As we head into the holidays, discerning home bakers and armchair dessert enthusiasts want to know: What’s the secret to a good pie?
According to local pastry chef Emma Kreis, a good crust is non-negotiable. And, surprisingly, you don’t want to go too sweet.
“I try to let my ingredients speak more than the sugar,” she said. Like salt, sugar should only serve to enhance the flavor of a pie’s ingredients, not be the star of the show.
Kreis started baking professionally when she was just 14 years old and later went on to study at the Culinary Institute of America. Her career in the hospitality industry has since taken her from coast to coast, but when the Napa Valley restaurant where she worked kept closing temporarily—first from the California wildfires, then the COVID-19 pandemic—she decided to pack her bags and head home to Chicago.
With more than a decade of experience under her belt, Kreis quickly landed a job in River North. Then the state announced a ban on indoor dining the next day and her new gig got put on ice, too.
“It was like ‘yay,’ then ‘oh no’ within twenty four hours,” Kreis said.
Unsure of what to do next, Kreis decided to throw herself into baking pies and sweets for the holidays, a tradition she enjoys each year.
“Whenever I’m in doubt, I bake,” she said.
Then her sister had a suggestion — why not start selling the pies, which are always in such high demand among friends and family?
A few days and one flyer later, Paisley Pies was born. The name is a reflection of the chef’s status as a “notorious bandana wearer.”
Paisley Pies offers a variety of pies for home delivery including apple, mixed berry, and cherry, although the most popular to date has been Kreis’s chocolate bourbon pecan pie.
Working out of the kitchen of her studio apartment in Logan Square, Kreis opened just in time for Thanksgiving and was hit with a flood of orders — 75 pies, all told, for the big day. One customer alone ordered 11 pies. Given the logistical challenges associated with baking and delivering each pie herself, Kreis eventually needed to stop taking orders.
“It took everyone by surprise, including myself,” Kreis said of the response.
The good news is that Paisely Pies is back online and taking orders for the upcoming December holidays. Kreis also considering other ways to expand the Paisley brand. She said she’s thinking about adding homemade pickles to her repertoire and is also looking into getting a cottage license to sell at farmers markets this coming year.
“I want to ride this wave and see where this goes,” she said.
You can place an order with Paisley Pies via phone or text at 847-224-1280, or through Facebook messenger.
Featured photo: Emma Kreis