Local baker picks pies as the focus of her small business.
“Oh my god! It’s beautiful,” a customer exclaims as she picks up her homemade banana cream pie from the home of Heather Keogh, owner of Heather’s Pies. “I can’t wait to show my family. We’re calling today ‘Pie Friday,’” she says. This banana cream pie was just one of many to be leaving Keogh’s door that week in anticipation of a holiday weekend. Whether blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, French silk or butterscotch, Keogh’s made a name for herself as a go-to baker for buttery, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth pies. And also, for her 27-layer crepe cake, coconut-pineapple cloud cake and pineapple upside-down cakes, too.
“I’ve always loved baking,” says Keogh. She has been making desserts under the Heather’s Pies moniker for nearly three years now. But she’s been perfecting her recipes for decades. “Both of my grandmas were serious bakers. And I got the gene,” she says. Keogh’s first baking job was in the ‘80s, when she applied for a position on the original bake team at Nicollet Island Inn in Minneapolis. “I read an ad for the job. They took a chance on a green-behind-the-ears girl,” she says. It was during her tenure there when she learned the recipe for what she deems the perfect pie crust, shared via her colleague David, a former dentist who defected from Russia before landing on the same baking team as Keogh at the Nicollet Island Inn.
Eventually Keogh stepped back to raise a family, but never really left the dessert world. She continued to bake at home and launched her own catering and cupcake company. But after the physical and time demands of the company sunk in, she made a decision to focus her attention on perfecting one thing: pie. “I’m in competition with myself,” she says. “I’m teaching myself how to make the best, the most memorable pie.”
Keogh is constantly reading baking cookbooks, discovering new recipes and tools. “My French silk just went up a notch,” she says. “I put dark chocolate ganache in the base of the pie crust, the French silk over that, chill it and add organic homemade whipped cream on top.” And after her wrists began to feel the wear and tear of rolling out dough, she invested in an Italian pie roller so she only needs to roll out the dough twice. Keogh also recently acquired a machine that makes pocket pies and is currently trying to track down an apple ribbon peeler to make rosettes for her apple pies. She’s worked on vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free recipes, and uses organic butters, creams, fruits and vegetables. “I don’t put chemicals in my body,” she says. “Why should I put them in someone else’s?”
Aside from her intricately detailed custom pies, Keogh delivers Pie Grams for an additional delivery fee. “Every pie I deliver has a story,” she says. Keogh has traveled around the metro area and as far as St. Cloud and Hastings just to deliver a home baked pie with a message from a loved one.
And after noticing a resurgence of customers interested in learning how to bake, Keogh started teaching pie making classes at the nine-foot farm table in her home kitchen. On Sunday afternoons she teaches groups of two to six participants how to make a lovely pie crust and filling, and shares her favorite tips and tricks. “They learn that they don’t have to freeze the flour, or the bowl. But their ingredients do need to be chilled and they do need ice water for the dough,” she says. She serves them a savory tart with a farmhouse salad, and guests share a story about themselves. Keogh has enjoyed watching the connections made and the friendships that grow out of her Sunday classes. Everyone gets a take and bake pie with fruit filling and receives a French rolling pin to use at home.
Keogh is currently testing out her pocket pie machine for the perfect recipe and hopes to offer them to customers as soon as she refines her technique.
Today, Keogh juggles multiple tasks with ease. She brainstorms about new tools to use, talks through the batch of pies she’s baking off for a first stint at the Isles Farmer’s Market in Minneapolis and shares stories about her family and their favorite pies. She does all of this while answering the doorbell when customers arrive to pick up orders, and simultaneously keeps an eye on a peach pie that needs to cool in time for someone who is driving from Northfield to retrieve it. “Actually, peach pie was the first pie I won an award for,” she says. “Isn’t this funny. We were living in Northfield at the time. They had a Fourth of July pie competition and my husband and I took our two little babies there in an English pram.” Years later, she finds the same joy in making the same peach pie. And that, she sees as a gift.
- Fondant Cutters
- French Rolling Pin
Look for one at Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table, or even estate sales in Edina
- Architect Ruler
Look for one at Blick Art Materials in Edina.
- Slow down to speed up. “I tell people not to be in a hurry. Take your time when rolling out the dough. Take time to re-chill your pie for 30 minutes (before you bake it) and bake for five minutes longer than you think you need to. A warm oven and a warm pie are not friends,” she says.
- Glass is the best. Keogh builds her best crust with a butter-based dough and a glass pie pan. They stop it from getting too soggy.
- No-stick dough. Keogh always rolls out her dough on parchment paper to prevent it from sticking and breaking apart and it keeps everything sanitary