The savory side of pies is alive and well at pie shops across the country. At Hoosier Mama Pie Co. in Chicago, they are making chicken pot pies and pork apple sage pies to tantalize guests with new and interesting flavor combinations for the winter months. At Detroit’s Sister Pie, they offer the perfect mix of savory and sweet with $4 savory hand pies for lunch, sweet and savory scones, and full-size pies ranging in unique flavors from coffee chess to apple sage gouda.
“We make pies (and cookies and scones, etc.) with traditional techniques and rustic execution,” says Lisa Ludwinski, head baker and owner of Sister Pie in Detroit. “There’s the familiarity factor that people crave. But then we use that structure (and the agricultural calendar in Michigan) to allow room for creativity. How can I make a cherry pie taste just a little bit different or be just a little bit special enough that it’s better than pie at home? We focus on creating simple, straightforward flavors with a twist.”
Ludwinski spent most of her childhood in Milford, Michigan, where she recalls early memories of the baking world. “When I was 2, I remember my parents lifting me up to look through the glass at our local Cinnabon. I was influenced by Martha Stewart and Ina Garten, of course, two badass women who totally owned what they did. I could watch videos of them for hours.”
Today, she believes her shop definitely has a strong pie dough, and she develops her craft through lots and lots of thoughtful repetition. “Every time I roll out a pie crust or develop a new filling recipe, I deepen my understanding of why we do what we do. I could read a dozen books on the subject, I’m sure, but I learn the best from experiencing it hands-on.”
She wouldn’t classify gluten-free or vegan food as being a trend so much as a response to heightened awareness and understanding of how food affects us. “With that said, we get lots and lots of requests for that. We definitely have to make more of a concerted effort to get a vegan pie and/or gluten-free pie on the menu.”
Savory hand pies are also gaining popularity in Chicago where chef/co-owner Paula Haney just recently expanded her Hoosier Mama Pie Co. from 750 square feet (where they barely had room to move) to 1,100 square feet. Now customers have enough tales to enjoy a slice of pie and read a book in her shop. Haney started a partnership with Dollop Coffee & Tea Co. at her second pie shop that opened in 2013 in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. The surge in popularity of Hoosier Mama Pie led to the publication of her first cookbook. But now is not the time for rapid expansion, Haney says. “I want to make the shops we have perfect. I think you can taste the difference between someone who does it for the love of food or someone who just saw a hot business opportunity.”