Families wrap up their holiday celebrations with a tried-and-true tradition

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published November 19, 2014

 Crust Baking Co.’s American berry pie is their best-seller throughout the year.

Crust Baking Co.’s American berry pie is their best-seller throughout the year.

Photo provided

Tips for a perfect pie

From the culinary experts at Achatz Pie Co. and Crust Baking Co.

“Never handle crust too much,” said Holly Nachtigal. “We handle ours as little as possible and use a blend of lard and butter, which we feel makes a perfectly flakey crust that matches well with all the fruit we use.”

“Don’t refrigerate pies,” Nachtigal added. “A lot of people think fruit or pumpkin pies need to be stored in the refrigerator, but most pies store best at room temperature for about two days, and their flavor is best at that temperature.”

“Go simple,” said Wendy Achatz. “We sell our pre-made crust in two-pack rolls. You can make your own apple pie at home with our crust and just do the easy part and fill it with whatever you want.”

“You can do more than just dessert with them,” Achatz said. “With pie crust, you can do the savory pies and/or make a quiche. It’s a great way to start Thanksgiving morning.”

METRO DETROIT — Candy’s big day is done for the year now that Halloween has passed. Cake is synonymous with birthdays, and ice cream is really more of a Fourth of July thing.

The holidays are here, and now is the time for pie.

Crust Baking Co., which opened in Fenton in 2012, is planning to turn out well over 2,000 pies this Thanksgiving, according to Marketing Manager Holly Nachtigal. From their top-selling American berry ctrumb top — packed with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and cherries — to their caramel apple pie with a homemade caramel drizzle and the seasonal cranberry walnut pie, the baking staff is making ready to start rolling out sweet treats.

“We just brought in a trailer to the back of the bakery just to store fruit in,” said Nachtigal. “We don’t use any stabilizers or canned fillings, so in the three to four days before Thanksgiving, we really have to pull out all the stops.”

That effort goes even further as the Crust bakers roll, crimp and shape each pie by hand. The all-natural, homemade look and flavor is what customers are looking for in a holiday dessert, she said. If you’re looking for a cookie-cutter pie, look elsewhere.

“Each one has its own little personality to it,” said Nachtigal. “It’s always been part of Crust’s mission to make the best products we could. Mark (Hamel) has been making pies here by hand since our restaurant, The Laundry, opened, and he made a pie every day for three months until he thought he had the perfect recipe for pie crust. He still cuts into a pie every day to make sure the recipe is being made right, the berry ratio is right.”

Crust delivers its pies to retailers around metro Detroit, including Westborn Market in Berkley. Customers can stop in and grab a pie from the display or order a fresh one for their holiday celebration.

In Chesterfield, Achatz Handmade Pie Co. is getting ready to fill holiday pie orders, as well — about 50,000 of them. The business, which now has locations all across southeast Michigan as well as a presence in about 100 grocery stores, also has an “only the good stuff” policy when it comes to ingredients.

It’s the all-natural approach that brings customers back year after year, according to co-owner Wendy Achatz.

“What differentiates us is that (our pies) don’t use any preservatives, high-fructose corn syrups or artificial colorings. They’re hand-crimped, rolled and handmade. It’s a nice, full 10-inch, 3-pound pie,” said Achatz. “We use mostly Michigan products — all our cherries and blueberries come from Michigan — and our unbleached Michigan pastry flour is really great. Our dairy comes from local farms, too.”

She said pumpkin pie is always a big seller this time of year, as is their autumn harvest pie, made with a pecan pie base, filled with pumpkin French silk, and topped with whipped cream and candied walnuts.

Achatz Handmade Pie Co. is also known for its savory pies, like chicken, duck and lobster pies, which Achatz said are made with the finest local ingredients available — including rich, pure butter.

“I laughed the other day because butter is now more expensive than a gallon of gas at $3.32 a pound. And we’re buying pallets of it,” she said.

The savory pies can be picked up ready to go or taken from the freezer case at each Achatz Handmade Pie Co. shop and popped into the oven just before dinner.

“In the days before Thanksgiving, everyone’s getting ready for dinner on Thursday, but you have to eat the rest of the week, too. Those (savory pies) make a nice, quick easy dinner for the whole family.”