Zesty! Peggy Jean's Pies

Story and Photography: Lydia Graves

Thanksgiving anticipation came from the first suggestion of November. The warmth of family and friends, celebrations, and, of course, food. Holidays have filled the air, bringing none other than delicious treats.

As an excessive planner, an immediate instinct was to create a Google Slides presentation of everything to make Thanksgiving Day. I laid out the menu, attempting to perfect twists on classics and deciding to make a Garam Masala Short Rib Roast opposed to the infamous turkey. Everything was settled, except for one of the main characters of the show—dessert.

I adore desserts, but personally, I’ve never been too fond of Thanksgiving sweets. It’s between the uncomfortable fullness, the crust never being quite so, or the filling missing a spark of something. Looking forward to it, I always found myself disappointed with a barely eaten pie left in the fridge. As host this year, I was driven to find a resolution and finally enjoy the last course of the meal.

Peggy Jean’s Pies is a made-from-scratch artisan pie bakery located right here in Columbia, Missouri. The shop has been featured in many publications from Feast Magazine and Columbia Missourian to Nerd Wallet and Country Living. Their White Chocolate Strawberry Pie was also named one of Food Network's Best Pies in America. To top it all off, the mother-daughter duo Jeanne Plumley and Rebecca Miller appeared and competed on Crime Scene Kitchen, a television show produced by FOX and hosted by actor and comedian Joel McHale. It all began with Peggy Day and Jeanne Plumley selling pies to the Columbia community. After ten years of this venture, Day became ill and passed, leading the bakery to shut down. After years passed, Plumley struggled finding something that brought her as much joy as the bakery. Plumley and her daughter set out to make bold moves and reopen together, explaining “I think I wanted to prove that women can open a business, if you really want to, without going the traditional methods of getting a man involved and a bank.” Read all about their spectacular reopening on their “Our Story” page.

I ordered a lot of pies from Peggy Jean’s. It was difficult not to, hearing all their options. They have everything that comes to mind, from American Apple to Vanilla Cream and even savory pot pies. The day of pickup, I was so anxious to get in the store. I could smell the crispy, crumbly goodness from the parking lot. It was beautiful. Walking in, all my senses told me I was home. The smell was sweet and buttery, and laid out in front of me was rustic decor, goodies, and shelves upon shelves of sale pies. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to leave with only the pies I had pre ordered. I ended up adding two more to the mix of six I had already planned. Almond Joy, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan, Dutch Apple, Mixed Berry, Peach Praline, Sour Cream Cherry, and Rhubarb were all accounted for and in my care.

Thanksgiving morning, I started at 8:00 A.M. cooking the feast. Spices started to fill the air and clutter filled the kitchen. Dirk, my ten month old corgi, stood on stand-by hoping for scraps of deliciousness to drop to the ground. By four in the afternoon, the meal was complete; mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, stuffing, short ribs, and an immense amount of side dishes were juxtaposed with Peggy Jean’s mouthwatering pies.

It wasn’t long before everyone was excused from the table. By the time early evening had arrived, our eyes were larger than our stomachs could manage, and, like turkeys, we were stuffed. This is how all the Thanksgivings before had preceded. Now would be the typical moment for a few regretful bites of mediocre dessert and whipped cream before admitting defeat and taking a nap. This time was different. This time I had hope.

Sour Cream Cherry began the sampling. Tart cherry is the immediate star. The sweetness of the sour cream complimented this beautifully sharp taste. It carried it well, the tangy and creamy profiles working together to compliment each other. By no means am I a crust enthusiast; typically, I am the individual stripping the crust as if a shell for the star that is the filling. However, Peggy Jean’s Pie crust was a symphony. It brought music to the contents of the pie. It was flaky and sweet, bringing a smile to anyone who tries it. It was the perfect pie. Can you tell it was my favorite? As expected, the fruit pies were all a hit. Dutch Apple, Mixed Berry, Peach Praline, and Rhubarb hit the mark I longed for in a lavish dinner’s dessert. Some, though, benefitted from added whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream because of a slight excess in crust. Overall, though, an exquisite play of flavors and certainly a breakfast treat the morning after the holiday dinner.

Moving on to the anticipated chocolate pies, I want to express how chocolate is something I, personally, tend to avoid. I enjoy chocolate pairings, but decadent chocolate treats or tarts with a central chocolate flavor are never my first, or second, choice. That being said, I did not want to pass up on a candy-bar themed pie. Almond Joy pie piqued my interest and regret would linger if I didn’t at least try it. First impression bite I did detect more Mounds bar than Almond Joy, but the notes of coconut were tantalizing and compelling. It was very chocolatey. It was unignorable, and somehow, despite my cacao pickeyness, this was exceptionally brilliant. This is the chocolate pie that chocolate-dislikers and chocolate-lovers can come together to rejoice—and I thought it was impossible. Somehow, this pie has become that miracle. The filling almost has the texture of custard. The smooth, thickened consistency entertains the luxurious chocolate taste all wrapped up in the welcoming pie pastry. Meanwhile, the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan had the same uniting effect as the former, but with more caramelization. A scrumptious tart with a preciously candied filling. Both uniquely curated made me begin to question my chocolate-disliking identity.

Many, as I had previously, overlook dessert on Thanksgiving and holidays in general. It is tough to consider the subject during savory-heavy celebration, leading it to not be a fan-favorite course. But, it is about time for this to change. There is so much to enjoy at Peggy Jean’s Pies. Exploring all the bakery has to offer will be no issue as they become a family favorite—or a final exam week's saving grace. You can find Peggy Jean’s Pies on Facebook and Instagram, @peggyjeanspies and amongst their hashtag, #worldpiedomination.

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