CHICAGO — Bakers throughout the city are rolling out dough, peeling apples and chopping pecans as they race to fill thousands of orders for Thanksgiving pies.
And with Thanksgiving less than a week away, Chicagoans are rushing to get their orders in.
“This time of year, we’re making pies ’til they’re coming out of our ears,” said Dobra Bielinski, who opened Delightful Pastries, 5927 W. Lawrence Ave., with her daughter in 1998. “People don’t realize that pie making is very, very, very labor intensive.
“I don’t have a pie machine that I just pop the ingredients into and it spits out pies. It’s all handmade, and the fun never ends.”
During the holiday season, Bielinski enlists her daughter, mom and brother to help her usual six-person team keep up with Chicagoans’ high demand for pie.
“It’s so fun, tasting the fillings and trying out different things in the kitchen together,” Bielinski said.
Last year, the Delightful Pastries crew made 500 pies just in November — not even counting the half-dozen they brought to their own family gathering, Bielinski said.
Bielinski’s favorite from her bakery is the honey pumpkin pie, a sweeter spin on classic pumpkin pie. Her mom’s favorite is the cranberry fudge pie, which blends cranberries with a chocolate and walnut filling.
And Bielinski’s two brothers prefer their bourbon pecan pie — which is exactly what it sounds like — and the Elvis pie, a homage to the star that features a pumpkin cheesecake base with chocolate custard and bananas.
“We have to make a lot of pies, but we always end up with lots to eat and enjoy and discuss,” Bielinski said. “We all taste each one so that we can slam it or make a case for why it’s delicious, because obviously everyone wants their favorite to be No. 1.”
Pies are also a family affair for John Roeser, the fourth generation of his family to run Roeser’s Bakery, 3216 W. North Ave, which opened in 1911.
Roeser said he is grateful for everything his father taught him about business and baking, but there’s “always something else to learn” — like how to fill 1,000 pie orders in a month amid pandemic-related supply shortages.
“You have to do more to look for the proper ingredients these days; it’s harder to find what you need,” Roeser said. “In the past, you could call your usual vendor and they’d have everything, but now you have to call around or wait for it to come in stock or look online. The list goes on.”
Ingredients are also more expensive due to inflation, but Roeser chose not to increase bakery prices “because everyone else is hurting, too,” he said.
“I’m trying to lighten the load on people for the holidays. There’s so many things to buy this time of year, and everything’s costing more money,” Roeser said.
Along with pies, Roeser’s Bakery offers sweet rolls, coffee cakes, breads, cookies, pastries, doughnuts and homemade ice cream, among other things.
“And never forget to grab a tub of ice cream,” Roeser said. “Who doesn’t want a scoop of vanilla ice cream with their piece of pie?”
In South Shore, Imani Muhammad noticed a demand for more pre-made foods so people can bring them to holiday gatherings. She added a soup bar in addition to the pies she sells at her bakery, Imani’s Original Bean Pies & Fine Foods, 2423 E. 75th St.
“People were coming in and asking about it,” Muhammad said. “Historically, we’ve always done navy bean soup and chicken noodle soup, so we added a full soup bar that will also have a curry-based lentil soup, fish stew and chili.”
Bielinski is also offering more foods to eat before dessert this year, including quiches, soups and vegan stuffing, all made from scratch with fresh ingredients from local farmers.
“Of course, we know that dessert has to be the most fabulous part,” Bielinski said. “But it’s about making people’s lives easier. Life has been a true challenge these past couple of years.
“I figure you give somebody a delicious pie, good bread, a nice soup or quiche, and then they’ve got a big component of their Thanksgiving taken care of. That’s important.”
Where To Get Your Pies
Need to order Thanksgiving dessert? There’s still time, but just barely.
We’ve rounded up a few Chicago options:
Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits: All online orders are for pickup Nov. 22 or Nov. 23 at the Logan Square Shop, 2051 N. California Ave. Bang Bang locations will have additional pies on hand for walk-in customers on a first-come, first-served, no-guarantee-supplies-will-last basis. Pies cost $33-$55. Click here to order online.
Spinning J: Online orders can be placed here. The Thanksgiving pies, and other holiday specials such as the frozen savory truffle rolls, are only available for pickup Nov. 22-24. The pies cost $36-$48. 1000 N. California Ave.
Imani’s Original Bean Pies & Fine Foods: What makes these delectable pies special is that they’re made from navy beans that have been softened and pureed with milk, eggs, sugar and nutmeg. A fan favorite is the strawberry pie, but Imani’s also has delicious vegan pies in blueberry, peach and apple flavors. Pies come in small and large sizes, $9-$18. Order ahead online or stop by 2423 E. 75th St.
Delightful Pastries: The menu features twists on classic holiday pies, such as honey pumpkin and bourbon pecan, plus other homemade soups, quiches and sides to complete the meal. The pies cost $24-$30. You can order online here or call 773-545-7215. Online orders take up to 48 hours to process and must be a minimum of $36. All orders can be picked up Nov. 23.
Defloured: This is the place to be if you searching for a dessert that’s gluten-free. Defloured is no longer taking preorders, but you can drop in Nov. 22-23 to pick up treats. The store will also be open until noon on Thanksgiving, but there might not be much left. Pies are $28-$36. 1477 W. Balmoral Ave.
Roesser’s Bakery: In addition to its 16 pies, the full-service bakery has been offering wide selection of pastries, doughnuts, breads and other sweet treats for more than 100 years. Call ahead to reserve your pie at 773-489-6900 or pop into the bakery at 3216 W. North Ave. until Nov. 23 — and be ready for crowds.
First Slice Cafe: This is the place to go if you’re looking for more than just a wide array of pies. You’ll find fall quiches, pot pies, pastas, vegetable sides and freshly made harvest soups. Last day to order is Nov. 20 (click here). Pies come in small and large sizes, $17-$35. Locations in Andersonville, Ravenswood and Ravenswood Manor.
Floriole: The shop’s honey caramel pumpkin pie features an all-butter crust filled with creamy pumpkin, warming spices and a brandied honey caramel. Items are selling out fast; click here for full Thanksgiving menu. Prices: $30-$40. 1220 W. Webster Ave.
Vanille Patisserie: New this year is a pie created to taste like a warm ray of sunshine on a brisk November morning. Dig your fork into into a pie with yuzu, pineapple and cardamon curd, topped with toasted meringue and see if you feel it. Add a box of Thanksgiving cookies to any pie purchase for a discounted price of $21.95. Prices: $35-45. Order online here. 5229 S. Harper Court, as well as locations in Lincoln Park, Lakeview and the French Market.
Weber’s Bakery: Spruce up the kids’ table with brownies on a stick. Order online soon here, call 773-586-1234 or stop by 7055 W. Archer Ave.
Hoosier Mama Pie Company: The bakery isn’t accepting any more pre-orders, but a limited number of pies are available at the West Town and Evanston shops on a first-come, first-served basis Nov. 22-23.
Cadinho Bakery: Choose between this year’s new flavor, boozy maple bourbon pecan pie, and all-time classic triple chocolate French silk pie. Place your orders by messaging the bakery on Instagram or Facebook as soon as possible. Pies cost $38.
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