For anyone with an interest in the baking and pastry arts, pies offer one of the greatest opportunities to show off your particular style and flair. Building off a flaky, hand-kneaded crust, you can craft flavor combinations that are indulgently sweet, satisfyingly savory or a unique departure. By getting to know some of the delightful possibilities being produced in bakeries across the country, you may find inspiration for an irresistible dish of your own.
Often, digging into a pie is like reuniting with a childhood friend. You’re looking for a comforting experience, full of warm feelings and nostalgia, not something wild and new. Luckily, many bakers have devoted their skills to making great renditions of beloved pies. That means they’re like the desserts you enjoyed as a kid – except maybe a lot better.
“A classic pie can bring warm, nostalgic feelings.”
That’s certainly the case when you enjoy an old-fashioned apple pie at New York City’s Little Pie Company. It’s made with Golden Delicious apples, cinnamon and nutmeg, plus, if you like, a scoop of vanilla ice cream. There are also the options of a sugar-free version or one made with sour cream and walnuts.
Visitors to San Francisco owe it to themselves to stop at Tartine Bakery for its selection of fresh bread, pastries and sandwiches made with organic ingredients. Above all, however, they must sample the signature banana cream pie. Pastry chef and co-owner Liz Prueitt wrote in Lucky Peach that her take on this dish stands out because the filling includes cornstarch instead of flour, plenty of vanilla and a layer of caramel.
Hoosier Mama in Chicago strives for an old-school atmosphere with a shifting selection of old favorites to match. The offerings include a combination of blueberries and blackberries and a chocolate chess pie. If you want pie for both dinner and dessert, you can also enjoy a savory classic like chicken pot pie.
Sooner or later, every baker must stretch his or her skills by creating a pie that’s a little different. Some of those experiments have paid off with amazing desserts that attract customers to line up at the bakery for a slice.
Random Order Pie Bar in Portland, Oregon makes its apple pies different from most. The Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples come together with caramel in the filling, and the crust features Tahitian vanilla sugar salt. Other unique choices include a salted pecan pie made with Kentucky bourbon and a chocolate cream pie featuring a semi-sweet, dark pastry cream from Berlin, plus whipped cream and shaved chocolate. For a savory taste you eat without a fork, go for the sun-dried tomato hand pie with herb cream cheese.
Chef David Chang’s Momofuku family of restaurants is well known for its adventurous dishes inspired by Asian cuisine. The Milk Bar bakery locations in New York, Washington, D.C. and Toronto keep things just as interesting. The signature dish is the crack pie, featuring an oat cookie crust and a buttery filling made with several egg yolks, kosher salt, heavy cream, vanilla extract, granulated and brown sugar, and corn and milk powder.
The pie choices at Simple Things Restaurant’s three locations in Los Angeles and Burbank shift by the day. Nonetheless, a couple of the regular options stand out. In the Missouri mud pie, there’s a pecan and graham cracker crust, chocolate filling and homemade, toasted marshmallow on top. The salted caramel pie fills the graham cracker crust with a caramel made from sweetened condensed milk and seasoned with sea salt.
If you’re enrolled in an accredited online culinary arts program or pursuing a baking certificate, you’ll have many chances to make pies. Whether you concentrate on perfecting a familiar recipe or strive to invent a new sensation, getting to know the elements that go into the best pies will develop your own skills.