Heirloom Apples at "Little Bee", a San Francisco Bakery

Pastry chef Stacie Pierce joins forces with organic apple farmer Freddy Menge to create delightful pastries in her San Francisco, California, bakery.

| Spring 2015

After 8 1/2 wonderful years at Chez Panisse, pastry chef Stacie Pierce has just opened her own San Francisco bakery, Little Bee. I’m loving her apple galettes, or free formed tarts, and wanted to learn about the apples she uses and why. We met recently to explore apple cultivars with her coveted source, organic apple farmer Freddy Menge, at his home and orchard near Santa Cruz, California.

For her apple pies, Stacie uses red-fleshed ‘Ruby Reds’ and golden-fleshed ‘Spitzenbergs’ — gorgeous and unusual heirloom cultivars. Their common characteristic is their intense acidity and strong aromatics that punch through the sugar required in any baking recipe. The ‘Ruby Reds’ retain their red color even after cooking, making for a stunning surprise … pink apple pie! Biting into red, complex flavors would excite any palette … sharing this surprise with others opens the door to forgotten apple heirloom treasures.

Ten years ago, Stacie was interning at Oliveto in Oakland, California, under the tutelage of pastry chef Julia Cookenboo and chef Paul Canales. Paul recognized Stacie’s love and talent for making pastries. Knowing that his wife, pastry chef Mary Canales, was looking for help in the Chez Panisse kitchen, he suggested Stacie make contact.

With trepidation, she tried out for the job by presenting a dessert to the Chez Panisse chefs, a Shaker lemon tart with pistachio ice cream. Hired yet astonished, she asked, “Are you sure you have the right person? I have very little experience.”

Their response, “You have enough of a sense of the kitchen and no old habits to break. “

Discipline and exclusivity are de rigueur in a place like Chez Panisse, and talented chefs and farmers vie to get in. Being vetted by the Chez Panisse family can elevate the status of contributing chef or farmer in a heartbeat, but professionalism is a strict protocol.

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