8 Best Pie Tips from Pie Expert Kate McDermott

Making great pies isn’t about the recipe—it’s about techniques. Join us at The Resort at Paws Up for Cookbook Live: Art of the Pie, held at Paws Up on November 3–6, 2017. Cookbook Live is a brand-new culinary series that features chefs bringing their acclaimed cookbooks to life through interactive demonstrations, hands-on classes, receptions and world-class meals. For our November Cookbook Live session, author and “pie whisperer” Kate McDermott will walk you through the steps for mixing, rolling and baking perfectly flaky pie crusts every time. Her hands-on classes will help you master essential pie-making skills that all bakers should know. McDermott’s cookbook, Art of the Pie, was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2017. Below is a preview of some amazing pie tips from the book and much more.

What are some of your top pie tips?

  • To avoid filling spilling over, fill the pie pan about 1/2 inch below the rim.
  • Place the pie it in the lowest part of the oven (if that is where your heating element is) or on a preheated cookie sheet or even a pizza stone to give the bottom crust a blast of heat. This can help with avoiding the dreaded soggy bottom!
  • If your pie is burned on the top, try lightly scraping it off with a paring knife and brushing the crumbs away much like you would do with burnt toast.
  • A little ice cream or dollop of whipped cream can camouflage a burn.
  • And if all else fails, get out the lasagna pan, turn your fruit pie into it, stir lightly to even it out and you will have the best crumble in the world. No one needs to know that you planned something different.
  • “Don’t overwork the dough” . . . words that we’ve all heard before might also be translated to “stop before you think you are done.” When flour and water are mixed together, they make gluten. The more it is mixed, the tougher the dough. Work the dough lightly, and just enough, so it comes together.
  • For best flavor, use fresh spices.
  • Clean your oven before embarking on your holiday baking so as not to get a blast of smoke from a preheated oven!

What is your ultimate baking tip?

It really helps to keep the ingredients for the pastry crust well-chilled. I put my flour in the freezer and sometimes grate frozen butter to ensure it doesn’t melt. Butter starts melting at 59ºF and cold fats are essential for a flaky crust. If my hands feel hot, I hold ice cubes for a minute until they cool down.

Which pies do you make for Thanksgiving?

Pumpkin pie and pear cranberry walnut pie.


Can you tell me how you became a pie expert?

From the time I was a little girl, I loved to bake. In the afternoons after school, I would come home and while my mom taught piano lessons, I would get out the mixing bowl and spoons to make cookies, cakes and bread. Some of these first attempts were disasters but many turned out to be pretty good and kept me interested in baking.

Those years of learning and experimenting later served me well in baking for my young family. We lived “out,” had a big garden and in the kitchen was a wonderful six-burner stove with an oven that could fit six loaves of bread at a time! I loved getting up early to bake for my family.

For a while in the late 1990s, my son Duncan and I lived on a blueberry u-pick farm on the north Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. There was no shortage of berries there. I made blueberry pie, blackberry pie and raspberry pie and combined all the berries to make triple-berry pie.

In 2005, pie became a passion and a two-year exploration of crust ensued. There was lots of experimentation with different flours and fats, ratios and recipes. The dough that we make in my Art of the Pie® workshops is the culmination of much that was learned along the way.

How many years have you been baking pies?

I’m a lifelong baker. But I got seriously bit by the pie-making bug in the mid-1990s.

Do you have plans for another cookbook?

Kate’s Can-Do Cookbook: Easy as Pie Recipes for Everyday Cooking will be published in Fall 2018 by the Countryman Press/W.W. Norton. Photos once again by Andrew Scrivani. 

Why do you love to come to Paws Up?

I love the rustic elegance of Paws Up. Montana is truly Big PIE Country.

Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe and Our Next Cookbook Live

Join The Resort at Paws Up on November 3–6, 2017 for our fourth Cookbook Live event with pie expert Kate McDermott. This flaky and fun-filled baking weekend brings to life McDermott’s book Art of the Pie, which was nominated for a James Beard Award. By day, you’ll create works of edible art from fresh local ingredients. And by night, you’ll dine on the masterfully executed cuisine of Paws Up’s Executive Chef Ben Jones. It’s the perfect treat for anyone who’s passionate about succulent, homemade, just-out-of-the-oven pie. We hope to see you in a few weeks. In the meantime, enjoy this divine Lemon Meringue Pie recipe in your own home.


Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes One 9-inch Shallow Pie

1 pre-baked single Art of the Pie® crust or pre-baked dough of your choice

For the Filling
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1-1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 egg yolks, fork beaten
  • zest of 1 large lemon
For the Meringue
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar


For the Filling
  1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt.
  2. Add the water and constantly stirring with a whisk, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 2 more minutes while continuing to whisk. Don’t be afraid to whisk vigorously as it gets thicker.
  3. Take 1/4 cup of the hot mixture and stir it into the fork beaten egg yolks. Return this to the saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook for 3-4 minutes more while stirring constantly.
  4. Stir in the butter, lemon juice, and zest and cook for another minute.
  5. Immediately pour into the pre-baked pie crust.
For the Meringue
  1. In a clean and cold bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric handheld beater or a stand mixer.
  2. Add the pinch of salt, and the sugar while you mix. Add the cream of tartar and mix a bit more.
  3. Lift the beaters out when you can see soft peaks in thick foamy waves. That’s when it’s done.
  4. Put the meringue on the hot lemon filling starting at the edges first. Make sure the meringue reaches all the way to the edge of the crust so there are no gaps.
  5. Then add the rest of the meringue in the middle so that the filling is completely covered.
  6. With the handle of a spoon or the blade of a knife, pull up some soft peaks.
  7. Place in a preheated 375F oven for 6 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool completely before serving.

My Top 5 Favorite Fall Events at Paws Up

The resort at paws up

by Katy Richardson, Paws Up Reservations Specialist

Montanans take summer seriously. This is partly due to long days of guaranteed sun and a culture that highly values the great outdoors, but, regardless, summer days in Montana are very active. We fill our time with revved-up, hair-raising adventure, taking advantage of the crystal-clear rivers that offer white water thrills, the open fields begging to be explored and the untamed beauty of mountain summits that beckon us to climb a little higher. We challenge ourselves to go higher, travel farther and get in as much as we can—every day!

fall at The resort at paws up

We take summer seriously, and, maybe as a result, we take in the fall season more slowly and thoughtfully. Ask around, and the locals will tell you that fall is also a favorite season in Montana. Every day begets a subtle change—a tamarack changing color, a meadow shifting from green to gold, a gentle slowing of the Blackfoot River—until the entire landscape has gone golden. Fish are jumping. The air is crisp, and people have an urge to cozy up and spend time together. This lends itself well to couples’ trips, culinary events and evenings around a fire. Of course, this doesn’t mean the adventure stops come autumn. We always have amazing things to explore here at Paws Up. The coming of fall simply means our guests might be more inclined to ease back in their saddles, pause on the trigger and savor a moment. We have many diverse events going on throughout the fall season. Here are my Top 5 Favorite Fall Events at Paws Up:

 Cowboy experience at the resort at paws up

  1. Cowboy Experience (October 26­–29, 2017)

Paws Up is pleased to continue our partnership with the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame to create an incredible weekend straight out of your favorite Western. The hall of famers will lead workshops and demonstrations, gallop on trail rides and share their favorite campfire stories. We end every night with an incredible gourmet meal featuring fine whiskey from three different distillers. And you’re guaranteed to rub elbows with the cowboys and cowgirls who show you the ropes throughout the day.

art of the pie at the resort at paws up

  1. Cookbook Live Presents: Art of the Pie (November 3–6, 2017)

There’s a reason why we continually invite Kate McDermott back to Paws Up every year: she’s a master at what she does. And, even better, she’s a master who’s willing to share her secrets, just like she does in her highly praised cookbook Art of the Pie. McDermott will guide you through making perfect, flaky fresh pies, just in time for you to show off to friends and family at Thanksgiving.

 AdrenZen Fall

  1. AdrenZen: Fall (October 20–23, 2017)

Combining exhilarating wilderness adventures with 37,000 acres of meditative space makes Paws Up the perfect location for a wellness weekend. With two guest instructors—celebrity yogi Kristin McGee and fitness and lifestyle expert Idalis Velazquez—you’re sure to burn calories, push yourself and get centered, all in a safe, fun environment. And with all of that exercise, you’ll need to keep your energy up. That’s where Executive Chef Ben Jones and cookbook author Alison Lewis come in. Jones will satisfy your appetite with gourmet food, healthy cocktails and private culinary instruction. Lewis will also be providing hands-on workshops with recipes from her latest cookbook, 200 Best Smoothie Bowl Recipes. Adrenaline and Zen—we’ve got them both here.

 The resort at paws up thanksgiving

  1. Thanksgiving (November 22–26, 2017)

Thanksgiving is all about coming together with the people you love, sharing memories over a beautiful meal. So, bring your loved ones to The Resort at Paws Up, and we’ll take care of everything else. We’ll baste the turkey and make sure the pies don’t burn, while you watch the big game, view the parade on TV, play a game of touch football or go on hayride. And, of course, the food will incredible. Executive Chef Ben Jones will create gourmet, upscale options, as well as Thanksgiving favorites, and even share some dishes from the Jones family recipe book. Oh, and we’ll do the dishes too.

Montana Master Chefs 

  1. Montana Master Chefs: Rising All-Stars (September 21–24, 2017)

This is the culinary event that started them all at Paws Up. There’s a reason Montana Master Chefs is at the top of my list. It encompasses so much of what I love about being on property at Paws Up in the fall: gorgeous September views, exhilarating activities, an incredible community feel and, of course, amazing, out-of-this-world meals. This year is extra special in that we’re featuring rising all-stars. These chefs may not be household names quite yet, but, when they are, you’ll be able to say you dined with them. And, rather than sampling their delicious dishes in a crowded restaurant, you’ll get to experience these masters at their craft in an intimate setting, while they tell you about their food on a personal level. This event is upscale without pretense and is exactly what Paws Up is about.

fall at the resort at paws up

Come Cook with Brooke Williamson at The Resort at Paws Up

Chef Brooke Williamson

Say hello to Chef Brooke Williamson, a fearless and unstoppable Southern Californian who’s become a bit of a regular at The Resort at Paws Up. We love hosting her, because she brings energy and fresh local ingredients to everything she does.

You might know her from Top Chef. She’s currently reappearing to compete in Season 14: Charleston, South Carolina, airing right now on Bravo. In Season 10, Williamson was the runner-up and a favorite among the show’s fans.

When she’s not on TV, she’s busy running the four smash-hit restaurants she owns with her husband. The newest opened just this past October—a fast- casual Hawaiian concept named Da Kikokiko in Playa Vista, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

What does she do for fun? She comes to The Resort at Paws Up, of course. In 2017, she’ll be a featured chef at no fewer than three culinary events: WinterFest on January 19– 22, WildFlavor on April 20–23 and Bounty on the Blackfoot on August 19. So we asked her to tell us about her experiences here.

What’s the first thing you like to do when you arrive at Paws Up?
 I like to grab a drink at Tank and head straight to my cabin to chill on the porch. The sounds of wilderness that surround those cabins are the perfect way to decompress after a day of travel.

What do you look forward to most when you visit? 
Because of the fact that I get to experience the ranch at different times of year, the things I look forward to in terms of activities vary greatly. Between pristine snow and cattle drives, I could stay entertained forever.

But the one thing that I can always count on, no matter what time of year, is the staff. I do a lot of events, all over the country, but never do I travel to a place and feel so welcomed and at home as I do at Paws Up.

What’s a dish you’ve made just for Paws Up guests that was especially wonderful? 
Seafood salad, cucumber and tomato water, compressed melons. I made this dish for an event last summer, and although I would normally gravitate toward mentioning a dish that feels more “Montana,” I actually loved this dish not only because of the setting and weather that it was served in, but mostly because I got to use some of the best local watermelon I’ve ever tasted.

How does cooking in Montana differ from cooking in LA? Cooking in Montana makes you realize how important and special cooking “local” can be. I come from California, where we have beautiful seasons for produce, and an enormous variety of pretty much anything you want.

But Montana helps me realize how specific seasons can actually be based on climate and accessibility. From elk to buffalo to huckleberries and specific mushrooms, it’s especially fun to find new ways to highlight ingredients that I don’t come across every day in Los Angeles.