼ teaspoon coarse ground sea salt

2.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*, plus extra for serving

32 oz cream cheese (4 packages) at room temperature**

6 eggs

1 tablespoon maple syrup

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Juice of ½ lemon

½ cup sour cream


Homemade whipped cream

See above in the pumpkin pie recipe.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

  2. To make the graham cracker crust, use your hands to crush the graham crackers into small crumbs in a large bowl. Stir in the sea salt.

  3. Melt the butter and use a spatula to combine it with the graham cracker crumbs. The resulting mixture should feel like wet sand. If it’s too dry, add more butter. If too wet, add more graham cracker crumbs.

  4. Firmly press the graham cracker mixture into the base of a 9-inch springform pan.

  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, flour, sea salt, and pumpkin pie spice.

  6. Add the cream cheese to a large bowl, then use a spatula to gently stir in the sugar mixture.

  7. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs. Then, whisk in the syrup, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

  8. Use a spatula to gently stir the egg mixture and sour cream into the cream cheese mixture until well combined.

  9. Bake at 350° F for 1 hour. Then, turn off the heat and leave in the warm oven for an additional 3 hours.

  10. Once a total of 4 hours of bake time has passed, remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Chill overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

  11. When ready to serve, sprinkle with additional pumpkin pie spice and top with homemade whipped cream and a cinnamon stick (for decoration).

* See here for pumpkin pie spice recipe OR use 1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon + ½ teaspoon ground ginger + ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg + 1/8 teaspoon allspice + 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.

** Since cheesecakes use SO much cheese, the quality of the cheese is absolutely key to making a delicious cake. I used Trader Joe’s cream cheese in the past, but for future renditions of this recipe, I might try higher-end cheese. Note also ROOM TEMPERATURE is key or the mixture becomes clumpy.


Coming soon: Stay tuned for all my favorite chocolate baking recipes in Part II!


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