Indy's Upper Crust: They Knead to Bake
The leaves overhead are fast becoming a natural kaleidoscope of fall colors. Autumn's cool winds usher in warm thoughts of hearthside sitting, family gatherings and comfort food – and nothing evokes that cozy feeling faster than the heavenly scent of a homemade pie.
"It's a friendly, happy smell," says Lesley Bartone, who, along with her friend Julie Komsiski, started Indy's Upper Crust Artisan Pies earlier this year. They specialize in pies made from scratch with locally grown ingredients as well as seasonal and holiday classics. Though Upper Crust doesn't have a storefront – yet – its pies are sold at a handful of area restaurants and can be ordered directly from Bartone and Komsiski.
The next-door neighbors in the Meridian-Kessler area initially bonded over their children – they have eight between them, ranging in age from 3 to 12 – and discovered they shared a love of baking. Morning walking partners, they would walk and talk about things they wanted to do, and the idea of a pie-baking business just stuck.
"We realized this was going to be a great union of two people who are passionate about baking," Bartone says.
Both began racking up restaurant and catering experience in their teens, and, Komsiski says, "We felt like we could be really creative with pies." They delight in experimenting with new ingredients such as maple Greek yogurt or making savory pies with veggies fresh from the garden.
"Plus," she says, "our kids were a huge motivating factor. We wanted to do something that we knew we could eventually have our children involved in."
The friends arranged to use the certified kitchen at St. Joan of Arc School, where Bartone works planning and preparing the school lunch menu, and they set about becoming a well-oiled pie-baking machine.
Pie lovers can find Indy's Upper Crust pies at the Jazz Kitchen, Bebop Pizza Kitchen and Twenty Tap at the intersection of 54th Street and College Avenue, and Goose the Market at 25th and Delaware streets, among other locations. Weekly specials are posted on Facebook and Twitter. To order seasonal pies, including pumpkin, pumpkin pecan, sugar cream and apple, or to request special orders, e-mail indysuppercrust@ gmail.com. Slices cost $3 to $4; a whole pie runs about $17, a little more if it's organic.
Because community and family are important to the Upper Crust women, a neighborhood pie store is definitely in their long-term plan, says Bartone. Eventually, they dream, "It's going to be that pie store that's been in the family forever."
EASY AS PIE
Bartone and Komsiski offer tips for those trying their own hand at a homemade pie:
• Keep the crust cold in the refrigerator until the last minute. Then roll out the dough to about an 1/8 of an inch on a piece of canvas, sold at bakers supply stores or even at a fabric store. Dust it with flour; the dough will roll out smoothly and won't stick.
• Always start your pie off on the lowest oven rack at a high temperature. Then move it up to the second rack, cover it and reduce the heat. "Typically, you end up with a nice, golden-brown, crunchy, flaky, buttery, delicious crust," Bartone says.
• When choosing what to put in your pie, know your region, Bartone says. "When you're in the fall season, what does it immediately make you think of? You've got those real warm spices like nutmeg, cloves and ginger, and you've got pumpkins, squash, pears and apples."
• For fruit pies, always cut your fruit into similar-size pieces so they will cook evenly. For apple pie, the women suggest slicing the apples thin. The slices will layer themselves when you pour them into the crust and give you a denser pie.
• Don't worry about trying to be perfect. "We like the idea of some fruit bubbling over," said Komsiski. "When I see that little hint of what's inside for me, I can't wait to get inside."