If you're among the legions of followers of Heather Keogh's Instagram page @heathers_pies, you know she doesn't just bake pies — she creates art. It just happens to be art that tastes really good.
Feast on these Thanksgiving recipes
It's time to get creative with your holiday menu, from starters to the final sweet bite.
And that's why we tapped her to create this year's Thanksgiving cover.
Keogh runs a custom pie shop inside her St. Louis Park home, where a yard sign is the only indication that something delicious awaits. The self-taught baker hung her shingle seven years ago, posting an ad on her neighborhood Nextdoor page just a few weeks before Thanksgiving. She got more than 25 orders, way more than she was bargaining for.
"It took me four hours to make a pie back then," Keogh said. "I wanted to do everything right, and didn't want to disappoint anyone."
Keogh had wanted to open a pie shop since she was in her 20s, and was part of the original baking team at the Nicollet Island Inn. Kids came along, and when her son had health issues, she put her career on hold.
"I said I can't be mommy and do this, so I shelved everything," she said.
In 2016, she resurfaced that pie shop dream, which she said came at the right time.
Now she bakes pies to order, using organic ingredients when possible. In addition to an array of flavors, she also makes hand pies, "message pie grams" and is starting to increase the offerings for her popular pie classes. For those who love to bake but have a healthy fear of pie crusts, she sells those, too.
But how does Keogh turn pie into a masterpiece? Time and patience, for starters.
Three-dimensional pieces, such as the squashes and pine cones, are made from almond paste that's shaped in candy molds and dried overnight, then shaped, sanded and smoothed. Other pieces are cut from dough.
Equipment that ranges from leather crafting tools to playing cards gives each item detail before it is given time to dry. Pieces crafted from dough are brushed with a milk glaze and frozen; Keogh says they need to be "stone-cold frozen" before baking, or they will lose definition.
Embellishments are painted with organic food coloring (mixed with a touch of vodka) before being artfully arranged, giving customers their final masterpiece and Keogh the chance to move on to her next canvas.
Pro pie tips
Heather Keogh of Heather's Pies spreads her pie knowledge in bimonthly pie classes, where she teaches willing students the ins and outs of pie crusts and fillings — and feeds you lunch. She passed along these tips from her pie syllabus:
1. Following your chosen pie dough recipe, remember to gently mix the dry and very cold liquid ingredients together. Take your time. (You're not making bread or pizza dough, where you might turn it over repeatedly.) When a crust shrinks during baking, it's because the dough is overworked.
2. Before rolling, wrap divided dough discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate, preferably overnight.
3. When ready to bake, remove discs of dough from the fridge and let them rest 20 minutes on a sheet of parchment, which keeps things sanitary and free from flour. Never add flour to the parchment paper.
4. When rolling out the dough, use gentle turns as you're slowly applying pressure. Try to stay away from applying too much pressure and, if sticking starts to apply, flour your pin. Turn your dough over once or twice if needed. Don't use excess flour. Roll the crust out into an 11-inch circle. Fit the dough into your glass or tin pie plate and crimp the edges.
5. Chill the completed pie crust while you roll out the second one.
6. Wrap the finished pie crusts in plastic wrap. Chill until ready to use with your choice of fruit fillings (preferably the same day).
7. This all-purpose pie crust recipe also works for pies that use parbaked or prebaked crusts.
For more information about pie classes, which are starting to expand, go to heatherspies.com.
Heather's Pies Gluten-free Chocolate Espresso Tart
Makes 1 (9-inch) round tart.
For a festive finishing touch, add fresh raspberries and a dusting of powdered sugar before serving. The recipe gets its sugar content from the milk chocolate. From Heather Keogh of Heather's Pies.
• 1/2 lb. semisweet chocolate chips, preferably Guittard's
• 1/2 lb. milk chocolate chips, preferably Guittard's
• 1 (13.5-oz.) can of coconut milk
• 2 tbsp. Italian espresso powder
• 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1 cooled tart shell (see recipe)
• Sea salt flakes, for optional topping
Prepare the filling: Place dark chocolate and milk chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk over medium-low heat. Once warm, add the coconut milk to the chocolate chips and stir slowly. Let the mixture sit for a moment to allow the chocolate to warm. Stir again, until all of the chocolate has completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
Add espresso powder and vanilla extract to the chocolate mixture, slowly stirring until combined.
Fill the crust: Push the chocolate-coconut mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and into the cooled tart shell. Spread evenly. Refrigerate for at least 4 to 5 hours, and up to overnight. Lightly top with sea salt flakes, if desired. Keep refrigerated.
Gluten-Free Pie Crust
Makes 2 (9-inch) crusts.
Note: There are several brands of gluten-free flour, including ArrowHead Mills, King Arthur and Bob's Red Mill — use your favorite. From Heather Keogh of Heather's Pies.
• 3 c. gluten-free flour (see Note)
• 1/8 tsp. Kosher salt
• 1/3 c. sugar
• 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted cubed butter, chilled until ready to use.
• 1 large egg yolk
• 1/2 c. ice water
• 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
• 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Using a clean food processor, add flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon and butter. Pulse 6 to 8 times — it's about incorporating the butter at this stage.
Remove mixture from food processor and transfer to a large, clean bowl, making a well in the center.
In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolk, ice water, apple cider vinegar and vanilla extract. Pour into large bowl, in the well of dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly, but be sure not to overmix.
Divide dough into two even discs. Wrap the discs individually in parchment paper and place in refrigerator to chill at least 2 hours.
Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper. (Gluten-free doughs can be tricky to roll out without breaking up; rolling them between sheets of parchment means there's no need for flour). Roll to 1/4-inch thickness; if the dough becomes too soft, place it in the freezer for 10 minutes. If the crust starts to stick to the parchment, replace with a new sheet of parchment.
Once the dough has been formed evenly in the pie plate, chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the prepared crust on a baking sheet. Line the crust with parchment paper and place dried beans or pie weights inside. Place in oven and bake for 12 minutes. Remove the parchment and beans and place crust back in the oven and bake until you have a lightly browned crust. Let crust cool completely before filling.
Salted Szarlotka with No-Churn Brown Butter Ice Cream
Makes 1 (9-inch) cake.
Sweet and savory can be the best of dessert friends, something I learned as a kid watching my grandma eat apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. Try this spin on apple pie. From "Polish'd," by Michał Korkosz, who writes: "On the surface, it's a traditional apple pie, but what makes this pie unlike any other is the salt. The short-crust pastry is seasoned with a substantial amount of sea salt, which fearlessly dances on the taste buds. I pair this with brown butter, slowly cooked until fragrant and amber in color. I like to serve apple pie with ice cream infused with a hint of brown butter. It doesn't require any special equipment to make, nor stirring to ensure creaminess." (The Experiment, 2023)
For the ice cream:
• 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
• 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
• 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
• 2 1/3 c. heavy whipping cream, chilled
For the szarlotka:
• 1 1/4 c. (2 1/2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• Zest of 1 lemon
• Juice of 1/2 lemon
• 3 1/2 lb. tart apples, such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith or Honeycrisp, peeled and cut into 1/2-in. pieces
• 2/3 c. sugar, plus more to taste
• 3 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for forming
• 1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
• 1 egg yolk
• Powdered sugar, for serving
• Flaky sea salt, for serving
To make the ice cream: Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until golden brown and fragrant, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat immediately and pour into a medium heat-safe bowl. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then stir in the sweetened condensed milk and salt. Whisk until smooth. Allow to cool completely.
In a large metal bowl, whisk the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Add one-third of the whipped cream to the butter mixture, folding it in gently.
Add half of the cream-and-butter mixture to the remaining whipped cream, folding it in gently, then gently fold in the remaining cream-and-butter mixture. It will lose a bit of airiness but should remain fluffy.
Pour the mixture into a 5- by 9-inch loaf pan. Freeze until firm, about 6 hours.
To make the szarlotka filling: Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cinnamon and lemon zest. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the apples. Cook, covered, over low heat, until the apples start to soften, 20 to 30 minutes. Uncover the pot and cook until the juices evaporate and about half of the apples are beginning to fall apart, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice. If the apple mixture is not sweet enough, stir in some of the sugar. Transfer the apples to a medium bowl. Allow to cool completely.
To make the crust: Melt the remaining butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, for 8 to 10 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Remove from the heat immediately and transfer to a heat-safe bowl. Allow to cool to lukewarm.
Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the cooled brown butter; the brown butter must be lukewarm or it will cook the flour. Add the egg yolk and stir to combine. Divide the dough into two pieces. Wrap one piece in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer or refrigerator until firm. Sprinkle the other half with a little flour and press the dough into the bottom of a springform cake pan, pressing the dough 1 inch up the side of a 9-inch cake pan. Chill in the freezer or refrigerator until firm.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Fill the dough-lined pan with the apples. Crumble the remaining dough and sprinkle over the apples. Bake in the oven until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then dust with powdered sugar.
A few minutes before serving, remove the ice cream from the freezer to soften, then serve with slices of the szarlotka.