Localicious: The Gift of Pie

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When you arrive on someone’s doorstep with a pie in hand, you know you’re going to get a smile. The smell of pie magically draws us back to our childhood, when a sweet flaky slice felt as comforting as a hug.

A pie can be as remarkable as it is ordinary. It is rumored that Mark Twain fought bouts of depression with heavy doses of huckleberry pie. This sweet treat has always been a dish that brings families together in the kitchen and at the table.

Diego Tantardini, owner of Tantardini’s European Bakery-Deli in Redding, says he uses an old family recipe when preparing his crostata, a traditional Italian fruit pie. “Every day when I came home from school there was always a crostata ready to slice as a snack,” he says.

art-1216-loca2Mini Pies and Pie Pops

The “small pie movement” has gained popularity in recent years. Michelle Gates is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and teaches cooking classes through the Chico Area Recreation and Park District. “Mini pies and hand pies are the perfect size for sharing,” she says. A variety of mini pies can be made in one muffin tin, and kids love to be part of the baking team. Crust options made with ingredients such as nuts, seeds and potatoes allow the baker to consider gluten-free and other dietary needs. “Today’s crusts and fillings are limited only by your imagination,” says Gates.

Andrea Smetona, author of Easy as Pie Pops: Small in Size and Huge on Flavor and Fun, says the pie pop­ – a bite-size pie on a stick – is a huge crowd-pleaser at weddings and kids’ parties. Andrea’s 4-year-old son is often by her side when she bakes. “With a little guidance from a parent, a child can easily crack eggs, measure ingredients and sprinkle sugar,” Smetona says. “It’s a confidence booster and they get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. It’s a wonderful way to bond with parents or grandparents.”   

Sweet or Savory

As a dish, pie is endlessly versatile and has been eaten in one form or another for centuries. Fillings, doughs and spices vary worldwide depending on what is regionally available. Many think of pie as a traditional American dessert featuring apples, pumpkins, pecans or berries. But main-course pies include meats, grains and vegetables.

Gates says savory pies such as quiches, tarts and pot pies are “perfect for family meals and sharing because they’re one-dish suppers with unlimited filling options.”

Made with Love

There are many ways to make a pie, some born of family tradition and others learned from the latest cable cooking show. However, most successful pie-makers agree on one thing: Good pie is not to be rushed.

Robin Rowe, owner of Sweet Cottage in Chico, has offered delicious handmade pies to her customers for eight years. “If there is any anger, frustration or sadness, the crust will tell the story,” she says. Rowe chooses her ingredients carefully, using local and organic sources when possible. Regardless of what kind of pie she is making, there are crucial elements that can’t be bought. In her opinion, “A perfect pie is made by hand, from scratch, and with love.”

For Local Pie Lovers

Sweet Cottage: 220 Broadway St., Chico, CA (530) 513-2044. Dessert pies and savory quiches – whole and by the slice. Look for the Sweet Cottage cart at Chico Saturday Market.

Tantardini’s European Bakery-Deli: 2931 Churn Creek Rd., Redding, CA (530) 645-8958.  http://www.tantardinis.com. Full Italian cuisine menu, including fruit crostatas and other desserts. Call for catering options.

Noble Orchards: 7050 Pentz Rd., Paradise, CA (530) 877-4784. More than 30 varieties of apples straight from the tree, along with seasonal fruits and nuts. Sample apples, cider and apple butter.

Olson Stoneware: 516 Main St., Weaverville, CA (530) 623-4718. http://www.olsonstoneware.com. Hand-thrown, high-fired stoneware – including pie plates.

Pie on Your Mind? Books to Explore

  • A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies by Ashley English. Perfect pies for every holiday and time of year.
  • Baking with Kids: Make Breads, Muffins, Cookies, Pies, Pizza Dough and More! by Leah Brooks. No-fail instructions for homemade pies.
  • Mini Pies: Adorable and Delicious Recipes for Your Favorite Treats by Christy Beaver. Gluten-free and vegan options included.
  • United States of Pie: Regional Favorites from East to West and North to South by Adrienne Kane. Regional heirloom pies from all over the country.

Localicious is a monthly column celebrating food in the North State. If you would like to suggest a food-related business or organization, email us at localicious@northstateparent.com

Ashley Talmadge
About Ashley Talmadge

​Ashley Talmadge has always shared her home with a variety of companion animals. Currently her family includes two opinionated cats and two aquatic frogs. Her two young sons like to think of themselves as "cat mind readers."

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