A Thanksgiving dessert tradition, three different ways | Michigan Radio
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A Thanksgiving dessert tradition, three different ways

Nov 25, 2019

When you think about Thanksgiving, what’s the first food that comes to mind? Turkey? Mashed potatoes? Pie?

Janice Leach— owner, operator, and baker, of Why Not Pie, tells us that “Thanksgiving is the pie holiday.” 

Janice, owner and operator of Why Not Pie.

Why Not Pie came to fruition about 10 years ago — when Leach began baking and selling pies out of her home under the Cottage Food Law. Just a few years later, Why Not Pie expanded and Leach now operates under a commercial license.

As a Michigan native, Leach aims to source her ingredients as local as possible. Leach says that Argus Farm Stop, Why Not Pie’s main retailer, has given her “a chance to meet a lot of producers and make connections with them.”

During Thanksgiving, the two most-baked pies at Why Not Pie are pumpkin and apple caramel.

“What’s interesting about Thanksgiving is that everyone wants a pie on Thanksgiving," Leach says. "Other holidays like Christmas or Easter or Mother's Day are more spread out and people will have them at different times, but everybody eats pie on Thanksgiving.”

Credit Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

Leach feels that a Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without dessert.

"That’s one of the things that I love about Thanksgiving, it’s not like your one dish meal, but lots of different dishes," she says. "And, same with desserts—lots of different desserts, lots of pies.” 

Leach also believes that desserts like pie bring people together.

“I love the sense of community with Thanksgiving,” Leach says. "Pie adds to that sense of community.

Owners of Tasty Bakery, Julie and Ran.
Credit Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

If you are equally gung-ho about pie, but require a treat that is either gluten or dairy free, Tasty Bakery has you covered.

Julie Rabinovitz, owner and baker of Tasty Bakery, confessed that her business began as a selfish endeavor — an opportunity to bake things that she, too, could enjoy.

A Tasty Bakery pie.
Credit Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

Originally from Michigan, Julie and her husband Ran, were living in Brooklyn, N.Y., when she discovered that she had celiac disease.

“We decided to move [back] to Michigan and I thought Ann Arbor would be a really great place to experiment with doing gluten free,” says Rabinovitz.

Rabinovitz prioritizes using ingredients that are clean in her baking because she believes that humans should be eating cleaner.

“I feel like our things are so good because our ingredients are clean and they’re just solid, standup, good ingredients,” says Rabinovitz.

Thanksgiving can involve a lot of sharing. Rabinovitz says her goal is that, “anyone eating our product, whether gluten free or not will love it. Anyone who has a gluten issue can bring their family members and have them enjoy what we’re making.”

“I believe that food is such a cultural thing [...]," Rabinovitz adds. "Pie has to go with Thanksgiving.” 

Jessica Hicks, co-owner and operator of Ochre Bakery, with her daugher.
Credit Katie Raymond

If pie isn’t quite your jam on Thanksgiving, head on over to Ochre Bakery, a bakery and cafe in Core City, Detroit. It’s owned and operated by the husband and wife duo Jessica Hicks and Daisuke Hughes, who originally opened Astro Coffee in in 2011. Bon Appetit recently listed Ochre as one of its best new restaurants of 2019.

Hicks hails from Australia and doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the most typical fashion, which means that pies are not at the forefront for their bakery.

“For me, Thanksgiving is very much about coming together with people, sharing — being grateful is the ultimate way to look at Thanksgiving, I think,” says Hicks.

"Pistachio cake is a vegan recipe, so it doesn’t have any eggs to bind it. Which can seem kind of daunting for people that aren’t used to baking in that way, but it’s also just a quick bread recipe essentially. So you want to just fold everything together until it is just combined. It’s really a very simple recipe and it’s very nice, you just have to follow a few simple steps," said Hicks.
Credit Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

Important to Hicks and the philosophy of Ochre Bakery is using ingredients that are available to them. For Thanksgiving, Hicks says, “it’s kind of spur of the moment, this is what’s available this week.”

For the holiday, they will be baking apple galettes and individual pistachio cakes.

Ochre Bakery is a savory and sweet kitchen— more vegetable forward with their sides. They plan on using a lot of vegetables that are traditionally used in Thanksgiving meals, but with a lighter slant to them.

So whether you choose to end your Thanksgiving meal with a traditional pumpkin pie, or with something that bucks those traditions, the consensus seems to be it's more important who is at your table than what's on it. Though a sweet finish never hurts.  

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