The Best Sweet Pies in Sonoma County

Kandace Wysock

Table of Contents Step Back in Time — Betty’s Fish N’ ChipsDouble-Crust Wonders — Dominique’s SweetsLocal’s favorites — Baker & CookOld-Fashioned With a Twist — Chile Pies Baking Co.Classic Southern Favorites — Sweet T’sGluten-Free Delicious — The NectaryA Slice in Hand — Criminal Baking Co.Summer Fruit Specialties — Jenny MalickiExquisitely […]

Could there be any dessert more ready to satisfy our collective cravings this summer than a big ol’ slice of pie? Come July, when fresh-from-the-farm summer fruits are at their peak, all other desserts need to take a back seat. Just fold all that deliciousness into a crust and bake till bubbling.

Here are a dozen amazing spots to settle in for a slice—specialty bakeries, restaurants that lean heavily on pie, even a home-based entrepreneur who turned baking into a full-time gig. Plus, we’ve got summer holidays covered with a blue-ribbon recipe for Gravenstein apple pie. (The secret? Add blackberries!)

Step Back in Time — Betty’s Fish N’ Chips

When Susan Corso and her family bought Betty’s Fish N’ Chips 24 years ago, the only dessert on the menu was cheesecake. But Corso thought cheesecake with fish was a bad call. “I felt like lemon was the perfect match, so I took a basic lemon recipe and modified it, and that’s how the Lemon Cloud Pie came up,” she explains. With a super-flaky crust, tangy lemon custard (the fruit comes from her family’s Meyer lemon trees), and huge mounds of whipped cream, the delicious pie is a throwback to a simpler time.

All of Corso’s pies—over 200 a week at peak—are served in single-sized individual portions. “The problem is, it’s very, very labor-intensive,” laughs Corso. “I’ve created this monster for myself now, because everybody loves them, and that’s what they want, so I could never change.”

The 71-year-old runs Betty’s with her son and daughter-in-law, but the pies—the famous Lemon Cloud of course, but also apricot, triple berry, and rhubarb—are all her doing. Want the recipes? So does her son. They’re all in her head, she says. And she’s promised her family that this year, she’ll actually get around to writing them down.

4046 Sonoma Hwy., Santa Rosa, 707-539-0899, bettysfishandchips.com

The famous Lemon Cloud Pie and Apple Pie from Betty’s Bakery and Fish and Chips in Santa Rosa. (John Burgess/Sonoma Magazine)

Double-Crust Wonders — Dominique’s Sweets

Dominique Cortara’s pies have loyal fans queuing up early at her farmer’s market booth. As the season unfolds, she bakes apricot, blueberry, blackberry, plum, peach, and Gravenstein apple pies. But there is a magical moment during summer’s harvest when she makes what may be the most epic of all summer sweets—a pie that combines four or more different fruits. “My favorite features nectarines, Santa Rosa plums, peaches, berries, and, when I can find them, cherries.”

Cortara has definite ideas about the structure of a perfect pie. “Pies are best with two crusts,” she explains, “as the top crust captures steam and facilitates cooking.” But because some folks like to see the fruit inside, she makes a few different lattice-top pies as well. Her flaky crust is simple: just local butter, unbleached organic flour, and ice-cold water.

Available Saturdays at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market and Sundays at the Sebastopol Certified Farmers Market. Special orders available, 707-843-9765, dominiquesweets.com

Local’s favorites — Baker & Cook

Pastry chef extraordinaire Jen Demarest and her husband, Nick, ran the Harvest Moon Café on the Sonoma Plaza for years. They closed the busy restaurant in 2019 to focus on Baker & Cook, a more casual, neighborhood takeout shop.

Jen, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and used to be a volunteer firefighter in her hometown of Kenwood, says her summer pies make the best of what’s at the market: caramel-peach, lemon-blueberry, and mixed berry. “I love just a simple peach and blackberry pie with a streusel topping,” she says. “The streusel makes it like a fruit crisp, but then you also have the crust.” She also makes a terrific s’more pie with a graham cracker crust, chocolate ganache, peanut butter mousse, and torched marshmallows on top. Her crusts are known to be super flaky and light. There’s no real secret, says Jen, just lots of butter. ‘That, and probably just technique — and love.’

18812 Highway 12, Sonoma, 707-938-7329, bakerandcooksonoma.com

Chile Pies Baking Co.’s pie with cheddar green chile-apple cheese crust and a walnut streusel topping. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Old-Fashioned With a Twist — Chile Pies Baking Co.

Set in the historic Guerneville Bank Club, this pie destination cares not a whit for calories. The from-scratch piecrusts are butter-based, and the counter staffers will wisely recommend you add a scoop of Nimble & Finn’s ice cream. You can go nuts, too, and turn the combo into a fancy milkshake – ask, and they shall blend.

Owner Trevor Logan thanks his grandmother for his love of pie – she baked every week when he was growing up in Oklahoma, he says. But pastry chef Wesley Monaham’s pies are all original recipes, including the New Mexico-style green chile apple, crafted with a tart filling that’s spiked with roasted Hatch green chiles under a sharp cheddar cheese crust sprinkled in brown sugar-walnut streusel. The recipe fits Logan’s preference for desserts that aren’t too sweet.

The pecan pie brims with nuts and benefits from the delicious addition of cinnamon- kissed Mexican chocolate. There’s also an apple, blackberry, and blueberry take-and-bake crumble that’s vegan and gluten-free. And if the white nectarine and raspberry pie is on offer the day you visit, don’t miss it.

16290 Main Street, Guerneville, 707-666-9411, chilepiesbakingco.com

Classic Southern Favorites — Sweet T’s

Dennis and Ann Tussey’s shrine to Southern style cuisine has been a wine country favorite since it opened a decade ago, and why not? Everyone loves classic meals like barbecue, biscuits — and pie, wonderful pie. After the restaurant’s original home was lost in the 2017 wildfires, the restaurant returned to resounding cheers at a new Windsor location.

Pecan pie is served cold, in its sticky-crunchy, delicious glory, with a crown of vanilla ice cream slicked with caramel sauce. The Mississippi mud pie hits all the sweet spots, with a slab of mocha ice cream, and drizzled with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce, housemade caramel bourbon sauce and a cap of candied pecans, all atop an Oreo-cookie crust. And while it’s hard to get past the pecan and mud pies, explore the new banana cream pie, too. The crumbly graham cracker crust supports towering layers of banana custard and whipped cream, drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauces.

9098 Brooks Road South, Windsor, 707-687-5185, sweettssouthern.com

Pecan Pie from Sweet T’s in Windsor. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Gluten-Free Delicious — The Nectary

Raw, vegan, and gluten-free may, at first, seem to undercut the happy gluttony of pie, but the delicious summer offerings from The Nectary won’t leave you feeling lacking. Right now, they’re highlighting a strawberry-balsamic pie featuring fresh fruit from Petaluma’s Live Oak Farm, and a Meyer lemon-olive oil Sunshine Pie. “The juice, which is cold-pressed from local Meyer lemons, is amazing because the whole fruit is pressed, which means the juice is infused with essential oils from the peels,” explains founder Gia Baiocchi. The olive oil is from the robustly-flavored, piquant Arbequina, a Spanish olive variety.

For many pie lovers, it’s all about the crust. At The Nectary, you’ll find something unique: a vegan-friendly crust of sprouted buckwheat, dates, cashews, sunflower seeds, “activated” almonds (soaked in water for 24 hours), coconut oil, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, and pink salt.

The Nectary, inside the Barlow, 6760 McKinley St., Sebastopol, (707) 829-2697 and 312 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-0677, thenectary.net

A Slice in Hand — Criminal Baking Co.

The trick to securing a sweet treat at either of Criminal Baking Co.’s two locations is to arrive early, since owner-baker Dawn Zaft and co-baker Tayler Marsh’s made-daily hand pies sell out quickly. But it’s worth the work to wrap your taste buds around rotating flavors like sweet-tart roasted apples tossed with cinnamon, brown sugar, and lemon juice in a flaky, graham cracker crust.

To get your paws on a full-size pie, you need to order five days in advance. But that means you get to name your crust: buttery pastry, shortbread (gluten-free or regular), graham cracker, or a vegan oat and seed blend. Try silky peanut butter- chocolate cream pie rimmed in crumbles and finished with whipped cream and chocolate cookies. Or, for something different, dig into the delectable banana cream pie.

“The secret is our house-made custard recipe and a delicious smoked maple bourbon added in,” says Zaft. The pies are criminal, by the way – Zaft likes to joke that for her recipes, “fresh ingredients meet in a dark room to conspire in the ultimate taste bud heist.”

Criminal Baking Co., 808 Donahue Street, Santa Rosa, and 992 Gravenstein Hwy. South, Sebastopol, (707) 888-3546, criminalbaking.com

Summer Fruit Specialties — Jenny Malicki

“The fabulous fruit we have in Sonoma County inspires my summer pie-making,” says expert baker Jenny Malicki, adding it is also the most challenging time to bake, because of the heat. “A flaky crust needs cold,” she explains. Working with frozen dough helps maintain the layers of fat-flour-fatflour that create the beloved texture. It is important, as well, not to handle the dough too much, so that gluten does not develop.

Peach pie, made with fruit from a small orchard in Sebastopol, is a favorite, but the one that creates the most buzz is Malicki’s Atlantic Beach pie, inspired by crab shacks back East. The crust is crushed Saltine crackers, and the filling is a simple citrus custard — soft, tender, and topped with freshly whipped cream. “It is a delightful combination of sweet, salty, and crunchy,” she says.

Available at Estero Cafe, 14450 Highway 1, Valley Ford, and Americana, 205 5th St., Santa Rosa, 707-755-1548, americanasr.com. Malicki also serves pie at the Casino Bar & Grill pop-up, 17000 Bodega Highway, Bodega, 707-876-3185.

Exquisitely Crafted – Nom Nom Cakes

These intricate, 9-inch pies and 3.75-inch tarts are so gorgeous, you’d think they took a team of talented elves to create. But owner- baker Lana McIntire makes everything herself, all to-order, out of a licensed home kitchen she founded in 2017. She even personally handles deliveries to West County and the Santa Rosa area.

After baking her first pie at the age of nine, McIntire tested her recipes over and over until she found perfection. For summer, savor McIntire’s flawless peach pie, a labor-intensive, mouthwatering masterpiece. She marinates fruit from the Lao family farm in Sebastopol in vanilla and brown sugar, then thickens the sauce before baking. Her top crust is innovative too: a sweet-tart, eggwashed crust topped with turbinado sugar for both extra crunch and a subtle molasses flavor. No wonder she asks for a three-day lead time on all orders.

McIntire’s fruit tarts — nectarine, blueberry, raspberry, kiwi — sing of the season, with a slightly sour dough stuffed with vanilla bean custard. “But my personal favorite pie is my key lime pie,” McIntire says. “I love the creamy texture against the crunch, and the fresh whipped cream finish to balance the tart key lime.” The final flourish: toasted coconut shavings.

Nom Nom Cakes, pickup and local delivery, 805-350-0680, nomnombaking.com

Arnold Palmer Pie, with an Arnold Palmer drink, from The Spinster Sisters pastry chef Nicole Rubio. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Flavor Innovation — The Spinster Sisters

Pastry chef Nicole Rubio can do all the classics—lemon cream, berry pies, a terrific old-fashioned coconut cream—but what she’s really excited about is experimenting. Rubio can work magic with combinations others might find challenging—recently, an Arnold Palmer pie, with a creamy lemon meringue that gives way to a dollop of black tea jelly in the center. “It’s new and different, but it’s approachable, because everyone drinks Arnold Palmers,” Rubio says. “And I drink a lot of tea, so anytime I can work that into a recipe is great.”

Rubio, who graduated from the culinary program at Santa Rosa Junior College just a couple of years ago and started a small side gig, Fox and Bun, during the pandemic, credits family for her creativity and drive. Rubio’s mom is Italian, and on her dad’s side, she claims Mexican and Native American Yaqui heritage. “My dad’s mom is the woman on pie,” she says. “I use her apple pie and gingerbread recipes like a bible.”

Find Rubio’s pies on Instagram @foxandbun.bake and taste them at The Spinster Sisters, 401 South A St., Santa Rosa. 707-528-7100, thespinstersisters.com

A La Mode is a Must — Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar

With fan-favorite takeout cafes in downtown Santa Rosa and on the plaza in Healdsburg, Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar brings together two key ingredients to satisfy a sweet tooth: excellent pies and the ice cream to go on top. The flavor combinations here are sophisticated and seasonal, such as strawberry-blueberry-ginger, peach-raspberry, and Scandinavian almond-cardamom custard, which pays tribute to the family background of co-owner Christian Sullberg. There’s also classic apple with a crumble top, and a Mississippi mud pie with s’mores—a chocolate-lover’s dream, with gooey marshmallows baked inside and a cinnamon spiced whipped cream topping. Order by the slice, or grab a whole pie to take home.

Ordering a la mode is a given here, with creamy, house-made scoops like salted caramel and coffee that allow pie fans to layer in that something extra. Sullberg says he knows the past year has been a tough one: “I want people to enjoy something indulgent.”

539 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, (707) 978-3392 and 116 Matheson St., Healdsburg, 707-395-4426, thenoblefolk.com

Ingredients with Integrity — Petaluma Pie Company

Ingredients come as local as possible for co-owners Lina Hoshino and Angelo Sacerdote of Petaluma Pie Company, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The small mom-and-pop shop uses organic unbleached pastry flour from Central Milling in Petaluma, just a few miles away. They buy their butter and eggs down the road, too: butter from Straus Family Creamery and eggs from the free-range chickens at Coastal Hill Farm.

Hoshino and Sacerdote have a rotating lineup of fruit and cream pies— coconut, chocolate, banana—plus lime and lemon meringue pies every day, made with fruit they harvest themselves. “We switched over to an Italian-style meringue,” says Sacerdote. “It’s a cooked sugar solution added into the whites as you’re whipping them, and it’s a lot more stable. Then you use a torch.”

Another can’t miss? The Elvis Pie, which layers peanut butter pie, sliced bananas, and chocolate cream, and comes topped with loads of whipped cream, more chocolate, and chopped nuts. Fit for a king indeed.

125 N. Petaluma Blvd., Petaluma, 707-766-6743, petalumapiecompany.com

Gravenstein apple pie from recipe developer and cookbook producer Kim Laidlaw. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Great Summer Pie at Home

Growing up, Petaluma’s Kim Laidlaw, a cookbook author, editor, and recipe developer, loved to bake with her mother, and now she continues the tradition alongside her own daughter, Poppy. Laidlaw’s All-American recipe makes the most of Sonoma’s most celebrated local fruit, the Gravenstein apple—in this case, combined with blackberries to bubble up with tons of summer flavor. It’s a juicy, fragrant pie that’s all about the freshness of the filling. Laidlaw says you can make the dough up to a day in advance, but you’ll want to prepare the apples and berries just before baking. And feel free to play around. Laidlaw says the sweetness and juiciness of a pie is really a personal preference. Add more or less sugar, toss in a teaspoon of ground cinnamon if you like spice, or use brown sugar instead of white if you like the flavor better.

Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple and Wild Blackberry Pie

Makes 1 pie

For the crust:

2½ cups all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

14 tablespoons (7 ounces) very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

10 tablespoons ice cold water, plus more if needed

For the filling:

3 pounds Gravenstein apples, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges about 1/4-inch thick ½ small lemon, juiced ¾ cup packed golden brown

sugar ¼ cup granulated sugar ¼ cup (packed) tapioca starch

2 cups fresh blackberries (12 ounces)

1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water to make an egg wash

1-2 tablespoons raw sugar, for sprinkling Vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Instructions:

First, make the crust. In the bowl of a food processor, process together the flour, salt and sugar.

Sprinkle the butter over the top and pulse a few times, just until the butter is the size of large peas. Evenly sprinkle the water over the flour mixture, then process until the mixture just starts to come together (add another 1 tablespoon of water, if needed, to bring it together).

Dump the dough into a large plastic bag, and press together to flatten into a disk. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. (At this point the dough can be refrigerated for up to one day or frozen for up to one month; before rolling out, bring to cool room temperature.) Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees (if you use a convection oven, start at 375 degrees for the first 40 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 for the remaining cooking time).

To make the filling, toss together the apple slices, lemon juice, sugars and tapioca starch. Set aside while you roll out the dough.

To roll out the dough, remove the chilled dough disc from the refrigerator.

Divide the dough in half and form into two discs.

(If the dough is too cold and firm to roll out, let it stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes.) Dust a flat work surface and a rolling pin with flour.

Place one dough disc in the center of the work surface.

Starting from the center and rolling toward the edges and in all directions, roll out the dough into a 12-inch round. As you roll the dough, lift and rotate it several times to make sure it doesn’t stick to the work surface, dusting the surface and the rolling pin with flour as needed.

To line the pie dish, gently roll the dough loosely around the rolling pin and then unroll it over a 9-inch pie dish (preferably glass) so that it is roughly centered on the pan.

Lift the edges of the dough to allow the dough to settle into the bottom of the dish evenly.

Roll out the second dough disc into a rectangle that is about 12 inches wide. Using a pizza wheel or a large knife, cut the dough into as many strips as you can; they can all be the same width (1 to 2 inches) or you can vary some thick and some thin.

You should have about 10 strips, more or less.

Gently stir the fresh blackberries into the apple mixture you’ve set aside, then spoon the mixture, including the juices, into the pastry shell in an even layer.

Lay 5 strips of dough evenly across the top of the pie, using the longest strips in the center and the shorter strips on the sides (if you have different widths, vary those as you like).

Fold back every other strip halfway, and lay down a strip perpendicular across the unfolded strips.

Repeat the process of folding back and laying down strips to weave five additional strips of dough evenly across the top of the pie.

Trim the dough (bottom crust and strips together) to leave a 1½-inch overhang.

Tuck the dough under itself to create a rim. Use your fingers or a fork to flute the rim. Place the prepared pie on a baking sheet.

Gently brush the top and edges of the crust lightly with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the raw sugar.

Bake until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender when pierced with a wooden skewer or a thin knife, about 1 hour 15 minutes. (If the crust starts to get too dark for your liking, lay a piece of foil over the top toward the end of baking.) Let cool to room temperature (or just slightly warm, if you can’t wait), about 3 hours, and serve with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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