by Frank Reddy
Briana Carson of Buford started baking pies back in 2011. It was in the midst of the Great Recession – as longterm financial hardship sunk its teeth into working class America – when she came to understand the nature and joy of this versatile pastry.
Prior to being laid off from her corporate job of nearly 20 years, she”d never really thought much of pies at all, truth be told. “I was never much of a baker,” says Carson, owner of Crave Pie Studio in Duluth. “I didn”t grow up with grandma”s apron strings, baking pies. In fact, I never even liked desserts that much.”
When a fierce job market spat her into the throes of the economic downturn, she knew it was time to reinvent herself. She attended culinary school at Gwinnett Technical College and learned something new about herself. Baking an apple pie from scratch for the final exam, Carson had one of those rare aha moments. “I had never tasted a pie made with homemade pastry, and it was such a different experience from the frozen grocery store pie.”
From then on, it was a life-changer.
People come in and enjoy it. Even if they”re in a bad mood, no matter what kind of financial trouble or issue they”re going through, there”s something about pie that brings a smile to their faces.
“After culinary school, I fell in love with the whole idea of pie because it”s so versatile. I loved the savory aspect. You can do quiches, meat pies, and chicken pot pies as well as the more traditional recipes. The possibilities, I realized, were limitless. You can put almost anything in a flaky pastry, and it”s going to be delicious.”
Her husband, Greg, realized Briana had found a talent, and he decided to make an investment. “He was with the Army National Guard and about to be deployed overseas. I came home one day, and there was this huge, industrial-sized garbage can with a bow on it,” she says. “When I opened it, there was all this commercial pie equipment inside. Big rolling pins and pans and everything I would need to get started.”
“He believed in me and thought I could do it. That”s what pushed me. While he was away (in Kosovo for more than a year) I figured, “I”ve got all this time on my hands. I might as well go for it.””
She got her start on the community circuit, baking pies for farmers markets and fall festivals. Her baked goods sold out at most markets, and she developed repeat customers. When a space in downtown Duluth became available in 2012, she jumped at the chance. “It seemed like the perfect place for a pie shop. I didn”t want to be in a strip mall next to a karate shop and a nail salon. I love Main Street. I personally believe every Main Street in America should have a pie shop. It”s such an important part of our culinary heritage.”
The pastries at Crave Pie Studio are smaller than the traditional circular snacks. Each baked good – be it savory or sweet – is prepared and sold in five-inch pie pans. “If people want full-sized pies, we can do that, but people appreciate the small servings. They come in and get one of these, and don”t feel like they have to eat a whole big pie just because they bought it. They can indulge a little without going overboard.”
It would be easy to overindulge with a variety like this: Cheddar Crusted Apple with Bacon Stresuel, Jalapeno Cherry, Peanut Butter and Banana Cream with Bacon Brittle, Bourbon Chocolate Pecan, Peanut Butter with Salted Pretzel Crust. The list goes on and on, including more traditional choices as well.
In creating these unique concoctions and sharing them with others, she found comfort. The kind of comfort that helped her forget about being laid off from her corporate job of 20 years. “Come to think of it”, Carson says, pies are pretty good at helping folks forget their troubles in general. It”s the antidote to a down economy, she quips.
“People come in and enjoy it,” she says. “Even if they”re in a bad mood, no matter what kind of financial trouble or issue they”re going through, there”s something about pie that brings a smile to their faces.”
A survey of U.S. citizens conducted by the American Pie Council found that:
- 36 Million Americans say apple pie is their favorite.
- 47-percent say the word “comforting” comes to mind when they think of pie.
- 1 in 5 say they”ve eaten an entire pie by themselves.
- 113 million have eaten pie for breakfast.
- 75 million say milk is the best beverage while enjoying pie.
- 32-percent prefer no crust on top of their pie.
- 9-percent of Americans prefer to eat their pie crust first.
- 7-percent have passed off a store-bought pie as homemade.
Pie Personality Quiz
Forget the Meyers-Briggs Test. Here”s what your favorite pie says about you.
Apple Pie: Independent, Realistic and Compassionate
Pecan Pie: Thoughtful and Analytical
Chocolate Pie: Loving
Pumpkin Pie: Funny And Independent
A New Spin on the Classics
What kind of pie do you envision when you think about September, October and November? When the cool wind quells that thick Georgia heat, can you smell the spicy aroma of pumpkin filling in hot, flaky crust? Do you imagine the tart sweetness of apples swimming in thick sauce? Or does the thought of autumn conjure the rich, buttery flavor of glistening pecans in corn syrup?
The owner of Crave Pie Studio in Duluth has shared some of her favorite fall recipes. Each offers a creative spin on these classic autumn confections.
Simple Pie Crust
Yield: 1 double crust, or 2 single crust 9” shells
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” dice
- 1/3 cup (approximately) ice water
Whisk flour and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until very coarse meal forms. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons water; toss lightly with hands until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Flatten into disks. Wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour.
On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry into 12” circle. Fold pastry in half, then in half again and place into pie dish. Unfold, and press firmly into dish. Fold under the edges and crimp decoratively with fingers or the tines of a fork.
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Pastry for 9” single pie crust.
- 3 oz butter
- 9 oz brown sugar
- 2 oz pure corn syrup
- 3 eggs
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Add before baking:
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 cup pecans, chopped
In mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. Melt butter, then add to brown sugar mixture. Add eggs, corn syrup and vanilla. Mix until all ingredients are well combined.
Add chopped pecans and chocolate chips to the bottom of pastry lined pie dish. Pour in the pie filling, and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, or until filling is set.
Cranberry Apple Pie
Pastry for double crust pie
- 6-8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I like to combine a variety of apples, such as Granny Smith, Crispin and Rome.
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2” pieces.
- Egg wash: 1 egg and 2 tablespoons cream.
On lightly floured surface, roll one pastry round into round 2 inches larger than upside-down 9-inch glass pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold, press against bottom and side.
In large bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, cinnamon. Stir in apples, cranberries until coated with sugar mixture. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Sprinkle butter over filling. Trim edge 1/2 inch from plate rim.
Roll other pastry into 10-inch round. Fold into fourths, unfold top pastry; trim edge 1 inch from rim. Fold and roll top edge, press to seal; flute with fork tines. Cut slits in top. Brush egg wash over top crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown.
Fresh Pumpkin Pie in Gingersnap Crust
- 8 ounces of Gingersnap cookie crumbs
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
Mix Gingersnap cookie crumbs and brown sugar together until well blended. Add melted butter and mix thoroughly. Press crumbs into the bottom and sides of a 9” pie dish. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Allow to cool before filling.
- 2 cups fresh pumpkin purée
- 1 cup cream
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Roasted Pumpkin Purée
- 1 medium sugar pumpkin (3 – 4 pounds)
Remove stem, cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds. Place cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast in 400 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until flesh is easily pierced with a fork.
After pumpkin has cooled, scoop out flesh with a spoon and purée in food processor.
For Pie Filling:
In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine brown sugar, salt, ginger and cloves. Add eggs, pumpkin purée, and cream slowly mixing until smooth.
Pour filling into cooled Gingersnap Crust. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the edges are set, but the center jiggles slightly. Remove from oven and cool for 2-3 hours before serving.
Serve with freshly whipped cream.