Smile Politely

Easy as pie

This year my husband and I celebrated Thanksgiving with some friends, and since we are all kind and generous people, we opted to divvy up the food duties so that no one person was trapped in a kitchen for a few days. I was given—took, really—the task of pie-provider. I knew what we wanted to eat, and thus what I was going to bake. The day before I was going to bake these delicious desserts I received an email with the link to Georgia’s Famous Pies and the note that the pies are delivered. To your house (in Champaign-Urbana). For free. Intrigued, I was.

Georgia’s Famous Pies is the duo of Georgia and David Litman. They originally hail from Fisher and Rantoul, respectively. The quick and dirty history of the business is that since high school, Georgia has made some damn good apples pies. After she met David, he encouraged her to enter her pies into local contests. She won best pie at the Fisher Fair one year, and in 2003 her pie was a top finisher at the Illinois State Fair. Both Georgia and David completed their undergraduate and graduate degrees and ultimately settled in Rantoul. From what I can tell, Georgia does the baking, and David does the delivering (amongst other things, too, I’m sure). You can order and pay for your pies online. Pie varieties include apple, caramel-apple, cranberry-apple, sugar free apple, and pecan. Cake varieties—she does cakes, too—include raspberry cream cheese coffeecake, red velvet, carrot with cream cheese frosting, and carrot with brown sugar buttercream frosting.

Why did I not know about this? How could a local pie delivery business escape my knowledge? I suppose it doesn’t matter, as I am—and you are—now in the know. There was a note on the website about placing Thanksgiving orders, but I had missed the deadline by a couple of days. I figured I’d at least place the order and get the pies over the weekend; I had my original baking plan if these pies didn’t work out for the holiday.

I ordered a pecan pie ($18) and an apple-cranberry pie ($20) through the online ordering system, which was super easy. I received my order confirmation email, and about an hour or so later, a phone call from David. He called to confirm my order and inquire as to whether I wanted the pies for Thanksgiving. I gave a very unhelpful answer—something to the effect of, “not necessarily, but if they are ready, then yes, but no worries, I can wait.” Thankfully, David confirmed that my order would be ready the following day and he would deliver it—to my house! Thanksgiving pies had been secured. The following afternoon, the pies arrived well wrapped and with a Georgia’s Famous Pies business card secured under a layer of plastic wrap.

The pies were beautiful. There was a clear love for baking, and a carefulness that went into creating a beautiful object. Georgia’s signature calling card, if you will, is the placement of dough-hearts on top of each pie. The business’ motto is “Cook with Love, Eat with Passion,” so these little hearts seem to be appropriate, and I suppose it helps distinguish her pies from others, especially at a holiday table. (The heart theme is carried throughout the website, too, and I applaud the consistency.)

If you’ve never had a slice of pecan pie, I suggest that you do at least once in your life. It’s a super-sweet, sugary pie topped off with pecan nuts. The result is generally rich, with a maple-molasses-vanilla earthiness. There are several variations (salted pecan, chocolate pecan, bourbon pecan), but Georgia’s pecan pie was straight up pecan without any fancy add-ons. The pie was strikingly beautiful; on the hard top of reddish-brown pecans were lightly browned pastry hearts. The piecrust was beautifully crimped to form an undulating circle enclosing and housing the pie innards. There were eight pastry hearts placed atop the pecans, which made it easy to slice the pie into eight equal pieces. Beneath the hard layer of pecans was the sugary, custardy, gooey pie filling. Each bite had an appropriate balance of crunchy nuts and soft gooey filling. These flavors were exactly what you’d expect in a pecan pie. The richness of brown sugar and molasses played off the maple flavor of pecans. While the inside of the pie was good, the piecrust was lacking. I found the outer crust to be too thick and undercooked. It wasn’t flaky and buttery as I’d expect of piecrusts. This wasn’t too apparent when eating an entire bite of pie, but became quite clear as you finished the slice and made your way to the end of the crust. The remaining bit of crust was described as one eater as tasting like a biscuit, and I’d have to agree. The crust wasn’t at all sweet, but instead pretty salty. The richness of butter was not there, and overall, the crust was not good enough to eat on its own.

The first thing I noticed about the apple-cranberry pie was that it was heavy. The top crust was a crumble, which I prefer over a piecrust top, so I was quite excited. The crumble topping was piled so high that the pie was a little apple-cranberry mountain. This pie, too, was decorated with eight pastry hearts. These hearts were more difficult to see, though, as the baked crumble topping and the golden brown of the pastry hearts were basically the same color. The crust was again beautifully crimped to create little divots of crumble topping. I guess I wasn’t really thinking about what the inside of an apple-cranberry pie would look like, so when I cut through the crunchy crumble mountain, I was surprised and pleased by the rich red color of the fruit. The apples were perfectly and evenly sliced and layered; this too was surprising to me, most likely because I’m too lazy to break out the mandolin when I’m making a pie. (Which is why Georgia is a professional, and I’m not.) The layers of apple were stacked higher in the center. The crumble topping was very generous and as such created a hard layer—much like that of the pecans on the pecan pie—which not only kept all of the apples and cranberries within the piecrust boundaries, but was substantial enough to provide crumble topping in each pie bite.

The apples were perfectly cooked and tender. The cranberry was tart and sharp, but was toned down with the sweetness and richness of the buttery crumble topping. There were pieces of cranberry throughout the pie, and the play of sweet and tart was playful and well balanced. There was an earthiness to the fruit filling; cinnamon and perhaps some nutmeg were present. The pie was pretty dry in terms of juicy insides; this wasn’t some gooey, drippy apple pie. I really enjoyed that aspect of the pie for a few reasons. First, when I think of apple pie goo I think of McDonald’s apple pies, or something equally nasty. Secondly, I bought the pie and a part of me feels like I’m getting my $20 worth in fruit. Finally, I want to consume all pieces and aspects of my pie slice, and goo has a tendency to be left behind on the plate.

This crust was better than the crust on the pecan pie. I’m not sure if there were two different recipes used for the different pies. My educated guess is that the apple pie crust was better because of the crumble topping. The amount of butter and sugar required to make that amount of tasty crumble topping certainly melted down onto the piecrust edges. This crust seemed flakier, too.

I received the pies on Wednesday, and we ate the pies on Thursday. On Thursday, I was satisfied with the pies, but not particularly wowed. I took some leftovers home, and in my post-Thanksgiving dinner haze, shoved all leftovers into the fridge. On Friday (and Saturday, and Sunday), my spouse and I had the pie leftovers and they were actually more delicious. I’m not sure if the refrigeration allowed things to further marinate or set up, but the apple-cranberry pie was awesome, and any doubt I had on Thursday was immediately dismissed.

I’d definitely order Georgia’s Famous Pies in the future. In fact, I’ve got my eye on the carrot cake with brown sugar buttercream frosting. They’re reasonably priced, delivered to your home, beautiful, and scrumptious. She even offers a sugar-free apple pie for those of you who may have diabetics in the mix. If you’re looking for a way to get out of weeks of holiday baking, this is it. Ordering, receiving, and eating are easier than pie.

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