Local bakers are on the rise.
Published: July 3, 2013
Love says the pies are made with “good old Southern-style custard,” and they come in 26 different flavors, including such staples as apple, strawberry, peach and blueberry. But some of the custard flavors are even more interesting, including ginger, German chocolate, crème brûlée, lemon-lime, pecan caramel and sweet potato.
“Being Southerners, you can make almost anything out of what you have in season right there.”
One custard, “red velvet,” Love describes as a mix of crème brûlée and pecan pie that garners one of two reactions: “either ‘it’s too sweet’ or ‘it’s so sweet I gotta have it!’”
“We have a lot of customers that are from the South,” Love says, “so they buy from us. Then we get Northerners who try it for the first time, and they say, ‘Wow. I’ve never had nothing like this!’”
The classic Southern chess pie is another specialty. Love says, “We have our own variation on it. We add some things to it, but we never forget the core of what it is. Real chess pie eaters know if it’s real because then you can smell the butter coming out of it. That pie is the best reason you’ll ever have to go to the gym!”
Love’s offerings change from month to month, depending on the weather and the availability of ingredients. “We try to do everything in season,” Love says. “Right now, we’re really doing strawberry custard. We keep it really cold. It reminds people of eating custard ice cream.”—Michael Jackman
Find Love’s Custard Pies on Saturdays and Tuesdays at Eastern Market, Shed 2, Stall 258; check out the website at lovescustardpies.com.
Baking in the Back
When it comes to baking, having another business as a partner can be a smart move. So says Ann St. Peter of Pinwheel Bakery. Almost two years ago, tired of the hassle of baking and running a retail, she gave the front of the house over to longtime friend and former co-worker Sandi Heaselgrave, who now runs the coffee shop Red Hook out of it, selling Pinwheel’s baked goods.
“It’s worked really great. We’re basically like roommates. We’re two separate businesses entirely. She’s a wholesale customer of mine who just happens to be four feet away,” St. Peter says, adding with a laugh that “people still ask her where she gets her baked goods, even though we’re standing right there making them.”
The move has freed up St. Peter to focus on production, and the business thrives on its wholesale sales to a bunch of different cafes and restaurants around town. There’s a steady market for excellent baked goods among the area’s midlevel restaurants, as only the highest-end establishments can keep a pastry chef on staff full time.
St. Peter initially got into baking as a way to get away from the shouting, arguing and chest-thumping associated with the “hot line” in restaurant kitchens. After working for a now-defunct Royal Oak restaurant with an especially obnoxious all-male staff, St. Peter found sanctuary in doing the restaurant’s baking with the owner’s Czechoslovakian mother, who made everything from scratch bread. Before long, St. Peter had gone through an old-fashioned apprenticeship. To her it remains the best part of being a baker: “Enjoying the people you get to work with.”
Much of her baking involves cakes and cookies, and the closest she gets to pies is a creation called a “galette.” “It’s like a ‘freeform pie,’ a really rustic pie, or kind of like a loose interpretation of a pie. There’s a shell, but not a pie pan. It almost looks like a pizza. She’s also experimenting with savory galettes, and she says, “Today’s galette is farmer’s cheese, zucchini, sweet corn and basil. It’s basically our answer to lunch offering.”
Asked why baking seems to be taking off, she says, “I think it’s just a natural flow of people wanting homey things. Cupcakes are small, homey reminiscences of childhood, and pies are reminiscent of a simpler time. Also, you can really utilize local ingredients with pies. In fall, you have all those apples, and in the summer you have all the berries. They’re a great way for people to showcase what’s native to their area. —Michael Jackman
You can buy Pinwheel’s baked goods at Red Hook, 220 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-398-8018; email@example.com.
Making it Big
Achatz Handmade Pie Co.
No newcomer to the pie field, Michigan’s Achatz Handmade Pie Co. is well-established, with 20 years of baking under its belt. But it all started as a home business. In 1993, husband-and-wife duo Wendy and David Achatz began baking pies out of their Victorian home in Armada, Mich.
Achatz Handmade Pie Co.’s Renee Brown tells us, “Pretty soon, people started lining up around the block around their home, which they had converted into a small restaurant.”
Five years ago, the Achatzes moved the operation to a nearby 10-acre apple orchard, but the pies are still made the old-fashioned way. Owners David and Wendy Achatz, take pride in using nothing but pure and natural ingredients. Many of the recipes have been passed down for generations, and Achatz Handmade Pie Co. is working hard to carry on the tradition.
“We pretty much bake pies around the clock now,” Brown says.
The Michigan four-berry pie is the most popular, featuring blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and cherries, capped with Achatz’s signature crumb topping. Other pies include the banana split pie, made with vanilla cream, bananas, pineapple, cherries, whipped cream, walnuts and dark chocolate, as well as the caramel nut apple pie, with roasted and salted pecan halves, and whole cashews drizzled with warm caramel.
Achatz’s savory pies include chicken or beef pot pie, Mediterranean quiche and a seasonal seafood pie with shrimp, clams, scallops, potatoes, sautéed onions and a homemade creamy sauce.
Although this family-owned business has been featured on Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show and The Today Show, to name a few, it still manages to stay down-to-earth.
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