Image by : Jennifer Davick

Coconut pie at Charlotte's Eats and Sweets in Keo

Southern Living magazine, based in Birmingham, Ala., sampled 70 varieties of pies from Texas to Virginia and named 17 as the best of the bunch in its June issue, on newsstands now.

Coming in at No. 4 is the coconut pie from Charlotte's Eats and Sweets in Keo. “The meringue atop one of Charlotte Bowls’ coconut pies stands almost as tall as a five-pound bag of sugar … but the Arkansas pie master doesn’t limit her baked concoctions just to coconut; she also makes a dozen other varieties from caramel to chocolate,” reports Southern Living.

Charlotte’s pie secret: “I use a Crisco-based crust. When making the recipe that’s on the can, never add extra flour --too much flour toughens a crust.”

The magazine's other selections include:

1. Blackberry pie at Mom's Apple Pie Col., Leesburg, Va. 

“Avis Renshaw (Mom of Mom’s Apple Pie Company) makes delicious desserts throughout the year, but her pies really reach their peak in summer when the berries ripen,” according to Southern Living. “She piles berries on top of a cool combination of cream cheese and fruit glaze spread on a thin bottom crust, then she covers everything with more berry glaze.”

Avis’ Pie Secret: “Always use less sugar than the recipe calls for. The most exciting thing about the fruit that’s picked right is that the flavor is intense -- the more sugar you use, the more you dilute the pure flavor.”

2. Pecan pie at Carolina Cider Co., Yemasee, S.C.

Located off Interstate 95 between Charleston and Savannah, Jessica and Tristan Lehnert’s roadside shop sells locally made goods, including pies by baker Laurel Goodman of Sweet Cakes. “They’re all good, but her pecan version is extraordinary,” writes Southern Living. “The buttery texture of the baked pecans pairs nicely with a filling that’s neither too syrupy nor too sweet.”

Laurel’s pie secret: “Definitely use vegetable shortening or lard in the crust, not butter.”

3. Buttermilk pie from Cutie Pies, Austin, Texas

Jaynie "The Pie Queen" Buckingham works magic inside a pink-and-green four-foot by eight-foot trailer in downtown Austin. Out of this small, quirky space, she serves one of the world’s best buttermilk pies. "Yes, best,” according to Southern Living.

Jaynie’s pie secret: “I use this crust recipe: 1 cup flour, ½ cup shortening, and ¼ cup nearly frozen water. Put the water in a bowl in the freezer until ice chips form on top -- not all the way frozen -- and then pour it onto the flour and shortening while you’re making the dough.”

5. Empire Apple Pie from Pielab, Greensboro, Ala. 

Project M, a group of young graphic designers, set up PieLab on Main Street last July. It’s part bakery, culinary school and design studio that teaches area youth how to make pies, and then sells slices for $2 ($3 a la mode).

PieLab’s pie secret: “We avoid using whole wheat flour because it tends to make the crust too dry,” says Breanne Kostyk, one of the team members at PieLab. “Instead we add wheat germ to all-purpose flour, which gives the crust a nutty flavor.”

To read the full story in Southern Living click here.