Thursday, March 14, 2019

Pie from Pietisserie

I eat a lot of dessert.  I eat a lot of pie.  I have strong opinions on pie.  One element I care a lot about is the quality of the crust as I'm a crust lover ... when its good.  (I also have strong beliefs that you rarely just eat a slice of pie unadorned ... I usually like my pie warm, with complimentary cooling ice cream, but, in a pinch, I settle for room temperature pie with whipped cream.  Of course there are exceptions to these rules, as I wouldn't have my banana cream pie warmed up of course).  But I digress.  The key point: I care about crust.

And Pietisserie has one of the best crusts I've found. 
"Our pies are vibrant, complex and satisfying because every recipe starts with this point of view: that the best food experiences are created from the masterful application of simple ingredients."
Pietisserie also has really unique flavors, in addition to your standard apple crumble.

My first discovery of Pietisserie was at an artisan's fair at Williams-Sonoma in San Francisco, I think in 2012. 2013?  I didn't write a blog then, but I did take notes (why? I have no idea.).  My notes weren't very specific, but read: "I tried the Okinawan sweet potato and a chocolate cream pie with pretzel crust.  Both were fantastic, well flavored, and with awesome crusts - some of the best pies I've had in ages." 

That about sums up all my subsequent tastings too - fantastic crusts, and with flavors like Okinawan sweet potato and pretzel crusts ... I was drawn in.

Pietisserie is located in Oakland however, not an area I ever venture.  I still haven't visited the shop, although, they have one.  Instead, my encounters have all been either at Williams-Sonoma, or through various forms of delivery.

2013: Williams-Sonoma

My second encounter? Also at Williams-Sonoma.
Assorted Mini Pies.
A few months later, I attended the artisan's market at Williams-Sonoma again, this time armed and ready to purchase.

I bought an Okinawan Sweet Potato on the spot, remembering how much I liked it before.
 This is the first one I tried, and I loved it.  A beautiful purple color from the okinawan sweet potato.  Very flavorful, smooth, creamy, unique filling, sweet but almost savory.  The crust was really good, flaky, moist.  Some of the best crust I've ever had.

The full size version has a lattice crust, which I'd love to try, given the quality of this crust..

December 2014: Munchery

I've written about Munchery before, a meal service in San Francisco that delivers either pre-made meals for you to heat up at home, or meal kits with prep required.  I've had a range of experiences with Munchery, and I've watched the company evolve a lot over to years to find their market (food definitely got less "chefy" and more mass appeal, they added the meal kits, they added kids meals, etc).  You can read all my reviews under the Munchery label on my blog, but Munchery ceased operations in 2019, so, you cannot order from them any long.

All of the cuisine offered by Munchery, besides the beverages, is produced by their team of chefs.  But for some reason, for desserts, they have chosen to partner with local vendors like Crumble & Whisk (amazing cheesecake, which I've reviewed before at a catering event), Petit Pot (pudding!), and ... Pietisserie.

The first time I saw Pietisserie on the menu was in 2014, for the holidays I believe.  I ordered instantly.
Black Bottom Walnut Pie. $4.25 from Munchery.
"Instead of pecans, this pie features California-grown walnuts in a butter pastry shell lined with chocolate piecrust." - Munchery

"A perfectly balanced, never-too-sweet, nut pie featuring walnuts, dark chocolate, and an all-butter crust." - Pietisserie

When I opened my box, I was a bit sad by how small the pie was.  I'm used to uh, "Parent family slices", and this entire pie was less than a single Parent family slice.  That said, it was enough for an individual, but I wouldn't recommend sharing.

Recommended served cold, or warmed up.  I thought I was the only one who warmed up my pecan-style pies?

I couldn't wait to warm it up, so I dug in immediately.
Black Bottom Walnut Pie: Inside.
It wasn't exactly "black bottom" or "lined with chocolate" as I expected; rather, the center was filled with chocolate, the bottom with standard pecan-pie like sweet filling, and the edges with the nuts.  I didn't mind this fact at all, but, I was expecting a layer of chocolate against the crust, rather than in the center.

The sweet filling reminded me of my mother's pecan pie, it was nicely gooey, and sweet, but not cloying.

The nuts I didn't like all that much, as walnuts are a bit more bitter than pecans, and I'd prefer the classic.  They also seemed a bit burnt.

But the crust was absolutely fantastic.  Super crispy, flaky, buttery.  Everything a pie crust should be.  I loved it, and can't wait to try more varieties of pies.  I eagerly watched the Munchery menu for more, but, alas, they didn't show up.

$4.25 seemed fine for a mini pie, but I do wish it included some whipped cream.  If you purchase from Pietisserie, a full sized pie is $26.

November 2016: Munchery

For Thanksgiving the next year (2015), Munchery offered min pies from Pietisserie as a special offering, but, I failed to purchase one of the very limited quantity fast enough.  I was a bit devastated, and polled the Munchery page near daily, but, alas, I missed out.

The next year, again for Thanksgiving, Munchery offered mini pies from Pietisserie, and I learned from my mistakes, getting my order in as soon as I saw them available.  The only selections were classic pumpkin or pecan, and I got one of each.
Munchery Packaging.
The pies came in cute little boxes, with a standard Munchery labels.  Like with the black bottom walnut pie, the pecan suggested warming it up, while the pumpkin did not.
Mini Pumpkin Pie. $5.95.
"Hand-made, individual pies are filled with classic pumpkin custard that's been perfectly spiced with cinnamon and cloves. Add your own dollop of whipped cream or go au natural and eat it as is. Fork optional!"

This was a very good pumpkin pie.

Yes, it was just a pumpkin pie, but it was just about as good as pumpkin pie can get.

The crust, like all Pietisserie pies, was flaky, buttery, a bit crispy, slightly thicker than standard, and really quite good.  It did seem a little dried out, and perhaps not super fresh, which makes sense, I'm sure that for Thanksgiving they bake a zillion pie crusts, and perhaps bake them off a couple days earlier?  Still, it was a great crust.

The filling was thick pumpkin custard.  It was, as the description said, "perfectly spiced".  Pumpkin spices so often wind up totally unbalanced, generally way too strong in the nutmeg department, with notes of soapiness.  I generally shutter when I think about "pumpkin spice", in pies, in cakes, or ugh, in lattes.  But this spicing was just spot on.  And by that I don't mean, "phew, I don't taste the pumpkin spices!"  There was cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves in there.  And I could taste them.  But they were balanced and accented the pumpkin beautifully.

While the pie was tiny, it didn't seem that way once I was eating it.  The custard was so rich, the crust so decadent, that anything more would have seemed like over indulgence.  And while the smaller form meant for lots of edge crust, and seemingly not a lot of filling, the pie was deeper than it appeared, and I never felt like there was too much crust.

Overall, just a really wonderful pie, with the right ratio of everything.

The $5.95 price, for such a petit pie, seemed high though, particularly compared to last time when I ordered and they were $4.25.
Mini Pecan Pie. $5.95.
"Hand-crafted classic pecan pie in delightfully mini form from our friends at Pietisserie Bakery in Oakland. Are we thinking of ordering a few extra to have for breakfast? Yes, yes we are."

This was another classic pie, done just right.

The crust was even more crispy and a bit caramelized, likely from the extra sugars that ran out of the sweet gooey filling.  It was again a wonderful, buttery, flaky, crust.  Pietisserie really makes some of the best pie crust I've ever had.

The filling was exactly what you want in a pecan pie.  Yes it was sweet.  It was gooey.  But it wasn't *just* corn syrup, molasses and vanilla helped balance it out.  And of course, the pecans.  I liked them more than the walnuts, less bitter.

A great little pie, and I'd gladly get another.

April 2017: Munchery

Fast forward to April.  Not Thanksgiving.  Not a holiday.  Yet Munchery started offering Pietisserie pies again!  Yes!
Mini Spiced Apple Pie.
Munchery only had the Black Bottom Walnut (which I had before), and Spiced Apple (apple is never a favorite of mine), but, I couldn't resist.  I love the crust too much to resist.
Mini Spiced Apple Pie.
As before, the mini pie came in a small box, however this time, it entirely filled the box.  I mentioned the pies being a bit on the small side before, but this was a legit individual pie.  If you compare the photos, you can tell the pie fills much more of the box than the pecan and pumpkin pies.
Mini Spiced Apple Pie / Cardamom & Brown Sugar Crumble. $5.95.
"Gravenstein and Granny Smith apples, perfectly spiced, in a flakey, all-butter crust. It's topped with an oatmeal and brown sugar crumble that adds a bit of sweet crunch to all those tender, baked apples." - Munchery

"Cardamom, brown sugar, and oat crumble atop tart and sweet granny smith apples." - Pietisserie

I think the depth of the pie was the same, far deeper than it looks at first glance.

As I mentioned, apple pie is not really my favorite.  But ... it is what they were offering.  Like the other non-custard pies, instructions said to eat it at room temperature or to warm it in the oven.  I of course did both to compare (ok, who are we kidding, I did both because I couldn't wait the 5 minutes suggested to heat it up, and just had to try a little cold while I was waiting.

The crust was again thicker than standard, flaky, buttery, and delicious, although again, a bit stale tasting.  I think I blame Munchery for that, I rather suspect it wasn't quite as fresh baked as I'd hoped.  This is really great crust, even when a bit stale.
Spiced Apple Pie: Inside.
The pie was loaded up with sliced apples, heavily spiced.  They don't call this a "spiced" apple pie for nothing.  The Munchery page clearly doesn't list all the ingredients, as the list is just: apples, cake flour, salted butter, oats, brown sugar, pure cane sugar, cornstarch, and ginger root.  Um, what about the spices?  At a minimum, I know there was cinnamon and nutmeg in there, but I think also some cloves?  And the description said it had cardamom, yet that wasn't listed ...

The spicing really was too much for me.  This was in contrast to the perfectly spiced pumpkin pie, so, I was a bit surprised to see the spicing so dominant.   If you like warm, winter spices, then perhaps this is the pie for you?  I did think the apples were nicely cooked (not mushy, not too firm), and the ratio of apple to "goo" was just right.  It was a well made pie, for sure, just, not spiced how I like.

And on top, sweet brown sugar and oat crumble.  I liked the crumble, it was the right amount of sweet, and the crumble chunks were a nice size.  I didn't taste much cardamom, but that was fine with me.

Interestingly, I preferred this pie cold.  In fact, it wasn't until I warmed it that the spices really got to me.  I was shocked, as I usually prefer warm pie, but here, cold was definitely the way to go.  I also really wanted whipped cream to go with it, but alas, Munchery does not offer this option.

Still, a well made pie, particularly if you like spices.

Pi Day, March 2018

Best. Holiday. Ever.  Well, if you love pie like I do ...

March 13, Pi Day.  For my work group of ~100 people, I was able to order from Pietisserie, delivery.  This meant I got to try many, many more pies, including savory and full size pies, finally!
Pecan, Key Lime, Cherry Almond, Chocolate Cream Pretzel, Chocolate Raspberry, Spiced Apple, Blackbottom Walnut.
I ordered every pie they had available, plus 2 off-menu classic pies.

My 7 types of pie used 4 different styles of crust, and totally and completely different types of fillings and toppings.  All were unique and memorable.
Whipped Cream. $6.
Since I didn't want to go buy whipped cream separately, I also ordered pints of whipped cream, $6 each.

It was fine, fluffy enough, but more sweetened that I actually prefer.  It went particularly well with the nuts pies, and the chocolate cream pretzel, which it normally tops.

Savory Pies

Pietisserie makes exactly two savory pies (ok, three if you count mini quiches): chicken pot pie and seasonal vegetable pot pie.

I tried the veggie, since I don't like chicken.
Seasonal Vegetable Pot Pie. $36.00.
"Showcasing the bounty of local fresh ingredients from our CSA. A perfect winter dinner, this is a full sized 9-inch pie, serves 4-6."

The veggie pot pie changes every week, as they actually subscribe to a CSA and just use whatever they get that week.  I love this, even though it meant I didn't know what would be in my pie.

Given that it was early March though, and not exactly the time for bountiful fun produce, I pretty much assumed root veggies and potatoes.  And kale, because, San Francisco.  I was basically right, but that doesn't mean it was boring.

The pie *looked* stunning, a beautiful double crusted creation, golden on top.  I couldn't wait to break into it.

Oh, and it arrived hot, clearly fresh from the oven.
Seasonal Veggie Pot Pie: Inside.
It was seriously stuffed full of goodies, full to the brim.

And then, of course, there was the pie crust itself.  Double crusted.  Look at that crust, seriously.

It was so flaky, so decadent, so buttery.

This very buttery style went well with the savory pie, perhaps better than with the sweet pies, as it didn't feel *quite* as unhealthy eating loads of butter when it was with vegetables.

The contents were fabulous.
Veggies Close Up.
It was loaded with chunks of so many veggies: celery, carrots, at least 4 types of potato (colorful purple and orange sweet potatoes, red bliss potatoes, regular potatoes), winter squash, some kind of greens (chard?), mushrooms.  The vegetables were all nicely cooked, quite an accomplishment given the variety, none mushy, none too firm.  The huge chunks of mushrooms were my favorite, followed closely by the winter squash.  The gravy was flavorful and creamy.  Overall?  Excellent pot pie filling.

I'd gladly feast on this for a satisfying comfort food meal any day.

Full Size Sweet Pies

Pietisserie rotates flavors constantly, as fruits come into season, and as they feel inspired.  Two signature pies that I didn't order, because they weren't available, were the okinawan sweet potato and a grapefruit custard pie.

The pies use assorted non-traditional crusts (graham cracker crumb, chocolate brownie-like, pretzel crumb), or an all butter pie crust.  The later crust is a memorable one, it is different from most pie crusts in a way that is a bit hard to describe.  It is flaky, yet has a chew to it.  Its very rich, if that makes sense to refer to a crust.  It is flaky, but certainly not light.  The high butter content is ... obvious.  I find that sometimes I like it, and sometimes its just ... too much.  It is always considerably better when warm.
Chocolate Cream Pretzel. $26.
"This pie takes inspiration from the chocolate covered pretzel. Buttery, crunchy, toasted pretzel crumbs make the crust for this bittersweet chocolate cream pie."

This pie normally comes topped with whipped cream and pretzels, but since I was going to be serving the next day, they left the whipped cream off.

The filling was very good chocolate pudding, thick, rich, creamy.  It almost tasted like chocolate peanut butter to me, and I liked it.

The crust was made from compressed pretzels (and butter).  It didn't really hold together, and in some ways I didn't care for it because it gave a grittiness to the otherwise creamy pudding, but, at the same time, it added texture, the flavor was good, and the salt it added accented the chocolate well.  Far more interesting than standard graham cracker crust.

This was a good chocolate cream pie, as good as any I've had elsewhere, and the unique almost- peanut-butter flavor really did it for me.  Mid-range pie for me, 4th pick of the 7 sweet varieties we tried.
Key Lime. $26.
"Bright, smooth key lime custard pie. Graham cracker crust. "

Next up, a custard pie, key lime.

Since I don't generally like lemon or lime desserts, I almost skipped ordering this one, but Pietisserie told me it was one of their best sellers, so, I wanted to please my crowds.

I tried a *tiny* bite, and, as I expected, it wasn't for me.  The custard was well set, thick, rich, plenty of lime flavor.  The graham cracker crust was pretty standard, and much like chocolate cream pretzel kinda fell apart.

But not the pie for me, clearly.  My second to least favorite.
Cherry Almond. $33.
"Semi-sweet cherries under an almond custard." 

My final custard/pudding pie was cherry almond, a very unique creation.

From the top, it didn't necessarily look very interesting.  Classic pie crust, which turned out to be particularly chewy on this one.
Cherry Almond: Inside.
But once you got inside, things changed pretty dramatically.  It was unlike anything I've had before.

When at room temperature, as directed to be served, the filling was a far looser custard than I expected.  It wasn't like a pastry cream, it wasn't like a pudding, I guess like a chess pie is as close as I can come up with?  Sweet, loose, but not runny, and mildly almond flavored.  But the top, where it was baked, was firmer.  Really fascinating.  I really liked the subtle, delicate almond flavor.

And the cherries!  I loved them.  Big, juicy, flavorful cherries suspended in the filling.  They added so much flavor.  

It was almost like a cherry pie collided with a chess pie and an almond pudding.

The serving instructions for many of Pietisserie's pies include advice on serving warm or room temp or chilled, and this one was explicit that it should be room temp.  I had it that way, but I also had it straight from the fridge once when I couldn't wait, and warmed it slightly once when I was curious, and actually, room temp was my least favorite.  Warm was my favorite, not piping hot, but lightly warmed, it really brought the almond flavor forward a bit.  Chilled was my second favorite, it was much thicker, more like a creme brulee, but enjoyable this way too.

This pie did not need (or do well with) whipped cream or ice cream.  I'm normally all for pairings, but this stood alone well.

Really unique, and quite good.  My second favorite of the pies.
Raspberry in a Chocolate Crust. $32.
"With a dark chocolate crust and raspberries sweetened just enough, this pie is decadence."

Ok, talking about unique pies that don't look like what is inside, I bring you, the raspberry in a chocolate crust.

From the top, it looked more like a chocolate cake.  Or a brownie.
Raspberry in a Chocolate Crust: Insides.
But inside?  Ah, yes, raspberry filling.

Very, very seedy raspberry filling.  It was sweet, it was fruity, but for me, the girl who grew up with blackberry bushes that she hated because of the seeds, this was kind of a showstopper.  It didn't matter how good the *flavor* of the filling was, as it had all those seeds.  I tried so hard to like it, but I couldn't get past the seeds.

The "crust" though was fascinating, another hybrid I can't really describe, brownie meets cake meets pie.  The top layer was thicker than the bottom. It was intensely chocolately, fudgey, very different for a pie.

Another very unique offering, and if I didn't have a strange aversion to seeds, I'm sure I'd love this.  In this form though, my least favorite of the 7.  I wonder if I could convince them to do a strawberry version ...
Blackbottom Walnut. $26.
"A perfectly balanced, never-too-sweet, nut pie featuring California walnuts, dark chocolate, and an all-butter crust."

Next up I went for the full size blackbottom walnut, although I had the mini before, and almost liked it, but didn't quite care for the walnuts.  I wanted to give it another try, plus, I know this is one of Pietisserie's regular offerings, and I was sure the others would be interested.
Blackbottom Walnut: Side View.
I'm glad I tried it again.  It was much better than the mini I had before.

The filling was classic pecan-pie like goo, sweet, gooey, nice consistency.  The dark chocolate layer added a slightly bitter contrast with the sweet, and, as I've recently realized when my mom made a killer chocolate nut pie this past year, dark chocolate and nut pies are a match made in heaven.

The walnuts, the polarizing element for me before, were good this time, not bitter as I recalled from last time.  I'd still prefer pecans, or hazelnuts, or mixed nuts, but, they were good.

Overall, very good, my favorite pie.
Pecan. $26.
I also managed to get Pietisserie to make a pecan pie, even though not actually offered at that time.  When talking to them over e-mail to get my order together, I made a comment asking if they ever do pecan instead of walnut (per my earlier review not caring for walnut as much, and knowing they had it one Thanksgiving), and they said they could do classic pecan pies for me!

I was thrilled, and ordered several for the group.

The large format was different from the mini I had previously from Munchery, most notably, it had full pecan halves rather than chopped bits.
Pecan ... oozing.
Like many of my pies, it arrived warm.  It seemed to be having some oozing problems, with filling running out into the box, so I let it set a few hours, and then broke into it.  It ... still clearly hadn't set quite right.  Lots of liquid.  Tasty, sweet liquid, but not quite what I think they were going for.

The pie was good though, don't get me wrong.

That buttery, flaky, decadent, chewy crust.  I particularly liked the back crust on this one.  Sweet filling.  Lots of pecans, nicely toasted for a bit of extra flavor, none remotely burnt.

I do prefer a more set filling, as I like the custardy nature to it normally.

This was best when just warmed up and served over ice cream, kinda as a warm ice cream topping, with the pie crust on the side like a waffle cone chunk.  My 3th pick.
Spiced Apple Crumble.  $28.
“Cardamom, brown sugar, and oat crumble atop tart and sweet granny smith apples.”

I really wanted a fruit pie, and there were not any on the menu, besides the cherries in the cherry almond custard, and the raspberries in the raspberry chocolate.  I wanted something more fruit forward, and asked if they could do any special fruit pies.

The spiced apple crumble was my only option, which I had in mini form before, and didn't love, but, I wanted to give the full size, and fresh, version a try.
Spiced Apple Crumble: Side View.
I'm glad I did, but, the spice forward nature of this pie makes it not a top choice for me.

The crumble topping was good, and quite generous.  I love a generous crumble.  It was heavily spiced, particularly with cardamom.

The apples were well cooked, not too mushy, not too firm, but very spiced as well.

Fifth pick, and it took whipped cream well, and was best when heated.

Sweet Mini Pies

I've had many of the Pietisserie mini pies before, but I still ordered an assortment just to see what they were like fresh, rather than from Munchery.  Minis are available only for catering. 

The verdict?  MUCH MUCH BETTER.  I think Munchery was holding the stock for a long time, possibly freezing and then serving?  In particular, the crusts were great, really flaky and buttery.  They also were bigger ...
Assorted Mini Pies: $5 Each.
I ordered an assortment: spiced apple crumble, pecan, cherry almond, and chocolate raspberry.

Since I didn't care for the larger format spiced apple crumble, and I had a lot of the cherry almond, I skipped those.

The raspberry chocolate in this form I liked more than the larger format.  It was different though, rather than using a chocolate crust, it used a traditional pie crust, filled with raspberry filling, and then the chocolate top.  I liked it more, I think because I got to enjoy the awesome crispy flaky crust, and when I paired that with whipped cream, the fruity bits were more enjoyable.

I also had the mini pecan, which was different from the Munchery pecans, just like the full size, in that it had whole pecan halves rather than chopped pieces.  It was actually better than the full size pie, as the filling was set properly (the full was loose).  And the crust, awesome, and clearly more ratio of crust to filling with the minis than full size pies.

I think I might actually prefer the minis to slices from large pies, just because the crust was so good!
Pietisserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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