Batter Chatter: Interview with Esa Yonn-Brown of Butter Love Bake Shop

Sometimes you discover great bakers in the most unexpected places. For instance: recently I got to talking to Liz, violinist in Mr. CakeSpy's band Exohxo, and she casually mentions that her childhood pen pal Esa Yonn-Brown not only makes the most amazing baked goods, but she owns a Butter Love Bakeshop (best name ever!), a pie-making business in San Francisco, featuring such alluring pies as the Pear Crisp Pie, "One Bite Wonder" mini pies, Irish Coffee Cream Pie, and a signature "Butter Pie". Well, I demanded an introduction on the spot, and thanks to the magic of Facebook, it happened soon after. Want to know more of Esa's story? Here you go:

CakeSpy: Tell me your first pie memory.

Esa Yonn-Brown: I don't recall the day that the photo was taken that appears on the front of my website (picture left) but as you can see I grew up around pie from the time I could wield a butter knife, so pie it's self is embedded in many of my memories. The most comforting memory I have that surrounds pie is that of my mom in the kitchen in the very early morning singing while I still lay in my bed before school. She would sing while she rolled out the butter studded dough and filled rounds with potatoes, meat and vegetables. I remember her telling me as I got on the school bus to hold my lunch bag opened on my lap until my empanadas cooled or they would steam up and get soggy. I also remember all the kids on the bus asking me what I had because that buttery smell filled the cabin of the stale smelling bus.

CS: What do you think are some contributing factors to the current "pie renaissance"?

EYB: I think people are looking for comfort these days and pie, to many people, is the essence of comfort. Pie evokes memories of moms in the kitchen, something homemade and simple, and is warm and full of love. It is not pretentious but can be elegant in it's core which is appealing in a time that is so full of unknowns.

CS: Please, tell me more about your signature "Butter Pie". What is it, where did it come from, why should we love it?

EYB: The Butter Pie is a take on the traditional Canadian Butter Tart. I was trying to think of a signature pie when I was getting started that was both unique, butter related, and addictivly good. This pie ended up fitting the bill. Plus I wanted the signature pie to be something I could make year round so it would not rely on seasonality.

CS: A lot of people are VERY scared of pie crust. Any tips or suggested tools to make it slightly less scary?

EYB: Practice and cold butter. There are all sort of tricks out there but really if you want to make a truly good all butter crust it is difficult and requires practice. Once you get it it is not hard to do at all, but it is a delicate balance between cold ingredients, not over working the dough, and making sure not to add too much water which will all result in a tough crust. People should not be scared to try to make an all butter crust, the flavor will be there no matter what and after a few tries they will figure out the balance involved.

CS: Also RE: pie crust--butter, shortening, lard, or a mixture?

EYB: Butter all the way! Shortening has no flavor at all, but is much easier to work with. I have not tried lard and would be interested to experiment but I love the flavor that butter provides. Butter also offers a tenderness that is not achievable with shortening, and if you master it can have the crisp flaky texture that shortening provides.

CS: What is your favorite type of holiday pie?

EYB: It may be boring to some but I really think a traditional apple pie still slightly warm with some vanilla ice cream or generous helping of just whipped above weeping cream, with a touch of vanilla and lightly sweetened couldn't be better for the holidays.

CS: New Year's Eve is over, but next time I'm celebrating, what kind of pie do you think would go well with champagne?

EYB: I personally love champagne and think pear pie would be lovely as well as a rich chocolate tart.

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