When Bri Warner announced she was closing her bakery Maine Pie Line shortly before the holidays, the question had to be asked: Where should her customers turn for holiday pies? Warner named a handful of the great alternatives in town, but confessed she hadn't been tempted by the fruit of another since she started her business and wasn't up to speed on other people's pies.
Out of this, a pie crawl was born. The crawl was organized on short notice due to the impending holiday (yes, it's coming right up, and if you don't feel like cooking, check out eight great places to dine out on Thanksgiving). As such, not every bakery was included, and we've done our best to share additional holiday pie information for shops that didn't get featured.
Katie Made, 181 Congress Street, Portland. Order for Thanksgiving by Monday, November 24 at (207) 771-0994.
Founded by Katie Capron in 2000, this East End bakery sold mostly wholesale for its first ten years. "No sign, boxes in the window so you couldn't see in...that was my M.O.," Katie said of her minuscule original location at 147 Cumberland Avenue (now home of Union Bagel Co.).
That changed when her sister Jenny came along and helped propel the business into the public eye. Moving to a larger, more inviting space at 181 Congress Street helped, too. Everything is baked in-house, whereas some bakeries will rent extra oven space for the enormous influx of late-year special orders.
What's your most popular pie?
Katie: For Thanksgiving, pumpkin. What customers will do is all get a pumpkin then get something else. The "something else" changes, but we mostly go classic. I've tried bringing Tarte Tatin, and it didn't even get cut. So we keep it pretty basic.
And I'd say half of my customers return every year and get the same thing. You try to take something off the menu, but, you know? I try not to make cakes this time of year, but a ton of people cry about it every time because it's little Jimmy's birthday and it's tradition (laughs).
Thanksgiving you get a system for, because people are fairly predictable for that holiday. Christmas is hard because it's all over the place: People want cookies, cakes, everything. You come in with your own ideas but the customers determine what's going to happen.
Bri: For me it was such a different clientele, people wanted to bring the weirdest pie to the party!
Bri said on the way over she couldn't wait to try different pies because she hasn't had any in over a year.
Katie: True for me too. For Thanksgiving I haven't eaten anything else in however many years because I bring them every year. That's what I say about my birthday, too: I haven't had a birthday cake in, I can't even tell you how many years, because no one wants to make it for me! I'm like, "Please, make me a cake."
The Taste Test:
Classic Pumpkin Pie, Classic Apple Pie (with a crumble top), No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie.
"The crust on the peanut butter bomb was ridiculous. Like an Oreo or chocolate cookie crust. The texture of the peanut butter was incredible. It was perfect, an absolutely perfect pie."
Two Fat Cats. Order for Thanksgiving by Saturday, November 22 at (207) 347-5144.
"You must be here for the pie!" the woman at the register deduces. Whether or not she recognizes our group as part of a scheduled pie crawl, it's an appropriate greeting at an India Street bakery known for its pies. Owner Stacy Begin carries two of the signature desserts into the small retail space, which has limited seating.
"I put aside two of my favorite pies," Begin explained. "I also feel like they're underloved. They're so good, they need a little boomph. They also have great stories behind them. We have a Bumbleberry and a Shaker Lemon. These are the staff's two favorite pies, these are what we love."
Are these pies on the Thanksgiving menu?
Stacy: These are not, since we find people tend to stay with classics for Thanksgiving. But we'll have these through the winter.
What's a Shaker Lemon Pie?
If you ever get a Shaker recipe, make it. They're simple and perfect.
Bri: Same in Pennsylvania with the Amish, like their Shoo Fly Pie.
Stacy: Yeah, if it's lemon you taste lemon. I love those old recipes.
Bri: That's what pie was based on in the first place, preserving a crop.
Stacy: So this one uses whole lemons. Traditionally the Shakers would have used everything but the seeds. That's really the way it started out: Very thinly sliced, the peel, everything.
But because the pith does have that bitterness, and in this day in age we don't care for that as much, we zest it, take off the pith, slice the fruit very thinly, and then everything is macerated overnight with sugar. The next day we add the eggs, a little bit of flour, maybe a tablespoon more sugar, and then it goes in the pie. It's really luscious. That's the right word for that pie. Citrus is like a light hit for the winter, it's refreshing.
How about the Bumbleberry?
The Bumbleberry is rhubarb, apple, raspberries, and blueberries. What I love about this pie, also called Fruits of the Forest in other parts of the country, is it's basically a pie you made at the end of the season, where you had a little bit of rhubarb left, a little bit of this, not enough of one type of fruit to make a pie, so you just threw it all together.
This is our version. It also involves apples and raspberries, which is our twist on it.
Bri: We called this our "jumbleberry" pie.
What's your most popular pie?
It's gotta be the blueberry, of course. I think what drives it is Mainers love their blueberries, and anyone who visits wants to try the wild Maine blueberry, too. We use local all year round. After that it really depends on the season. We do a straight raspberry pie, which actually is my all-time favorite. It's summer, the epitome of summer. Unadulterated. That's what my family always made in the summer so I have good memories of it.
The Taste Test:
Shaker Lemon Pie, Bumbleberry Pie.
"Shaker Lemon Pie. Fantastic texture, and the crust is phenomenal. It's got a great light, sunny flavor. These are deliciously sweet pies."
Another holiday pie option, not visited: Scratch Baking Co. Specials include Pumpkin-Love, Sour Cream Apple Crumb, Maine Blueberry Streusel, and Maple Pecan with a splash of bourbon. Order for Thanksgiving by Sunday, November 23 at (207) 799-0668.