Chefs’ Picks: Favorite Pie Bakery

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Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

For many, the season just wouldn’t be complete without that one holiday dessert staple: pie. And in recent years, bakeries have begun offering new riffs on the old standbys, so tried-and-true classics such as apple and pecan can now be found nestled next to novel twists such as tahini pumpkin and bourbon sweet potato.

Regardless of what filling it features, pie is one American tradition that brings a sweet taste of nostalgia to the dinner table. Read on to find out where the chefs head to hunt down their favorite pies.

Extra Fresh

Pumpkin pie is practically a prerequisite when it comes to the holiday dessert spread, so you can certainly find many a bakery churning out this classic dessert. But if you want to ensure you get a taste of truly fresh filling, Executive Chef Sylvain Delpique from 21 Club in New York recommends the pumpkin pie from Cannelle Patisserie in Jackson Heights, N.Y.

“This is my favorite patisserie in New York,” says Delpique, who explains that Cannelle brings together French technique and classic American flavors to make its pumpkin pie. “The quality of the ingredients also sets this pie apart from all the rest,” Delpique notes. “The filling is always made out of fresh pumpkin.”

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Sweet Meets Savory

When a pie is unexpectedly shot through with savory notes, it might just make you question your devotion to those classic pie recipes that are strictly sweet. One such convert is Valerie Nin, executive pastry chef at Boston’s Grill 23 & Bar. She just can’t get enough of the Tahini Pumpkin Pie from Sofra Bakery in Cambridge, Mass.

Nin describes the dish as “absolutely packed with flavor; a rich balance of sweet and salty.” She does warn that this combination can prove to be quite addictive: “No matter how full you are from dinner, you will eat your whole piece of pie and want more.”

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Beautifully Balanced

For some, tradition can’t be broken, but it has to be done right and with quality ingredients. “My all-time favorite pie is pecan pie,” says Matt Hyland, executive chef at Emily and Emmy Squared in Brooklyn. However, he is particular about which version of the pie he’ll eat, as he finds that some are too sweet or have a strange consistency or both. There is one spot, however, that serves his dream slice.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn makes a perfectly balanced filling with high-quality pecans,” Hyland says. “You can’t go wrong with anything they serve, because they have perfected pie crust.”

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A Slice for All Seasons

Since pie is a perfect vehicle for seasonal fruits, the dessert doesn’t necessarily disappear from bakery display cases after Thanksgiving. Zac Young, pastry director of Craveable Hospitality Group, has a favorite spot where he indulges all year round. His pick?

Two Fat Cats in my hometown, Portland, Maine,” says Young, noting that his father loves their local fruit pies in the summer. “In the cooler months, I go for the Bourbon Pecan Pie. Their crust is amazing — hearty and flaky at the same time!”

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New School

For those who like to change up tradition and try something new, there is Proof Bakeshop in Atlanta. “It’s my favorite bakery for pies,” says David Zaquine, pastry chef at Bagatelle in New York. “They have a modern, rock ‘n’ roll approach to pastry making, which sets them apart from bakeries known for their classical approach.” His picks are the Apple with Oat Streusel Pie and the super Mocha Cream Pie. “The streusel is very crunchy and not too sweet,” he says, “and the cream is simply delicious.”

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A Holiday Hybrid

This is a time when overindulging at the table is practically a tradition in its own right. So a dessert mash-up that brings together pie and cake seems like a perfect fit for the season. “When the holidays roll around, there is no pie better than the pumpkin cheese pie from Carousel Cakes bakery in Nanuet, New York,” says Bahr Rapaport, chef and co-owner of Seabird and Mezetto in New York.

Open since 1965, the mom-and-pop operation has garnered a legion of fans with its sweet confections over the years, but it’s the bakery’s holiday hybrid that Rapaport just can’t resist. “The pumpkin cheese combines the best of New York cheesecake with sweet spiced pumpkin pie,” he says. “I always have to buy few extra and keep [them] in the freezer through the holidays. It’s a personal favorite and a holiday hit!”

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