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Making dough, flour and sugar into a culinary delight

When Claremont resident Annika Corbin needs a break, she finds herself working away in the kitchen, elbow-deep in flour and sugar. It’s a type of relaxation that brings her back to days spent baking pies with her grandmother.

“When I have my hands in the dough, I feel like I have control over everything in front of me,” said the co-owner of I Like Pie, the Village West’s newest startup set to open this weekend. “It’s the one thing that calms me.”

Ms. Corbin, who is opening the shop along with her husband Rob, hopes her baked pies bring a sense of comfort to her customers as well. Drawing inspiration from her childhood, Ms. Corbin prepares to open her culinary sweet spot, offering up miniature made-from-scratch creations with a touch of inspiration from her family’s southern cooking. It’s a labor of love she is thrilled to share.

“Pie was a huge part of my upbringing,” Ms. Corbin said. Her motto says it all. “Whether your first bite was in your grandmother’s kitchen or at Thanksgiving dinner, chances are if pie was there, so were the people you love.”

Ms. Corbin adds a twist to the traditional the American dessert icon by baking each pie in easy to handle, grab-and-go sizes. I Like Pie’s one-of-a-kind pie tins were fashioned from jelly jars found in Ms. Corbin’s kitchen. She says the pie tin manufacturers teased her for sending “little, dinky jars,” but the end result was just right. The small 4-, 8- and 10-ounce tins allow those partaking in the delicious delicacies to leave satisfied and not overly indulged.

“Bringing home a whole pie, for me, means eating the entire pie,” Ms. Corbin laughed.

Ms. Corbin’s pies range from sweet selections like blueberry sage, apple cranberry and pumpkin praline cream cheese to savory options like tomato basil, chicken and herb and pulled pork. Flavors rotate in and out depending on the fruits in season and the fancy of the day’s chefs. Improvisation is encouraged.

The sweet culinary confections are offered in 4- and 8-ounce options with the 10 ounce tin reserved for the savory flavors. Pie lollipops, “toaster pastries” and “foldovers” are also among the handheld varieties. Whole pies will be for sale, but not by the slice. Items range from $2.25 to $10.

“It’s an affordable luxury in difficult economic times,” Ms. Corbin said. “You can take the whole family out and each get your own individual treat. There is something to be said about that.”

True to her background in design, each pie is made with its own special flair, whether donning fall leaf decorations made of piecrust or gleaming with handcrafted glazes. While the menu is never set and the decorations vary, 2 things are constant: all pies and pie crusts are made fresh and from scratch every day.

After years of plans for her Claremont store, Ms. Corbin is thrilled to finally make her pie shop a reality. The dream of opening her own shop was born 2 years ago out of a quick succession of family struggles that forced the Corbins to take a step back and reevaluate their next move. The couple decided to take a leap and open a family business.

Discovering that 2011 was named “the year of the pie” was serendipitous. Looking to steer clear of the cupcake craze and bring something new to the Claremont community, Ms. Corbin drew inspiration from her childhood.

“There was pie crust in just about everything we ate,” she said, noting in particular the joys of her grandmother’s fresh peach cobbler. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten.”

The I Like Pie menu pays homage to her grandmother with “Diddle’s Cobbler,” fresh cobbler with a filling that changes seasonally, and other learned techniques. Returning to the kitchen, experimenting with pie recipes has been a constant source of stress relief for Ms. Corbin along a challenging road towards opening day.

“It felt like we hit the wall 25 times with financial hurdles and challenges,” she said, “but I just followed my heart.”

Her steadfastness has paid off as Ms. Corbin puts the finishing touches on her pie shop before opening day. The holiday orders are already rolling in and she is excited to allow her baking to speak for itself. Ms. Corbin credits her trust in the product along with the endless support from family and her customers for helping her make it through.

“We have never been short on support, not for one second,” Ms. Corbin said. “When [the process] of setting up a business is so hard, encouragement goes a long way.”

I Like Pie is open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information or to place a holiday pie order, visit www.ILikePies.com.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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