Blueberry. Coconut cream. Pumpkin. Apple. There are all kinds of pies, but one thing is certain: “Pie is special,” says Max Reim of Pie Time.
Pie definitely has an enduring appeal, perhaps because it demands that you stop and have a cup of coffee and a conversation. It connects you to family and friends. It makes you feel at home.
In a world of custom cupcake shops, artisan donuts and prime-time cakes, the humble pie is a die-hard in Baltimore. You can find a home-baked slice of pie at farmers markets, mile-high pies in rotating glass cases at glittering diners, and stacks of pies at DIY backyard weddings.
Reim, 30, serves up sweet and savory pies at the Baltimore Farmers’ Market and Bazaar, effectively bucking the trend in of-the-moment sweets.
“I think the cupcake got so popular because it is an individual serving that you can eat between the store and your car in the parking lot. Instant gratification,” he says, standing at a stainless steel counter piled with crates of blueberries and peaches at food-startup incubator Bmore Kitchen. “You don’t take [a cupcake] home and have it with a cup of coffee. What’s nice about a slice of pie is you have to eat it with a fork or spoon. You have to stop and enjoy it.”
The mustachioed Reim—who’s dressed in black and white pinstripe pants and a black Baltimore baseball cap—carefully measures half a cup of wildflower honey into a giant stainless steel bowl filled with 9 pounds of glistening peaches. Each pie will end up with 3 pounds, plus a few pats of butter on top.
He grew up making pies with his mom, Baltimore artist and art collector Lois Borgenicht, and started baking on his own during college in Western Massachusetts, where farm stands were filled with fresh fruit, he says.
He still uses fruit from the farmers market for his fruit pies, which include blueberry lemon zest, berry slam and honey peach. His savory winter pot pies trend more artisanal: duck confit gumbo with andouille, crawfish and okra; beef carbonnade stewed with bacon and Guinness for hours; and his favorite, Thai curry chicken, with a swirl of red curry and coconut milk along with ginger, scallions, carrots, sweet peppers and cilantro.
“The wonderful thing about pie is that people are thinking about the given ingredient that time of year,” he says, adding a pinch of cinnamon to his mixture. “Our sweet pies are hyper-simple: just fresh fruit, just what’s in season. I want somebody to bite into a slice of this peach pie and be in their grandmother’s pantry, stealing an extra slice.”
Reim notes that it is tough competing with commercially produced pies. “Something that has really damaged the institution of American pie is cheap grocery store pies, because people don’t associate value with fruit and freshness,” he says. “We keep it very Grandma-style.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the tattooed, motorcycle-riding, hide-your-daughter kinds of pies made famous by Dangerously Delicious Pies, whose logo is a pie and crossbones.
Dangerously Delicious founder Rodney “The Pie Man” Henry has built a mini empire and put Baltimore on the pie map with multiple appearances on the Food Network. He cranks up the pie-naming amp with savories like Hot Rod Potato—potatoes au gratin in pie form—and Polka Pie, with the Polish holy trinity of kielbasa, sauerkraut and potatoes.
“You want everything to shine through. You want to even taste the char on an onion, the crispiness on potato,” says Henry. “You’ve got to pay attention to things. Every time you do a pie there’s always something different about it.”
On the sweet side, he rocks some serious sugar with the Elvis pie, which has—you guessed it—peanut butter, bacon, bananas and chocolate—and the Baltimore Bomb, loaded with Berger Cookies and vanilla chess filling.
Henry learned pie-making from his grandmother and great aunt during summer vacations and hustled pies for extra cash on tour with his band, the Glenmont Popes, in the 1990s. Now he has six shops in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Detroit, proving that pie, whether dangerous or homey, is a fan favorite.
“It’s because it’s portable,” he says after cranking out 150 pies one morning at his Detroit shop. “And when you bake a pie, man, it’s really personal. People appreciate it.”
The personal touch is something they know well at Baugher’s Orchards and Farms in Westminster, just 40 minutes outside of Baltimore. The baking began in the early 1930s when Romaine Baugher made fruit pies to help pay the mortgage on the family farm during the Depression. In 1948, Baugher’s iconic country restaurant opened, and they’ve been serving pies with homemade ice cream to generations of pie lovers ever since.
Today, the pies are made out of a commercial kitchen at the orchard and market on Westminster Pike, but the seven-member team, including bakery manager Mike Strine, still make them by hand from a recipe that’s hardly deviated from the original.
“Originally, she made them all with lard, and we made the switch to vegetable shortening,” Strine says. He also switched the meringue-topped pies to whipped cream-topped pies. “Younger people don’t like meringues.”
They sell around 500 pies a week, with up to as many as 3,000 pumpkin pies going out the door at Thanksgiving.
“In today’s world, they are still made from scratch,” he says of the deep-dish pies. “We are one of the few places where you can still have a scratch pie.”
Pies like strawberry rhubarb, blueberry and cherry crumb line the shelves, with the fresh fruit that goes into them nestled in wooden baskets just steps away.
“We make over 35 different kinds of pies, depending on the season, but the most popular will always be apple,” he says, noting the pies are made with Johnny Golds, Ida Reds and Honey Crisps grown on the farm. “Those fly off the shelf.”
Strine counts himself lucky to remain immune from the passing dessert trends in the city. At Baugher’s, pie remains an essential part of a good life.
“Pies are always a standard. Trends come and go but the pie never changes,” Strine says. “No one ever orders a cupcake.”