You can still have the best part of the meal on a different-looking holiday with the recipe in November’s edition.
Welcome back to The Sunday Roast! Apologies for the delay in sending the next newsletter. October got away from me and then I decided to take a break, but now I’m back and better than ever! This month, Covid-19 hospitalization and death rates have been rising at a scary pace and a lot of people are deciding to stay home alone or with roommates to celebrate Thanksgiving, a time that’s normally spent with family and close friends. With that lost time in mind, I decided to focus on the one comfort food I know people would enjoy and easily make for the holiday: pie!
This month: I reached out to my Twitter followers to ask for recommendations for local pie makers to feature in a special Thanksgiving edition, and one friend suggested Pie Sisters in Georgetown. As a storefront I’ve spotted frequently as I drove across Key Bridge towards AU, I immediately knew I had to feature the iconic shop. I reached out via their website and heard from Alli, one of the sisters and owners, immediately, and now here we are! Also, remember to check out all recipes and past month’s feature at my website. Also, my subscriber count is at 85, and I want to hear from every one of you.
Some background: In a monthly newsletter, I combine a DC local’s story behind their favorite recipe(s), or ones that whip up some nostalgia, with photos and prose of my attempt at replication. These recipes vary in difficulty, but they are always ones close to the heart. This newsletter is sent on the third Sunday of each month as the name suggests.
A fun note: Make sure to mark this email as NOT spam, move it to your inbox or add my sending address to your address book to avoid the newsletter regularly ending up in the abyss. Sometimes Mailchimp email campaigns go straight to spam.
Meet Alli, Erin and Cat.
Pie has been their life. Alli, Erin and Cat grew up watching their mother make pies for the whole neighborhood as kids lined up to get a slice of peach pie. To get that slice, though, they had to work in an assembly line canning fruit and making fresh fruit pies. The sisters’ mother would freeze pies of the season, like the infamous peach, so they could pull it out in the winter and enjoy it even then.
The family tradition lived on, but the sisters moved onto different careers in different cities, including marketing and finance in New York for Erin and Alli. They would make pies to bring family and friends together at parties, but nothing more than that. Then, Georgetown Cupcake took off and the sisters thought: “Isn’t pie so much better than cupcakes?” So they set off to prove that and opened Pie Sisters in the same neighborhood in 2011. They grew up in the area by attending St. John’s and living in nearby Great Falls, so they knew the waterfront neighborhood was ideal. Their current location was hard to come by but definitely worked in their favor since its visibility across from the Key Bridge drives marketing.
At first, they struggled because they made high quality pies in glass dishes, but eventually customers understood they were getting the ultimate pie and now they’ve built a loyal customer base that’s carried them through the pandemic with little change other than converting former seating into more baking and freezing space, and less weddings to cater. Plus, selling the pies in glass dishes means customers can pass off the pie as their own work and continue to return for more pie.
They came up with the innovative cuppie, which was a mini pie the size of a cupcake, so that anyone could still walk around Georgetown and enjoy the comfort dessert. Erin and Alli say making the cubbies can be painstaking since they’re smaller and require the same attention and detail as larger pies, but they[‘re worthwhile and the sisters pride themselves on putting lots of love and hard work into each beautiful and presentable pie. They even went a step further and made bite-size pie bites, which they say along with cuppies are especially popular for catering orders.
The sisters continue to sell frozen pies to this day so that customers can bake the pie and even take the credit for it themselves if they want, because that delicious smell that encompasses your kitchen is worth it.
The story behind their recipe.
Alli credits Erin with creating the Jumble berry pie recipe and all its intricacies. She one day started baking down berries, which if you make this can be any kind you prefer, to see how she could create the perfect berry pie.
With Alli’s help on making a delicious crust, the sisters created a deliciously tart pie with a perfectly sweet crumble. And while others may associate Thanksgiving with pumpkin and pecan pies, especially the Pie Sisters’ uber popular bourbon chocolate pecan pie, but Alli and Erin, who I talked to, said this one is different and special — perfect for the holiday.
I baked a full-size pie because pies are my absolute favorite thing to make, but Pie Sisters makes most of their flavors in cuppie size, which they say are the most popular with customers.
This flavor in particularly is also a customer favorite and one many people may know Pie Sisters for. Erin mastered the recipe and added a special ingredient other pie-makers may not think to add: blackberry liqueur. The flavorful alcohol adds just a bit more of a berry flavor to the filling and really makes the flavor pop against the buttery, brown sugar-focused crumble on top. But don’t worry: the alcohol obviously cooks down when baking the pie.
Most of the pies at Pie Sisters are more simple and that’s because the sisters want to focus on fresh, local ingredients without bogging down fillings with any extras. They say that pie got a bad rap back in the day because some would be so loaded with sugar, but that the dessert is actually quite healthy compared to some cakes and cookies, especially the way the sisters make it.
A slice of their pie will never bog you down — you simply savor every bite. That’s why this recipe in particular has a small amount of sugar in the filling. Erin says she always starts with 1/4 cup of sugar in it and then taste tests it along the way to see if more is necessary. I put that amount in and found it didn’t need anymore, but it totally depends on your sweet tooth’s preference. Further adjustments you can make if you want to include adding a second crust on top instead of a crumble, though I suggest the crumble since it’s the best one I’ve ever had.
I also strongly suggest making this pie for Thanksgiving. It’s the perfect combination of flavors and it’s something unique from the typical pumpkin or pecan pie. Pie in general is such a comforting food, and with a holiday coming that most people cannot spend with their family due to coronavirus limitations, Pie Sisters has stepped in with its pre-orders. Alli and Erin say the pandemic has been such a transient area with some people yearning so much for home that they break down and cry in the shop because pie reminds them of the family they cannot see.
The sisters never expected to make such an impact with their annual sale of pies, a family tradition, but it’s super rewarding. They’ve even already reached capacity for Thanksgiving orders! Some customers are new, but the sisters continue to see loyal customers come back each year for their tradition of a Pie Sisters’ pie — and some are even driving from New York and Annapolis. Their pie must be that good, especially those adorable little cubbies, so make some of your own to chow down on come November 26!