I first came across Gesine Bullock-Prado after reading through her memoir, My Life From Scratch. The book is a story of how the baker found herself retreating from the glittering lights and blinding cameras of Hollywood to pursue her passion for pastry arts. And, yes, let’s get it out of the way: her sister is indeed Academy Award Winner Sandra Bullock. Gesine’s most recent cookbook, Pie It Forward, details the ins-and-outs of decorating, baking, and devouring one of the South’s most famous sweets. Gesine talked with me about Pie It Forward.
Your last book was about candies, confections, and cakes. What made you decide to do this one on pies?
I’m a pastry chef, so in my pastry life and pastry shop I make them all the time. [My book] Sugar Baby was really about sugar work, which is something pastry chefs do every day and that includes candies, pastry cream, and a bunch of techniques that are really relevant to everyday baking, but that are not taught unless it’s in a professional tone. My mother was German, but I was raised in the States and Germany, so I had a really interesting pastry background in that I was eating all these amazing things in Germany and different versions of pie in the U.S. I thought it would be incredibly fun to write a book that incorporated my life as a German and European and my life as a very American girl. I wanted to highlight techniques that aren’t really thought of in pie making.
Tell me where the inspiration for these pie recipes came from? Are these family recipes? Recipes you developed?
Most of the recipes are things I’ve developed based on things I’ve wanted to eat. I live in a seventeenth-century tavern and farm in Vermont. Depending on what is coming out of the ground, seasonally, I’ll be inspired by that. Colors from the farm also inspire me. My daily cravings are a huge part of the inspiration as well. Everyday sights, sounds, and smells are the things that influence me.
What’s your favorite slice of pie?
I’m a very seasonal eater, so it changes all the time. And, for anybody who bakes a lot, it’s usually what you’re baking at the moment that you’re most in love with. Right now I’m craving anything fruity, so a really simple, juicy fruit tart with pastry cream filling, a buttery, quick-puff crust, and fresh seasonal fruit sounds perfect. I love using berries from the backyard, glazing them, and arranging them; almost like they are a painting. That always makes me happy. And chocolate cream pie, of course! Chocolate or fruit, I just love pie – period.
We’ve seen a memoir from you. We’ve seen your cookbooks. Are you planning to do another book soon?
Yeah, I handed in my next one already, so I’m relieved! I have a cookbook coming out once a year.
Your sister, [Sandra Bullock], has restaurants in Austin. Do you guys talk a lot about cuisine? Tell me what role food plays in your family life.
Our mother was really the focal point of food. We grew up vegetarian and macrobiotic, but we would have these times when we would go to Germany where it was all-out craziness with pastries and foods. It was a bit of a schizophrenic food existence. Then, we would have our Southern family where we would have Coca Cola, Oreos, fried chicken, and things that were totally forbidden in everyday life. We’ve clearly come from the same background and we always have our holidays together. We base everything we make on what our Mother taught us. Despite her dietary restrictions, she was a fabulous chef and baker. We have that to look up to.
Would you guys ever do a family cookbook together?
No. Our lives are so different. She has her restaurants, and I can’t imagine doing that. We’re so busy that when we’re finally together, we just want to spend time together. We’re not going to work together. We’re just going to play together.
Where has your best slice of Texas pie been from?
Honestly, the pecan pies I make when I’m in Texas are the best. You can’t go into Austin without getting hit by a pecan. It’s also one of my favorite pies. With a sweet crust or a buttery crust, it’s always amazing.