Pie Times

According to the American Pie Council, pie is enjoying a sweet revival across America. No longer enjoyed exclusively during the fall holidays, pie is firmly engrained as a year-round dessert, and the nation’s leading chefs are putting new spins on pie innovation.

Chef Donald Link’s Herbsaint Bar and Restaurant, established in 2000 on historic St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, is the flagship of the Link Restaurant Group. Herbsaint works closely with local farmers and producers to offers contemporary, seasonal French-Southern cuisine with elements of rustic Italian. Their desserts, crafted by executive pastry chef Maggie Scales, spotlight the comforting flavors of delicious pies and tarts, such as the banana brown butter tart with fleur de sel caramel or the fried blueberry pie with cream cheese ice cream.

Herbsaint has been recognized by Eater National as one of “The Best Restaurants in America,” as well as being listed as a Top 50 Restaurant in America by Gourmet.

Link is an influential innovator in New Orleans, a city that is known for its unique take on contemporary cuisine. The bakery business plays an integral role. In 2015, Link bought the iconic New Orleans bakery La Boulangerie. Dominique Rizzo, the owner of the traditional French bakery on Magazine Street, approached Link to see if he wanted to buy it, and Link accepted. “It means a lot to him,” Link said at the time. “He wanted it taken care of.”

The bakery has not only survived but flourished. Nowadays, Scales arrives early each morning to bake bread and create fresh desserts and ice cream for La Boulangerie and all the Link restaurants. They plan to expand the bakery’s breakfast and lunch menu with more seasonal offerings.

“The idea is to build more of a casual lunch spot,” Link says. “We’re not trying to change the world. We want a really strong, good French bakery.”

With this goal in mind, the patisserie component of the menu features a wide array of pastries, tarts, cakes and pies, including seasonal fruit tarts and black forest cake.

Originally from Philadelphia, Scales pursued her undergraduate degree at the University of California, San Diego, before moving to Boston to attend the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in the Professional Pastry Program under pastry chef Delphin Gomes. While in school, Scales worked at acclaimed chef Bob Kinkaid’s Sibling Rivalry Restaurant and the Metropolitan Club under chef Todd Weiner.

Upon completing culinary school, she worked as a pastry chef at Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse in Boston. In 2011, she relocated to New Orleans and began working for the Omni Hotels. She then joined Link Restaurant Group as a pastry chef, and in 2014 accepted the position of executive pastry chef overseeing all aspects of Link Restaurant Group’s pastry department.

Fruit Flavors

Blueberry pie has long been a favorite among pie lovers, and it’s important for bakers to understand the many options of blueberries available.

For example, wild blueberries and wild foods overall have seen a resurgence in recent years as consumers seek out more natural products. As foods became more and more processed in previous decades, new generations of shoppers began to gravitate towards foods with more authenticity. Menu and product developers who want to signal their commitment to delivering a real food experience are responding to this shift.

“Across the real foods landscape, wild foods rank as truly sacrosanct,” says Mike Collins, brand strategist at Ethos Marketing. “This is because there are so very few wild foods on Earth that are actually available for broad human consumption. Wild fish, wild meats, wild grains, wild greens, and wild blueberries are amongst the special few.”

While smaller than ordinary blueberries, wild blueberries give you more than twice the number of berries per cup compared with cultivated blueberries and 25% more cups per pound. For bakers, that means your baked goods have more berries in every bite, giving each muffin, scone, or pie extra flavor. They also have a higher skin to pulp ratio. More skin and less water equal more antioxidant-rich pigment — and a better freezing blueberry. That makes a huge difference for product developers and other foodservice providers looking for cost-effective ingredients. In order to preserve their flavor and quality, wild blueberries are sorted, cleaned, and frozen within 24 hours of harvest using state-of-the-art technology. Thanks to this efficient process, wild blueberries are able to maintain their more intense, sweet and tangy taste. Wild blueberries are available year-round.