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A Passion for Pies: Meet Sarah Williams of Fruit & Flour

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Photo via Fruit & Flour
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A passion for the pies made by Sarah Williams of Fruit & Flour is easily sparked with a sample of something as aptly named as her Crack Pie, which she was giving out recently at the Artisanal LA holiday show in Pasadena. Though there is an upsurge in artisans launching successful businesses based on their handmade foods, getting a pie pop-up going can still seem like a daunting enterprise. A few bites into Williams' Cardamom Pear pie, and it was evident the gal has the goods, so we checked in with her to learn more about how she came to be a pie maker, and if she'd reveal her secret for her excellent pie crust.

LAist: How did Fruit & Flour get started?

Sarah Williams: I was sitting in an East Side bar with one of my best friends Julia Luke. Because of a residency Machine Project's Mark Allen was doing at the Hammer Museum, Julia who was the designer at the museum, had the opportunity to do a project in their Echo Park storefront and was trying to come up with ideas. She asked me, if I could be doing whatever I want, what would it be? I replied "I'd have a pie shop." That November (2010) we did Pop-up Pie Shop and sampled pie and sold "Pie Kits" to benefit the L.A. Food Bank.

When did you interest in baking, specifically tarts & pies, begin? What were some of your earlier pie inspirations and experiments?

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I have always had the biggest sweet tooth which sparked a passion for making my own baked goods starting in high school. I would make cookies and brownies for my sister, my softball team, for parties. I started getting into more challenging pastry-based projects from there and got really into making pie, which was always one of my favorite desserts.

How do you source and develop your recipes?

I think once you have the basics down-a good crust, ratios, techniques--that it is really fun to play with spices and unexpected flavor twists. I get a lot of recipe inspiration from great pastry and dessert places like Tartine and Momofuko Milk Bar, but also from what is at the Farmers Markets, what I see chefs experimenting with. I also read a ton of food blogs, Smitten Kitchen is one of my favorites, such great photos!

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A Cardamom Pear mini-pie (Lindsay William-Ross/LAist)
What's your best-selling pie?Probably the Cardamom Pear during the Fall/Winter and Strawberry Rhubarb is a favorite when it is in season.

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What's your favorite pie to bake?

I love the lemon tart, which I guess is not a pie, but I really like making the lemon curd because it is one of those things you have to learn to spot the exact moment it is done and pull it in the few moments before it is overcooked.

What's the secret to a great pie crust?

Should I give away my secret? Ha ha! Like everyone else says, cold, cold, cold. I keep my butter in the freezer before I use it, but not the flour, that seems a little obsessive. I put ice cubes in the water. I also do about 50% water, 50% apple cider vinegar, which is in the same camp as using vodka--some of the moisture evaporates as it cooks. Also, handle the dough as little as you can get away with.

Why do you think people are so passionate about pie?

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I think it is part nostalgia, part the combination of a sweet filling and slightly salty crust. You get some diverse textures and I think a wider flavor spectrum, than say, cake. Its just a good dessert that is satisfying and not too fussy.

How can people find your pies?

I have been doing a bunch of pop-up events throughout the holidays and that will likely continue through the new year, but the surefire way is to checkout the Fruit & Flour website and order one for delivery. While you're there, you can also sign up for the Pie of the Month Club and I will send you an email each month announcing the flavor and you an order as frequently or infrequently as you like. If you feel like trying your hand at baking, but don't want to do all the work, you can find my jarred pie fillings at Standard Goods on Beverly Blvd too.