For some people, the best part of Thanksgiving dinner is the dessert.
But these days, with the busy lives that most people lead, they don't have time to make those pumpkin, apple or cherry pies that usually top off the turkey feast.
That's where places like bakeries at local grocery stores, restaurants or specialty shops come in. They can lend a helping hand by taking over the baking chores, so that all customers have to do is pick up their pies in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
Photo for the Mirror by Matthew Callan
Roberta Houck of Altoona, a baker at Mrs. Grove’s Pastries in downtown Altoona, removes freshly baked cherry crumb pies from the oven at the bakery.
Marc McKillop, manager of the Giant Eagle grocery store in Logan Town Centre in Altoona, said customers have been ordering pies for several weeks from the store's bakery. They've placed orders for cherry, apple and pumpkin pies, he said, at about the same rate as in previous years.
"But pumpkin is still the leader,'' McKillop said.
Of course, customers may also buy the pies at the store without pre-ordering, and the store sells brand-name pies in their frozen food section, McKillop said. Giant Eagle will be open on Thanksgiving Day for pie shopping or any last-minute needs, he said.
At Mrs. Grove's Pastries, the pie selection is similar, but with a twist, said co-owner Jane Smith. They have pumpkin, too, but three other kinds, two that are variations on the traditional apple and cherry pies, Smith said. They offer a cherry crumb pie that uses sour cherries and an apple cranberry that has a rolled crust with a white icing.
"That's sort of a showy pie, [the apple cranberry pie], a very nice one to have if you're having company because it looks very nice,'' said Smith, whose downtown Altoona bakery is open Friday morning until 11 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday mornings until noon. Mrs. Grove's will be closed on Black Friday.
Mrs. Grove's also has a fourth pie, an oatmeal walnut pie, that is similar to a pecan pie, she said. They will also try to accommodate a special request from customers if they have a particular kind of pie they want.
But no matter what the kind, Thanksgiving is always a busy time at Mrs. Grove's for pies, Smith said.
"It's our biggest day of the year for pies,'' she said.
The typical order runs to about four to five pies for each order, Smith said.
"Most people get a variety,'' Smith said. "Some people stick with just one kind of pie, but usually if they try another kind, they find they like it.''
Variety is what it's about at Mamie's Cafe and Bakery in Martinsburg, where at any one time they have 20 different kinds of pies, said Valerie Wyland Prough, who co-owns the business with her mother, Karen Wyland. And if they don't make it, customers can special order it, Prough said. The bakery has created such pies as lemon sponge and egg custard pies for people who've asked for them, she said.
For Thanksgiving, the orders have been coming in steadily for weeks, Prough said. Thanksgiving is the biggest time for pie sales, with Christmas more a time for cookies.
"We'll probably be close to what we did last year, if not more,'' said Prough, who estimated when there were still about two weeks to go before Thanksgiving, that the bakery had more than 200 pie orders.
As with the other retailers, people were, of course, ordering pumpkin pies, along with a double-crust apple, a sour-cherry crumb, and a coconut cream pie.
"The coconut cream, that's by far the most popular of our cream pies,'' Prough said.
Mamie's cafe is open for breakfast and lunch, but the bakery stays open until 5 p.m. Both will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.
Another bakery in the southern Blair County area, the Corner Brick Bakery in Woodbury, also has an extensive line of pies and has people lining up to order them for their Thanksgiving table.
Owner Caroline Shank said she's been getting calls for weeks not only for pumpkin pies, which she said are her personal favorite, but for the other pies that the bakery sells. Corner Brick offers 21 kinds, including coconut cream, apple, lemon meringue and blackberry for Thanksgiving. The bakery will also prepare mincemeat pies for the holidays, she said.
Shank said she's also gotten several requests for decorated sugar cookies for Thanksgiving, which she said surprised her. In response to the requests, she has prepared several batches of the cookies in the shapes of leaves and turkeys, she said.
Corner Brick Bakery has only been open since last December. One reason Shank said she thinks her pies are different is that she uses real pie pans instead of aluminum disposable ones.
"I think that makes for a totally different pie,'' she said.
Corner Brick is open Tuesday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It also will be closed Thanksgiving Day.