The Sweet Smell of Excess

Rebecca Flint Marx | November 25, 2014 | Story Ingredient

Read more stories about pie:
The Sweet Smell of Excess
How to Bake Your Own Amazing Pumpkin Pie
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pie

Across the Bay Area, bakers are concocting crusts and fillings of such surpassing quality that it’s reasonable to conclude that we are living in a golden age of pie. In the name of Thanksgiving (and, ok, gluttony), we tasted more than 20 of them to determine which ones should grace your table. What follow are 11 very good reasons to give thanks.

1. Marla Bakery Tarte Tatin
A French cousin to the apple pie, Amy Brown’s tart may not be traditional, but her bourbon-spiked, all-butter crust and meltingly tender Jonathan apples give it ample cross-cultural appeal. Deliciousness, after all, knows no borders and speaks every language. $45, 3619 Balboa St. (Near 37th Ave.), 415-742-4379

2. Chile Pies Mexican Chocolate Pecan
Warming spices and lashings of chocolate create an exceptionally desirable twist on pecan pie: bite into it when it’s warm, and you’re rewarded with gooey tributaries of melted Mexican chocolate that flow straight toward your highly aroused dopamine receptors.
$30, 314 Church St. (Near 15th St.), 415-431-9411

3. Mr. Holmes Bakehouse Pumpkin Custard Brûlée
At his brand-new Tenderloin bakery, Ry Stephen ha transformed pumpkin pie into an entirely different (read: sexy) beast: Pumpkin custard is bisected by a layer of mandarin orange marmalade, then brûléed and glazed with apricot jam. The so-called Jesus crust (a blend of graham crackers and macadamia nuts) is good enough to be eaten sans filling. $34, 1042 Larkin St. (Near Sutter St.)

4. Flour & Co. Brown Sugar Nut
Emily Day’s riff on pecan pie offers a stockpile of pecans, almonds, and cashews, embedded like shrapnel in a delectably gooey morass of brown sugar, cream, and eggs. It’s as sweet as all get-out, sure, but sometimes, to borrow from the Grateful Dead, too much of everything is just enough. $26, 1030 Hyde St. (Near California St.), 415-992-7620

5. Devil’s Teeth Sweet Potato Pecan
What happens when rich, fluffy sweet potatoes decide to play house with pecan pie? Perhaps the happiest marriage since peanut butter met chocolate: the best part of pecan pie (that nutty crunch) makes beautiful music with the creamy, cinnamon-scented dreaminess of sweet potato pie. $20, 3876 Noriega St. (Near 46th Ave.), 415-683-5533

6. Bacano Bakery Pumpkin Caramel Rum Spice
A mélange of chia seeds, millet, brown rice and tapioca flours, and flaxseed and almond meal makes bacano’s crust gluten-free, but what makes the pie really remarkable is its deep, rich filling, impregnated with dark rum and heavy cream. It’s further proof that eating gluten-free doesn’t mean paying a price in flavor. $20, 1298 65th St. (Near Hollis St.), Emeryville, 510-250-9751

7. Mission Pie Apple
Although whole wheat pastry flour endows Karen Heisler and Krystin Rubin’s all-butter crust with a wholesome crunch, this is not a pious pie: Its luscious cargo of apples, from Sebastopol’s Hale Apple Farms, is pure, bodacious ambrosia. $22, 2901 Mission St. (at 25th St.), 415-282-1500

8. Black Jet Baking Co. Pumpkin
How does baking goddess Gillian Shaw work her black magic? By using good old-fashioned Libby’s canned pumpkin for her luxurious filling and spiking her croissant-like all-butter crust with a bit of sour cream. The result is a pumpkin pie with a flavor that broadcasts in big, beautiful surround sound. $30,

9. PieTisserie Ginger Lemon Cranberry
The pumpkin- and pecan-aversse, take heart: Jaynelle St. Jean has you covered. Her pie’s creamy, spicy, tangy filling provide sassy rejoinder to the earth-toned hues of the Thanksgiving table, and it’s fresh and bright enough to be eaten a year round. We recommend getting a head start now. $26, 1605 2nd Ave. (Near Foothill Blvd.), Oakland, 510-859-743

10. Three Babes Pear Blackberry Crumble
Pie pros Lenore Estrada and Anna Derivi-Castellanos fill their all-butter crust with a bumper crop of local organic fruit. The juicy cornucopia bubbles up through the pie’s crumble top, which effectively serves as the world’s most fiendishly delicious sponge. $35, 415-617-9774,

11. PieTisserie Pumpkin Chocolate
We asked St. Jean for a pie recipe, and she delivered: this pumpkin pie is outfitted with a filling made from fresh, roasted pumpkin and a crust mightily endowed with cocoa powder. $26, 1605 2nd Ave. (Near Foothill Blvd.), Oakland, 510-859-7437

Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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