Here’s How to Make It as a Pie-Baker and Business Owner
Rachel E. Gross talks to Teeny Lamothe of Teeny Pies for Slate’s Working series.
We’re posting transcripts of Working, Slate’s podcast about what people do all day, exclusively for Slate Plus members. What follows is the transcript for Season 5, Episode 9.
In this episode of Working, Slate’s Rachel E. Gross talks to Teeny Lamothe about her one-woman handmade pie business, Teeny Pies. Teeny has big plans for her little pies, which, for now, sell at farmers markets and local coffee shops around Washington, D.C. But how did she cook up the idea for Teeny Pies? And where is she taking the store next? Teeny tells the story of her life of pies in this edition of Working.
Plus, in a Slate Plus bonus segment, Teeny takes us through the steps of how to make the perfect rhubarb pie, and how to make the perfect pie from crust to finish. And here’s a hint: a little vodka doesn’t hurt!
Rachel Gross: Welcome to Working, Slate’s podcast about what people do all day. I’m Rachel Gross, a writer for Slate who covers science and food. For this week’s episode, we’re talking with someone who’s taken the art of pastry-making to the next level. Teeny Lamothe is the owner Washington, D.C.-based company, Teeny Pies. And she’s learned the hard way that it’s fun to bake pies for your friends, but it’s a lot harder to turn it into a small business. And in a Slate Plus extra, Teeny shows us how to make the perfect pie, from crust to finish.
What’s your name and what do you do?
Teeny Lamothe: My name is Teeny, and I am the owner and baker of Teeny Pies.
Gross: Can you tell me what Teeny Pies is?
Lamothe: Sure. Teeny Pies is a pie company where we specialize in tiny seasonal pies.
Gross: Tell me what it’s like to be a professional baker, the owner of Teeny Pies. What does that entail?
Lamothe: For me, at the moment, it means doing all of it. So, I only recently just hired someone part time.
So, for the last two years, I’ve been doing the majority of the work. Which means taking orders, lining up farmer’s markets, and then there’s all of the pie production as well. So, I’m sort of like a one-lady workhorse over here. One-lady band. So, everything sort of starts and ends with me.
Gross: Nice. Though not ideal in the long run.
Lamothe: Yeah. I think if I were to only do it this way, I would eventually just like die of exhaustion.
But it’s been a really great learning experience.
Gross: And I understand that winter is not the season for pies. So, this is one of your quieter seasons?
Gross: But I would love to ask you, in a busier time, if you could take me through a typical day at Teeny Pies?
Lamothe: So, I do everything in stages. Beginning of the week is crust: making the dough, rolling everything out. Midweek is filling production; whether that’s cutting up produce, or peeling apples, or putting all of the ingredients together for the savory pies, that sort of happens midweek.
And then the end of the week is building and baking all of the pies. We have markets on Fridays and Saturdays, typically during the market season. So, we build everything on Thursday and Fridays. A typical baking day would mean I show up at 6:37, and then I start assembling each pie by flavor.
We’ll do all of the strawberry rhubarb pies first, which get a crumble, and then they get baked for 40 minutes. And then we’ll move on to the apple pies, and et cetera, et cetera, until everything is baked off. And then once it’s had an opportunity to cool, then we package everything for the markets.
Gross: Oh, so it’s like a weeklong pie odyssey.
Lamothe: Yeah, exactly.
Gross: I didn’t expect that. I figured you’d bake them all in one day, but it’s a process.
Lamothe: Yeah. I think it’s a process. It has to be a process in order for everything to get done efficiently.
Gross: Right. That totally makes sense.
Lamothe: Especially if you’re making as many pies as we tend to make in a week.
Gross: Which is how many?
Lamothe: In our busiest season, it’s between 300 and 400 pies a week.
Gross: Four hundred pies a week. And who makes those all?
Lamothe: I make all those pies.
Gross: Wow. That’s a lot of pies.
Lamothe: It’s pretty epic. I’m very proud at the end—and tired, at the end of each week.
Gross: Yeah, I bet.
So, that’s interesting.
There’s like, a whole day and a half dedicated to making crust and crust rolling?
Lamothe: Yeah. I think it’s one of the hardest parts of making the pies. I think, and it could just be that I’m scared to teach somebody, but I’ve got it down to such a science that there’s no waste. So, it takes me about—gosh—I want to say it takes me about a minute to roll out a crust. So, I’ve gotten it down. I’m very speedy.
But because of the amount that we make each week, it’s probably one of the things that takes the most time.
Gross: And you said you hand roll every one? What would be the alternative to that?
Lamothe: I think at some point we’ll probably get a sheeter. And then we’ll start cutting out rounds.
Gross: What’s a sheeter?
Lamothe: It’s a machine that flattens the dough for you. So, it’ll make it however thin I want. It’ll it the perfect thinness for cutting out and then crimping the dough.
So, the actual rolling process will be taken away, which will be wonderful for my shoulders, my neck and shoulders. And then the only thing we’ll have to do is cut things out and then crimp with our signature crimp.
Gross: What’s your signature crimp?
Lamothe: I do a little V crimp with my thumb and pointer finger all the way around.
Gross: What does that look like?
Lamothe: It’s just a really delicate flute, which I think makes a really pretty, tiny pie.
It’s something that I learned from my mom. So, I learned most of pie tricks from my mom. And then I think I’ve just gotten better and better because of the sheer volume of pies that I make.
Gross: So, on a crust rolling day, could you maybe just start from when you get in at the morning and what you do kind of hour by hour?
Lamothe: Absolutely. Task number one, consume lots of coffee. Task number two, pick the ideal music to not get too amped up, but also to not get bored.
Gross: Where are you?
Lamothe: I’m at the kitchen. So, I rent space at a big commercial kitchen. In order to be able to sell at farmer’s markets, you have to have the proper licensing. And so, I rent a space with two other people at a tiny little kitchen on Rhode Island and Fourth. Everything is there. I do most of my work on my prep table. I’ve got lots of stacks of dough in the fridge. Each disc of dough gets chopped into fourths, and then those fourths get chopped into fourths.
And each of those fourths becomes a Teeny Pie. So, I roll them out into, hopefully, the perfect circle, stick them into their tin, and then I do the crimp all the way around. And I roll out 16 at a time, before the dough gets too warm to work with and I have to put it back in the fridge. I load up all the crusts on a tray, and then I stick them in the freezer. And then I start stacking them. Every 16 crusts, I go and I stack them in the freezer. So, they just live in their stacks until they’re ready to be filled.
Gross: And you’re basically making the crusts and piling them all morning, or all day?
Lamothe: Yep. All day. Yep, it’s an all-day endeavor.
Gross: Wow. Is it almost like every day is a different part of the process?
Lamothe: Yeah. I would definitely say so. I think Monday, I typically make as much dough as is necessary, because a lot of orders come in at the end of each week.
And so, I just have to calculate how much dough is necessary. So, each disc of dough makes 32 Teeny Pies. And so, I just count up from there. So, depending on how much I need is how much I make on Mondays. And then Tuesdays and Wednesdays I do all my rolling. Tuesday I also buy any extra things that need to be bought, ingredients-wise. So, Tuesday is a shopping day, where I either go to Big Valley Produce, which is over in the Florida market, or I head to Costco.
Because it’s just up the street from my kitchen. So, Tuesday’s a shopping and rolling day. And then Wednesday is a big day, I call it the produce day. So, I peel a lot of apples, or I peel a lot of peaches. And they get chopped and put into big containers into the fridge. And then Thursday and Fridays are baking days.
Gross: Which ones are your favorite days?
Lamothe: I still think baking days. I think it’s really fun. I think in talking to other people about the business of pie baking, I think I had a lot of different ideas of what it was going to be like when I first started. And one of the misconceptions is that you’re baking all the time. Like, if you are pie-baker, people think that you are going to be baking all of the time. And the reality is, you do a lot of work before you get to bake. And so, I think on the days when I get to do the most baking, it’s so rewarding.
It’s like everything that I’ve worked towards for Thursday bake day is like, coming to fruition. Right? So, I get to pull out my crusts, I get to pull out my fillings, I get to throw it all together and make beautiful pies. And I think the baking part is still the most fun.
Gross: That’s very cool. It’s like delayed gratification.
Lamothe: Yeah, exactly.
Gross: It’s more rewarding even. So, it sounds like you’re doing a lot of prep work throughout the week. And that’s still to make actual pies. But you mentioned you get a lot of the orders earlier in the week.
And obviously there’s a huge business side of pie baking.
Lamothe: There is, yeah. And I think that’s the part that I wasn’t—I think that’s the part that I needed to experience firsthand in order to know much about it. I think it’s one thing to be very good at baking. It’s another to be able to run a business. And I think I’ve learned the most just by doing it.
Gross: So, you take orders early in the week. Who are your main customers? And do you have any really big clients?
Lamothe: For the most part, we rely on farmers markets and a couple of large wholesale clients. And then if we get a few orders from personal customers in between, we sort of just throw those onto the pile of what we need to make for the week. I don’t do anything in stores. I think stores are tricky because we don’t have the shelf life that is as long as other products, which I think is fine.
At Union Kitchen, you sort of have to decide whether or not you want to do stores and/or just farmers markets. And I think the idea went through my brain a few times about whether or not to be in stores, and it just didn’t seem to make sense for my product, which I think is OK. I think I am much more a sort of like coffee shop, farmer’s market product, which I sort of love.
Gross: And how much do your pies go for at the farmer’s market?
Lamothe: The tiny ones are between five and six. So, those are 4-inch pies that go for $5 or $6.
And then the large pies are anywhere between $20 and $26, I think is the most expensive of our 9-inch pies. And then our savory pies are nine.
Gross: So, you want to sell as many pies as possible at the farmers market. Does that require you having to spend a lot of time with customers? What do you have to do to get enough sold?
Lamothe: I think it’s a combination of things. I think it helps to have a personable person behind the booth.
Gross: Is that generally you?
Lamothe: It’s a mix. So, it’s me and my husband, who actually outsells me every weekend. And it’s sort of not fair, but I take it with a grain of salt because he does it for free. Which I appreciate more than anything. And so, we have a deal that whoever outsells the other person gets lunch. So, I treat him to lunch every Saturday, because he outsells in Mount Pleasant.
Gross: So, why does your husband usually outsell you?
Lamothe: I think he’s a better flirt.
No, I think it’s funny, because I think he loves pie to his core. Like, he stands behind the product so hard. And I do to the same extent. But it’s a lot harder to sell your own product, I think, a lot of the time. And he is just behind it 100 percent of the time. Because he’s able to talk about it with such joy and enthusiasm, he is the perfect salesman.
Gross: It seemed to me like pie was a bit of a competitive market in D.C. There is Dangerously Delicious. There is, I think, Pie Sisters. And then there is Whisked, of course. So, did you find it hard to break into that market here?
Lamothe: I think it’s always going to be hard. Absolutely. I think what’s nice is that I feel like I have found a pretty solid spot amongst the other pie vendors. Right? So, not only do I offer adorable pies.
They’re just so cute. There are very few vendors that do the size that I do. But also, I feel like I have pretty awesome savory pies, which not everybody offers.
Gross: What kind of savory pies do you do?
Lamothe: So, a few favorites have been the Reuben pie, which is like a Reuben sandwich but in pie form. Thanksgiving dinner pot pie, which is like Thanksgiving dinner but in a pie. There’s a Thai red curry chicken pot pie.
There’s a shepherd’s pie. Yeah. I think I love coming up with these savory ideas and then seeing if I can make it happen.
Gross: That’s like a mix between those Willy Wonka jellybeans that could have like an entire roast pork dinner in a candy.
Lamothe: Right. In a bite.
Gross: Right. What would be the process for coming up with a pie idea and then following it through to conception?
Lamothe: So, my favorite meal of all time is Thanksgiving.
I think it’s the perfect combination of everything. It’s salty, it’s got sweet elements, it’s stuffing. I think you can’t go wrong with Thanksgiving dinner. And so, in trying to come up with a Thanksgiving dinner pot pie, I wanted to know what elements would work as a pot pie and how to transform that into the perfect savory pie. And, our signature crust is a whole wheat crust.
So, I wanted to add a little bit of cracked black pepper to that, so it gave it just like a little bit of depth. It’s a whole wheat crust with cracked black pepper. And then the filling is fairly similar to a traditional chicken pot pie, but it’s got turkey and gravy. And then in addition to that it’s got sweet potatoes, because sweet potatoes in Thanksgiving dinner. Cranberries, which add this really nice pop of tart.
Peas. And then rather than have a traditional top crust, we put stuffing on top. So, it’s got all of the elements of Thanksgiving dinner. But in the end, it ends up looking like this adorable bite-sized piece of dinner.
Gross: And did that take a lot of practicing in the kitchen, a lot of bad Thanksgiving pies, before you got to that creation?
Lamothe: It certainly was a lot of soupy. Getting the right ratio of things has always been fairly important when deciding to make savory pies. Because a dry pie is just disgusting, and soupy pies are no fun to eat. So, that’s the delicate balance. But I feel like since I’ve started making these pies, I’ve a pretty great instinct for knowing what’s going to work ratio-wise.
And so, since I’ve made hundreds of chicken pot pies, it’s pretty easy to just sub new elements in.
Gross: You’ve been listening to Teeny Lamothe, owner of Teeny Pies in Washington, D.C. In a minute, you’ll hear Teeny talk about how she got her start shadowing other experienced bakers across the country, and the sad fact that if she really wants to open a storefront for her business she will probably have to leave the district. Womp, womp.
What are some of your biggest costs doing this?
Lamothe: Since we decide to use fresh and local produce as often as possible, that’s probably our biggest ingredients cost. Is that local produce is more expensive than just buying it—you know, getting it delivered from a warehouse where it’s been frozen and processed. And I’m not saying that we don’t occasionally use that when it’s beneficial. But the more often we can use local produce, the better, in my opinion. I think it makes for a better pie.
Gross: Does the produce cost more than even the kitchen space?
Lamothe: No. Certainly not. I would say ingredientswise, that’s our highest cost. But we’ve also managed to make some pretty great relationships, like develop some pretty great relationships with fellow farmer’s market’s farmers. And so, they’re often willing to like, trade pie for produce, which has been really fun to negotiate. Like, I think that the farmer’s markets are a pretty cool community once you are inside.
Everybody is willing to barter, which is new. I didn’t realize this until I started working farmers markets. And like, so, I can typically trade a 4-inch pie for like, a bag of apples, or two boxes of mushrooms. Aaron is very good at bartering for meat, which is excellent. Like, he can grab some, good farmer’s market ground beef for a pie—
Gross: Which is expensive.
Lamothe: Yeah, exactly. For a pie or two. I think the key is to wait until the end of the market when people don’t necessarily want to bring their stuff home.
So like, I don’t want to bring home 20 pies that I haven’t sold from the market. So, I’m going to go see who likes pie more than they like whatever they’re trying to sell. Which is not hard, because I mean, when you think about it, the product that I make is worth X amount of dollars, right?
And the product that they are trying to sell is worth X amount of dollars. And like, they don’t want to bring that home, I don’t want to bring pie home. It’s the perfect trade.
Gross: It’s a win-win.
Lamothe: It’s fun when you start thinking about your products as being worth what they are, as opposed to like, just trying to get money for them. Our biggest costs overall are the kitchen space. It is expensive to rent commercial space in D.C. And I guess I would say labor. Time.
I mean, luckily the person that I hired has been wonderful. And she is driven in a way that I think I am. But I can imagine in the real world when I start employing more people, that they won’t necessarily have the same drive or the same passion in the same way that I do. And I still have to pay them what I have agreed to pay them. And so, I think it will always be sort of a balancing act between finding those people that are perfect for it, and then encouraging them to work really, really hard.
Gross: So, you’ve run Teeny Pies for about two years I understand. How did you start baking?
Lamothe: So, I grew up with pie. Pie was our desert of choice in my household. And we had a big garden out back. So, my mom essentially grew everything that she needed for pies in the backyard, and then threw together pies.
Gross: This was in Denver, Colorado?
Lamothe: Yeah, this was in Colorado. My brother and I used to ask for birthday pies.
So, we were very much a pie family. And then I sort of left it behind. I went to college for theater. I have a BFA in acting, which only really helps at the farmer’s market. Like, I think it makes me more open. I think I have a much easier time talking to people. And then I was an actor in Chicago for about five years. And then my husband and I moved in together. We were not dating. We were just roommates. And so, as a Sunday night activity, I started making pies.
And we would have the pie for the week, and Aaron would eat it for breakfast. And then the next Sunday, I would make two pies instead of one pie. And we would have friends over. And so, the number of pies I was making every week was multiplying week by week by week. And I feel like I had a lot of friends tell me that I should start something. I think you can only hear that so often before you want to see where it might lead. And I knew that going to pastry school was going to be really expensive.
And so, instead of doing that, I decided to put together my own, what I called the tour of pie. Which is essentially a year’s worth of apprenticeships. So, I spent a year traveling from pie shop to pie shop in order to learn specifically how to make pie and how to run a small business.
Gross: So, you got almost like a Ph.D. in pies, very specialized, eyes on the pies.
Lamothe: Eyes on the pies. I did it. I went to ten different shops across the country. I stayed about a month in each place.
Gross: Did you just call them up and say, I’d like to work for you for free?
Lamothe: Yep. I started with emails, and then I started cold-calling. And slowly—
Gross: That’s bold.
Lamothe: It was really scary and hard. And then ultimately, so rewarding. I think there were certainly moments when I got homesick and where it felt very overwhelming. But at the same time, it was the coolest thing that I’ve ever done, I think.
To make that sort of a time of adventure and learning so many new and wonderful things was incredible. I think it’s really cool to live that kind of adventure.
Gross: So, you spent a year basically being a pie-making apprentice. And then how did Teeny Pies get started, about two years ago?
Lamothe: So, in between Teeny Pies getting started and the tour of pie, about halfway through the tour of pie, I was contacted by a publishing company. And they asked if I had ever thought about writing a cookbook.
Gross: How did they find you?
Lamothe: I was keeping a blog to keep my friends notified of where I was in the country.
So, it was just like a little update. I’m still alive. I’m making pie in Seattle, in Boston. This is what I’m doing. This is why it’s hard. This is why it’s fun. And they liked my style of writing. They liked the idea of pies.
And they approached me about writing a cookbook. So, halfway through the tour of pie, I put on my cookbook writing cape as well as my apprenticing cape and just totally immersed myself in pie.
Gross: So, you wrote a cookbook. How long did that take?
Lamothe: I wrote about half of it while I was still finishing up the tour of pie. So, I spent about six months writing the travel part of it. Like, the stories of being on the road and apprenticing, and highlighting each of the pie shops.
And then I spent another six months after I moved to D.C. Aaron moved here ahead of me. He got a job with PBS. And so, he moved here and then I moved here a month later and finished the cookbook, which included all of the recipe testing.
Gross: That is a lot of change in a couple of years.
Lamothe: Yes. And then once I finished the cookbook, I took about six months. I just worked odd baking jobs around D.C. And then I start Teeny Pies. I moved into Union Kitchen I started renting space there.
Gross: So, I understand that’s actually a bit of a process. So, you have to find the industrial kitchen space. And you mentioned kind of getting licensed to sell at cafes and farmer’s markets? What was that process like?
Lamothe: So, once you start at Union Kitchen, they’re very helpful about helping you get your business license, or the catering license, which enables me to sell within D.C. at the farmer’s markets.
I also have business insurance through a very helpful person that they recommended. And then I also have my food handler certification as a manager. And so, you have to go and take a test. And make sure to wear gloves when you are packaging pies, and to not use chicken that has been sitting on the counter for four hours. So, you go and you just learn the practical side of behaving yourself in a kitchen. And you take a test and they give you a license.
Gross: Was that a lot of work to get all of those certificates though before you could sell your pies?
Lamothe: It was a lot money-wise. It’s a lot upfront just to get started. Because without being able to sell anything, you’ve got to pay for your license, you’ve got to pay for your food handler’s license, you have to pay for your insurance. You have to pay for all of your ingredients. You have to pay rent on your kitchen space. And then you can sell pie.
Or whatever product that you are trying to sell. So, the upfront costs are large. And then it sort of evens out over time, depending on whether or not you sell your product.
Gross: What was the biggest challenge when you were first starting out?
Lamothe: Finding people to sell to. Finding that community.
Gross: How did you go about doing that?
Lamothe: I actually sold a lot of pies through Norman’s Farm Market to begin with. They were our CSA. We went to them for vegetables. So, we would drive out to them every week.
And one week I just asked if they would ever think about selling pie alongside their vegetables. And so, that started the conversation. And they said that they were willing as long as I working out of a commercial kitchen. And so, I took steps to making that happen. And I think it gave me a very, very distinct advantage in the beginning. Because unlike most small businesses that start, I already had a customer, which was amazing. That was super helpful.
Gross: So, right now, you’re selling in farmer’s markets and coffee shops and you have a couple wholesale clients. What’s the next step for Teeny Pies?
Lamothe: I think the next step is a storefront. And I think that’s a pretty tricky question so far as Teeny Pies is concerned, because I don’t think it’s going to happen in D.C.
I think we’ve spent the last two years learning everything we can learn about the pie making process and how that goes. But I think ultimately it’s too expensive for us to think about retail here. I think I want to live in the neighborhood where I have a pie shop. And I think right now I’m being priced out of all neighborhoods in D.C.
And so, I think financially it makes a lot of sense to go another city closer to family where the cost of living is so much lower. Unfortunately, I think I’m going to miss my customers here so hard.
They’re wonderful customers. But I also think that the process of starting over again is going to go a lot faster this time. So, it’s taken us two years to get where we are. I think that that will not be the case where we are next. I think it’s going to be fairly easy to build a customer base. And I think we’re going to dive—I’m going to dive right into fundraising to open a storefront. So, I’m working on my business plan right now, which is very new exciting.
There’s a lot of Internet reading about how to write a business plan, because I’ve never done that before. But I think slowly and steadily it’s coming together. And I think it’s helpful that I have immersed myself in the business for two years, because I do know a lot more than I think I know. Because in writing it all down, it’s very easy to picture what I want and how to get there, with somebody else’s money.
Gross: That would help, yes. So, what tips would you give to burgeoning pie bakers who are thinking of opening a business.
Lamothe: I would say, try to get all of your ducks in a row before you spend all of your money. I think what really helped me in the beginning was having a customer straight off the bat. And I also think I was lucky to find a kitchen that was also willing to help me on the business side, because that was the part that I knew the least about.
I knew plenty on how to make a good product. But finding somebody who will help you with the small details of becoming a full-fledged business is also pretty important. Like, where to find a business license, and what kind of business license you should be trying to get. That was pretty helpful when starting.
Find somebody that you trust and just ask them all the questions.
Gross: I have one more question I have to ask. So, you mentioned about birthday pies. How about wedding pies? Who made your wedding cake or pie?
Lamothe: I made my wedding pies.
Gross: How did that come about?
Lamothe: It was a trick.
I was surprise married last August, a year ago.
Lamothe: Thank you so much. I didn’t realize I was getting married. My now husband planned our entire wedding as a surprise. I thought he was simply planning this awesome proposal, but he pulled out all the stops. His sister brought down dresses. I had a hair appointment. Our friends and family flew in.
And there was a fake pie order placed a week before my wedding for Scott’s family reunion.
Gross: Air quotes.
Lamothe: Air quotes that ended up being my own wedding pies.
Gross: So, you made all your own pies.
Lamothe: I sure did.
Gross: How many was that?
Lamothe: I want to say it was about two dozen. But of the big pies. It was pretty amazing. They were delicious. And the thing is, I wouldn’t have wanted anybody else’s pies there.
Gross: So, he knew you.
Lamothe: He did. What a good trick.
Gross: That is pretty great. Thanks so much for walking us through the life of pie. I really appreciate it.
Lamothe: Absolutely. Happy baking.
Gross: Thank you.
Thanks for listening to this episode of working. I’m Rachel Gross. We’d love to hear your thoughts about the podcast. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can listen to all five seasons at slate.com/working. This episode was produced by Mickey Capper. Our executive producer is Steve Lickteig. And the chief content officer of the Panoply Network is Andy Bowers.
Thanks for subscribing to Slate Plus. In this exclusive extra, Teeny shows us the steps that go into making a strawberry rhubarb pie. Hint: It involves vodka.
Can you show us how you would make a pie from crust to finish?
Lamothe: Yes, absolutely.
Lamothe: Let me grab my tools of the trade. The rolling pin is essential. So, I’m going to start with the bottom crust.
And our dough is a little bit of a sticky crust. And so, I recommend using a lot of flour on the counter so that it doesn’t get sticky. So, I’m going to do just a fine layer of flour on the bottom. You want to get that thin layer. You’re going to put your dough on top. And then I think in order to get a perfect circle, I roll up and down the first few times, and then I spin my dough, do up and down again.
And then, now is going to be the point where you want to do your traditional X formation. So, going up and down, off to the left, and the up and down off to the right.
Gross: So, you’re rolling diagonally each way to get it even.
Lamothe: Exactly. You make an X in the middle so that you typically end up with sort of a circle shape. If you end up with amoeba, that’s OK too. I also like to pick the dough up from the counter and make that my flour—my quota of flour is as high as it was at the beginning.
So again, no sticking to the counter.
Gross: Very efficient.
Lamothe: Yeah, exactly. And then just a few more rolls, and then you’re ready to stick it in your pie tin. So, I stick it. I fold it in half and then stick it into the middle of the tin. And I’m going to flop the dough to each side.
Gross: Why is that?
Lamothe: That’s just to make sure that it’s in the middle. And you want about a half an inch to an inch of overhang around the whole outside of your tin.
And that’s in order to fold over your crust. So, I’m going to fold over the whole edge. This is sort of like a rolling tucking motion, I guess. And you want to do that around the whole outer edge so that you’re left with enough dough to crimp.
Lamothe: So, we’re going to do the outside.
And then I use my pointer finger and my thumb, and I press the dough into the V that that naturally makes.
Gross: And that’s that beautiful handmade crimping that no one knows how the pie gets that way.
Lamothe: Yeah, exactly.
Gross: Got it. Is there a secret to perfect crust? I know that’s like the stickiest part for a lot of bakers.
Lamothe: I would say a perfect crust happens through practice. As much as it sucks. And I have thrown away plenty of dough.
You just have to do it over and over and over again. And then, you get perfect.
Gross: I was hoping you would say vodka.
Lamothe: Oh, vodka too. Vodka evaporates faster than water. So, it leaves behind a flakier crust. Which is protip number one in my cookbook. Vodka. And then it’ll also steel your nerves for when you’re super scared about rolling out your crust. It’s like, take a shot and go for it.
Let’s see. OK. So, might as well just chop these guys up. How about that?
Gross: So, what kind of pie are we making?
Lamothe: We’re making strawberry rhubarb.
Gross: What season would that usually be in?
Lamothe: This is springtime pie.
So, we used to grow rhubarb in our backyard. And I hated it as a kid. It’s very tart. It’s super astringent. And the strawberries, as a child, did not help. But it was my mom’s favorite. And now as a grownup, because my taste buds have changed so much, it’s definitely now one of my favorites too.
So, you’re going to want to throw all of your strawberries and your rhubarb in a bowl.
Gross: Do the strawberries complement the rhubarb?
Lamothe: They do. They also contain the most water. And so, rather than traditionally—traditionally, I use flour as a thickener, and in some instances corn starch. But tapioca actually works the best for this.
So, just grab some instant tapioca. It’s next to the Jell-O in the Jell-O aisle. And I use that, because it actually absorbs all that liquid, so you don’t end up with pie soup. Another good tip for that is also once it starts to boil in the oven is when you know that that chemical reaction is doing its job. And then, again, you won’t end up with pie soup. It’ll be fully thickened.
Alright. So, I’ll grab this. I’m going to throw in the filling. I’ve tossed it with a little bit of sugar, our tapioca, and not it’s ready to go in the crust.
So, we’ll stick it in there. I like to top this with like a crumb topping. It’s got brown sugar, flour, a little bit of salt, a little bit of sugar, and lots and lots of butter, which is what makes it delicious.
Gross: All the good things.
Lamothe: Yes. So, feel free to be very generous with this part. This is people’s favorite. So, we’ll just do that. With the top, I like to squeeze it so that it crumbles nicely over the top of the pie. We’ll just get that spot right there.
And now it is ready to go in the oven. So, I’ll sneak next to you. So, this guy, since it is a nine-inch pie, will bake for roughly an hour. And again, you’re going to look for that boiling in the middle.
So, these little bubbles of fruit filling will pop through the crumble crust. And then you’ll know it is done.
Gross: So, it’s done when it boils.
Lamothe: Yeah. That means the chemical reaction is happening and you won’t end up with soup as a pie.
Lamothe: I know.
Gross: So, we just made perfect pie.
Lamothe: We did make a perfect pie.
Gross: So, just 400 more and then you’ve got your quota for the week.
Lamothe: Exactly. Easy.