Easy as Pie

Any way you slice it, a wedge of pumpkin, apple, or berry is as important a part of the Thanksgiving meal as the turkey
Easy as Pie
Photograph by Roy Ritchie

Few foods say “welcome home” better than pie.

Most of us will drive a long way for a sweet slice (or two) of our favorite pastry. And that most classic of American desserts takes the, er, cake, when it comes to the Thanksgiving dinner finale.

Wendy Achatz, co-owner of Achatz Handmade Pie Co., understands that appetite better than most. November is the busiest month for the Armada-based company (pronounced like “jackets”) that she runs with her husband, David.

“Thanksgiving is our Super Bowl,” Wendy says. “We start preparing [in September], purchasing Michigan apples, Michigan cherries, and Michigan beet sugar, and stocking our freezers with lots of pie shells.”

Meeting their annual Thanksgiving demand requires a plan of nearly military-style precision — with good reason. They expect to sell about 30,000 pies for the Nov. 27 holiday.

“That week, we start the ovens on Saturday night and run 24 hours a day until Thanksgiving morning,” Wendy says. “Tuesday and Wednesday will be the two busiest days of the entire year. People will be lined up all day long.” Achatz is also open Thanksgiving morning.

What’s the attraction?

Wendy says it starts with the local ingredients, which include a specially created all-natural, non-hydrogenated vegetable oil that contains soybean oil and palm fruit oil. (The oil is sold at Achatz’s six metro Detroit stores.)

Explaining the appeal, Wendy says, “We don’t call it gourmet; it’s artisan. Our bakers flute all the edges by hand — 21 pinches around each 10-inch pie.”

So what will their Thanksgiving customers be carting home for the family feast? Here’s a menu of the most-requested varieties for the Thanksgiving table:

Michigan Four Berry (cherry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry)

Pumpkin, four varieties: Traditional, Pumpkin Crumb, Pumpkin Shelly (layers of cheesecake, pumpkin, and pecan streusel), and Pumpkin Cream (made with Crooked Creek Dairy Farm milk from Romeo and with a bottom layer of chocolate ganache).

Apple, three varieties made with Northern Spies: Crumb, Double Crust, and Caramel Apple Nut (a 4-pound pie made with one-half pound of roasted cashews, peanuts, and pecan halves, and half a pound of caramel, plus apples, of course).

Information on pies and locations: achatzpies.com.