Baking Power | Pie Recipes to Savor

At a gathering for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, pie brings comfort and purpose.

By Yankee Magazine

Dec 03 2020

Photo Credit : Mark Weinberg | Food Styling by Kaitlin Wayne | Prop Styling by Veronica Olson

By Nadine Nelson

On a chilly winter morning,students from Common Ground—a high school, urban farm, and environmental education center in New Haven, Connecticut—enter the campus’s teaching kitchen toting baskets of fresh eggs, carrots, kale, garlic, onions, and other goodies that they’ve raised over the past five months. They’re here to bake as part of the Peace Through Pie project, a national nonprofit that engages communities through group baking events. The funds raised from today’s efforts will be donated to the Institute Library, the city’s oldest membership library, to support its charter mission of “mutual assistance in the attainment of useful knowledge.” As the event’s producer, I’m supervising the drop-off and sorting donated food from Yale University’s dining halls and Haven’s Harvest, a food recovery program.

We work our way through pounds of hearty winter greens, root vegetables, onions, cheeses, and apples. Once the ingredients are organized, we bring all hands on deck to bake a global array of tarts, pies, samosas, quiches, and spanakopitas. Many of the students are first-time bakers, but this afternoon of shared labor allows them to bring their produce from farm to table.

From left: Winter Root Vegetable Cheese Tart, Vegetarian Samosa-Style Potpies, Pear Cranberry Cheddar Pie with Hazelnut Crumble, Puerto Rican–Style Shepherd’s Pie, and Civil Rights Spice Sweet Potato Pie.
Photo Credit : Mark Weinberg | Food styling by Kaitlin Wayne | Prop styling by Veronica Olson

The idea of pie fund-raisers isn’t new, nor is community baking. In the 1950s, the civil rights activist Georgia Gilmore helped organize a group of local bakers in Montgomery, Alabama, into the “Club from Nowhere,” which sold pound cake and sweet potato pie to pay transportation costs for workers during the 1955–1956 bus boycott.

In 1995, an Austin, Texas–based artist and activist named Luanne Stovall was brainstorming interactive ways to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. She imagined a shared feast in the style of Thanksgiving, and when she remembered that Dr. King’s favorite dessert was pecan pie, Peace Through Pie was born.

On the day of our bake sale, volunteers hang handmade snowflakes from the library’s ceiling, drape vintage white lace tablecloths over an oversize mahogany table, and lay out white platters and pie stands filled with pies and tarts. We open the doors to the public, and soon our guests are milling around, exchanging recipes, sharing food traditions, and, most important, enjoying delicious food.

The template for Peace Through Pie is flexible, but the goal is consistent: to use the power of food as a way to connect us to each other, to share our legacies, and to enhance our communal well-being. Whether you want to create your own Peace Through Pie event or just bake for friends and family, I’ve created five recipes that are easy to make and versatile enough to be filled with what is seasonal and on hand.

Get the Recipes:

Vegetarian Samosa-Style Potpies

Winter Root Vegetable Cheese Tart

Puerto Rican-Style Shepherd’s Pie

Pear Cranberry Cheddar Pie with Hazelnut Crumble

Civil Rights Spiced Sweet Potato Pie

Peace Through Pie is a nonprofit that partners with schools, organizations, and communities to promote peace and cultivate the skills of peacemakers. For more information, go to