In the kitchen at Hallock’s Cider Mill, a country farm market in Laurel, peanut butter pies chill in a cooler next to a tall rack heavy with homemade grilled peach pies, which towers over owner Wayne Hallock.
It was a humid September afternoon, but he didn’t mind having his hands covered in flour, standing near a hot oven all day and baking pies in the intense heat.
Although he’s constantly surrounded by pies, Hallock said he’ll never get tired of them. Especially his Sinful Pie, a Southern gem consisting of nougat topped with toasted coconut, pecans and drizzled with caramel.
“I just have a passion for baking,” said Hallock, who built his shop in 1978. “It makes me happy and people that buy my pies get to enjoy them too.”
Hallock said he’s looking forward to preparing thousands of pies this fall, which thanks to Thanksgiving is the busiest time of year for many local bakers. The season’s favorites include pumpkin, pecan and custard pies.
And, of course, apple pie, which Hallock and other bakers agree is the most popular dessert on the North Fork.
When you snag your favorite homemade pie this year, you might come across something different about them.
Blue Duck Bakery owner Keith Kouris, who owns shops in Southold, Riverhead and Southampton, said he started baking six-inch and personal-sized pies about two years ago.
“Customers started asking for a smaller size,” he said. “When we first introduced them, they did well and are still doing well. I think family size has a lot to do with that.”
Hallock, whose most popular pie is apple crumb, said his customers have also asked for personal-sized pies and agrees the trend is due to smaller family sizes, as well as customers becoming more conscious of their diets.
Gekee Wickham, who owns Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue with her husband, Tom, said she believes the downsized pie trend is because people’s budgets are tight.
“With the economy the way it is, people are spending less,” she said.
Nonetheless, Wickham said she’s preparing for the busy season, which for her typically includes selling about 100 pies for Thanksgiving alone.
Although Wickham said she’s content with this year’s apple harvest, she believes it wasn’t as good as previous years due to the warm winter.
But fear not. The popular homemade Wickham apple pies are available this holiday season, as well as other favorite desserts, including cherry, blueberry and peach pies made from scratch using the farm’s produce.
If you want to make sure you’re getting a fresh pie, bakers agree you should check to see if the pie is “homemade” as opposed to “home-baked,” which means the pie was frozen and then baked before hitting the shelf.
Kouris said he believes what makes a pie great is to make sure it has fresh fillings.
“If you make your own crust, but use a pedestrian filling that’s overly sweet, overly cooked and where there’s no texture to the fruit anymore, you might as well get a supermarket pie,” he said.
Kouris said he will never stop looking for ways to improve his pies. For instance,
he’s working on a new coconut oil-based bottom pie crust that aims to stay firm and not get soggy from the filling.
Kouris, who sells about 2,000 pies during busy weeks, said he believes pies are much sought after because they define the change of seasons more so than other types of baked goods.
“We try to offer a good variety, but we can’t get too crazy with that because it’s hard to be creative and meet that demand for seasonal pies sometimes,” he said. “Apple pie, you know it’s fall season. Pumpkin and custard pies, you know the holidays are here.”
Fresh pies are available at the following North Fork locations:
1960 Main Road, Laurel
1010 Village Lane, Orient
28700 Main Road, Cutchogue
4414 Sound Ave., Riverhead
Bay View Farm & Market
891 Main Road, Aquebogue
729 Main Road, Aquebogue
1223 Main Road, Jamesport
715 Sound Ave., Mattituck
31215 Route 48, Peconic