Serious Eats: Sweets
Get to Know a Piemaker: Allison Kave, First Prize Pies
"My boyfriend Jay encouraged me to enter the Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off last fall. When my Bourbon Ginger Pecan pie took the Best Overall prize, it gave me that extra boost of confidence to pursue my hobby professionally."
If the recent weather is any indication, this summer is going to be a doozy. And what better way to welcome it than with a delicious pie? Allison Kave, daughter of chocolate maven Rhonda Kave of Roni-Sue's Chocolates and sister of chef Corwin Kave of Fatty Crab, recently entered the food fray with her inventive and whimsical pies. I chatted with the creator of First Prize Pies, and enticed her to share her recipe for Spicy Hot Chocolate Pie. (Just in time for Cinco de Mayo!)
So what was the impetus for starting First Prize Pies? I had been wanting to transition into the food business for awhile, but wasn't sure what niche to target. I've always loved baking, and my boyfriend Jay encouraged me to enter the Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off last fall. When my Bourbon Ginger Pecan pie took the Best Overall prize, it gave me that extra boost of confidence to pursue my hobby professionally.
Why pie, as opposed to, say, cakes or tarts? For me, the allure of pie is the process of working with the dough. I love the alchemy of taking all of these disparate elements and winding up with a unified whole. There's something very meditative about the whole process of making pie—I really enjoy the physicality of it, and the huge creative range that can be accessed through this one type of dessert.
How do you come up with your recipes? A lot of my recipes are inspired by my favorite flavors (like my Root Beer Cream pie), or nostalgia for desserts of my childhood (like the S'mores pie). Other times I'm just riffing on classics, adding my own interpretations and twists. The Spicy Hot Chocolate pie is sort of an homage to my mom, who loves the combination of chili and chocolate.
What's your favorite chocolate dessert? Right now, it's my mom's new Key Lime Pie truffle. She just created this Bake Sale collection of truffles, which she debuted at the Hester Street Fair at our stand there. We're sharing it with Sarivole Organic Bakery, where they're featuring cookies and brownies, and she wanted to make something that tied her chocolates into our baked goods. I'm not generally a big key lime person, but the flavor and the texture is just insane. I have one every morning when I go bake at her shop!
What kind of chocolate do you look for to use in your pies? Is it different than chocolate you would straight-up eat, or use in a non-pie recipe? I use Callebaut, which is what my mom uses for the ganache and couverture in her truffles. It's not overly aggressive, so the other flavors can come through—it's an ingredient, instead of the final destination. Generally when I'm buying plain chocolate to eat, I go for something that's really dark and complex in flavor, but for pies I like something that's a bit more neutral, though still very chocolatey.
Is pie the "next big thing"? I tend to be a bit leery of the recent rage for food and dessert trends, as I feel like people have always liked cupcakes, macarons, and pie, and it seems a bit silly for these things to suddenly be en vogue. I have definitely noticed, however, that it seems to be getting more press lately, and is being offered by more shops and restaurants these days. If people decide they suddenly Must. Have. Pie., I am certainly happy to sell it to them!
Any exciting new stuff that you're working on? I'm chomping at the bit for the spring and summer fruits to get to the market so I can start doing fruit pies, but I'm aware that despite the tropical weather we've been having, it's barely May. In the meantime I'm working on a Samoa pie (inspired by the Girl Scout cookies, one of my all-time favorite treats), and this weekend I'll be featuring a pink rhubarb concoction (exact recipe still TBD), in honor of the Mother's Day partnership that the Hester Street Fair is doing with the Susan G. Komen Cancer Awareness Foundation.
You're Craving Pie Now, Huh?
Allison's pies can be found online at FirstPrizePies.com
Or, if you live in New York: at the Hester Street Fair (corner of Hester and Essex Streets in Manhattan on Saturdays and Sundays); at Roni-Sue's Chocolates in the Essex Street Market; at the God Buns market next to Fatty 'Cue (at 91 South Sixth Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Sundays); and on the dessert menu at Fatty 'Cue.
About the author: Liz Gutman co-owns the Brooklyn-based candy business Liddabit Sweets, which means she spends a lot of time around chocolate (and a lot of time eating it). She moved to New York in 2001 to go to, wait for it, acting school. But when the acting life wasn't for her, she wound up in the French Culinary Institute's pastry program while working at Roni-Sue's Chocolates in Manhattan's Lower East Side. She befriended Jen King, aka the other half of Liddabit, at FCI and founded Liddabit in May of 2009.
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