Tag Archives: pie

The Amazing Women of Pie-giving 2014!

Our first annual Pie-giving delivery was an emotionally fueled one for me.

These women.

Inspire me to be a better person every day.

These women.

Remind me how strong we can be when we lift one another up.

These women.

Make me smile, laugh and cry.

Thank you for these priceless gifts!

I will remember and cherish this Thanksgiving always.

To all the past, present and future, women of First Step, you are my heroes!

And G-I-A-N-T thanks, hugs and kisses, to all of our family, friends and fans, who helped make this year’s Pie-giving possible! Let’s do it again next year…BIGGER & BETTER!

Here are a few of the amazing women I had the privilege of delivering pies to this year (click on each image to view the full photo):

Pie-giving 2014: Giving thanks and helping others this Thanksgiving

With one flip of the calendar, I am in an autumnal mood! I become giddy with the thought of cozy sweaters and crisp air. While many folks are thinking about the start of the school year, my mind immediately fast forwards to Thanksgiving — that marvelous food-centered American holiday.

Every year, whether spent in the company of friends, family or simply with Lenny the Pug, I silently give thanks for all my blessings.

In the fall of 2011, while this company was in its infancy, I lost what little financial security I had. I was shaken to my core and terrified of how I would survive. Luckily, I had an incredible support system who offered me everything I needed to keep my head above water and Lenny in kibble. They refused to let me falter and in return I promised that I would do everything possible to make this company successful. 

It is terrifying to start over. It takes a leap of faith to dive into the unknown. And I’ll be honest, there were many times my faith wavered. Sometimes it was a kind word or hug, others it was looking at Lenny and knowing I needed to do everything I could to provide for him, and still others were pure determination to not allow “them” to beat me. Whatever it was, I managed to break through the haze and find the light each time things grew dim. Three years and many ups and downs later, Lenny and I still have a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, clothing on our backs, and the “little company that could” is steadily growing and making its mark not only in people’s tummies, but in their hearts as well. But what of those who are not as lucky?

It has been an honor and a privilege to work with the amazing folks at Coalition for the Homeless during the past year and a half. The First Step Job Training Program is near and dear to my heart not only because the program director, Elizabeth Henderson, is one of my closest friends, but because it “gives homeless and low-income women the training, social support, education and work experience they need to overcome a tremendous array of stability obstacles, empowering them to build a better life for themselves and their families.” If starting over WITH a support system in place is terrifying, I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like to begin anew with nothing. 

These women choose to stand up and take control. They choose to make a difference in their lives — their families lives. They are able to meet the challenges these changes present with confidence gained through the First Step program.

I admire each and every one of them for taking the risk because I cannot say for sure that I would be as brave as they if the tables were turned.

And so that brings me to my annual “giving thanks.” I am proud to announce that we have partnered with Coalition for the Homeless for our first annual “Pie-giving” benefitting the amazing ladies of the First Step Training Program.

Thanks to our generous and compassionate fans, every woman in Class #126 will be receiving an Alecia Bakery NYC Pumpkin-Gingersnap pie this Thanksgiving! Let’s do it again next year!

Anatomy of a Pie

“Pies are easy to make.”

Well, if that isn’t the biggest load of hooey I’ve ever heard! Like so many other times in life, pies are seemingly simple but incredibly easy to screw up. From the crust to the fillings, pies tend to have only a few ingredients which makes them deceivingly difficult.

Most of us have had at least one slice of fruit pie in our lives. I grew up believing Mrs. Smith’s cherry pie was the end-all-be-all of pies thanks to my mum. That was, of course, until I learned otherwise. And as with all things, particularly food, everyone has their own idea of what makes a “good” pie. There are three things I look for in a fruit pie with a traditional rolled crust:

1. Flaky, crisp crust

2. Filling that retains the fruit’s texture

3. Fully filled pie

Many folks are in either the “crust” or the “filling” camps, but rarely both. I am one of those rare folks that while I can appreciate each aspect individually, I believe it takes both to work harmoneously to achieve pie greatness.

Do not be fooled by the simplicity of the ingredients of a rolled pie crust. While quality ingredients are always important, particularly when few ingredients are used, it is the handling of the dough that will either produce a leaden shell or those perfect flaky layers.

I have a similar simple outlook on fruit fillings. I prefer thicker slices and whole berries as I look for that natural texture when I take my first bite. That being said, use the absolute best fruit available, just enough sugar and spices to enhance and accentuate the natural flavors and do not, I mean DO NOT skimp on the filling! The fruit will soften and settle during baking and what may appear to be a grotesque mound of raw fruit before baking, will become the most delicious fully filled pie 60 minutes or so later.

Having set the bar high, I decided it was time for me to perfect my pie making skills. Okay, okay, it was that and my deep desire to combine my favorite autumn fruits before they disappeared from the local market. And so I give you a pictorial: “Anatomy of a Pie.”

4 1/2 lbs. of freshly sliced Granny Smith apples and Bosc pears
Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger & a little love!
All butter crust with almonds
OVERLY filled bottom crust!
Top crust on, brushed with heavy cream and sprinkled with raw sugar.
Perfectly baked pie!
Now THAT is a flaky crust!
My ideal marriage of flaky crust FILLED with fruit!
Apple Pear Pie ala Mode! (Drizzled with salted caramel because isn’t everything better with salted caramel?!)





Thanksgiving remembered…

I remember fondly, as a child growing up in Michigan, my family’s gatherings. But the one I most remember is Thanksgiving. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins, grandparents, great-grandparents and anyone that happened to be alone on that day would gather together in my grandparents’ tiny home in Findlay, OH. We’d watch the Macy’s Day Parade on television followed by a full day of football. We’d laugh and play and make plans for our Christmas gathering. The star of the day, however, was the food! Oh the food!

The enormous turkey would be stuffed with oyster dressing and put into the oven the night before to roast on the lowest of settings. To this day, I’ve never tasted a more tender, sweet piece of turkey than what my grandmother, Nellie, made in that tiny stove of hers. She would hand-peel steaming hot boiled potatoes (a method I never fully understood the justification of until I was much older) just as the sun was rising for her secret recipe potato salad. Every palate would be sated. She had candied yams, mashed potatoes, ham, turkey, multiple types of stuffing, and the list went on and on ending with a stack, yes, an eyeball high stack of pies!

They say baking is an exact science and as a baker I agree to a great extent. But the rules that govern baking didn’t seem to affect my great-grandmother. Hazel Gardner was a tough broad. At a mere 4’10” and 90 lbs. dripping wet, she terrified every member of our family and I suspect most of the Midwest. Her Siamese cat, Poocheye, was probably the only living creature who didn’t shrink in her presence. But good golly could that lady bake! In her cracker box sized kitchen, she turned out my absolute favorite dessert — Sugar Pie. That’s right. Sugar Pie.

It was a slightly sweet, creamy custard pie in the most perfect of flaky crusts. Great-grandma said it would cure everything. She made it for everyone who became ill. She made it for family gatherings. What she didn’t do was write down the recipe. Doh! I set out to harness her power over germs and learn how to make the delicious pie. Well, that was my intention. It took great-grandma a blink of an eye to tell me the recipe as I sat on the floor, notepad and pencil at the ready. But I sat flummoxed. She used words like “pinch” and “dash” and “until it looks right.” What? How did a “pinch” translate into teaspoons? And what exactly was “right” about the way the conglomeration looked?

No, I was never able to recreate my great-grandmother’s pie. And I could never duplicate those soft, quiet moments with my great-grandmother either. It was like a shooting star. You had to be there to fully comprehend the moment.

So, here’s to friends, family, Thanksgiving, food and the memories they create!

What is your fondest Thanksgiving memory?