Teeny Pies: Cute and Classic Crustables

Cincinnati’s newest specialty pie shop offers traditional and adventurous flavors in personal portions

Nov 20, 2017 at 10:39 am
click to enlarge Teeny’s boubon pecan, sweet potato and rosemary caramel apple pies. - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Teeny’s boubon pecan, sweet potato and rosemary caramel apple pies.

I’ve always been a devoted fan of pie. On birthdays, I turn my nose up at anything else. And on Thanksgiving and Christmas, I can be found at the dining table with one eye frantically staring at the counter while my grandma’s cherry-apple pie cools. So visiting a local bakery dedicated to the dish was just one step in my pilgrimage toward pie enlightenment.

Teeny Pies opened in Cincinnati in early 2017. The moniker is taken from the name of owner Teeny Morris and is also a play on her company’s size (tiny; she’s her only employee) and her menu, which features individual small-scale pies. The petite fare is inspired by her childhood, when her mother would give her an arsenal of miniature tools — rolling pins and pans scaled down to her size — to bake alongside her.

But to find the true origin of Teeny Pies, one must start with the “Tour of Pie.”

Morris was living in Chicago and working as an actress when she could no longer ignore the praise she was receiving from friends about her pie recipes or her inner desire to bake full time. With no speciality shops in the area dedicated to pie, she decided she needed to go elsewhere to gain more baking and business experience.

Morris searched for female bakers across the country with successful business models to replicate and volunteered her time for a month at each location, stopping at pie shops in Los Angeles, Seattle and Boston, to name a few.

“I wanted women specifically who were good at their jobs and had the confidence and the wherewithal to open their own successful bakeries,” she says.

For lodging, she’d reach out to friends or family of friends who lived in the area, paying rent in baked goods.

While learning the ropes, Morris was approached by Workman Publishing in New York about writing a cookbook. She started working on Teeny’s Tour of Pies the last six months of her journey, then moved to Washington D.C. and took another six months to finalize her recipes.

The book was published in 2014, the same year she introduced D.C. to her business, Teeny Pies.

After relocating to Cincinnati with her husband (who grew up here), Morris says it’s been exciting to earn her place among the city’s pie people by proving she can tackle traditional recipes along with more innovative, unique flavors like rosemary caramel apple or bourbon bacon pecan.

“I had all these grand ideas of an ever-changing menu, and it’s been fun sort of scaling down to what people really like while also challenging their more adventurous side,” she says. “Over the course of the spring and the summer, people have gotten way more adventurous and they trust us a lot more.”

Both mini and 9-inch pies are available at Morris’ weekly Findlay Market and Northside Farmers Market stands (though pre-ordering online is encouraged for the latter). And specialty pre-orders can even incorporate a range of whimsical crust designs, such as a cutout of Hillary Clinton’s face or the Cincinnati skyline.

The day my family visited Morris’ stand at Findlay Market, she was offering a selection of chocolate oatmeal, sweet potato and apple crumb pies. As someone whose eyes are bigger than their stomach, I ordered one of each to enjoy with a coffee I’d picked up earlier in the morning.
My family and I found a table outside and laid out our spoils. I put mine in the center as if I had intentions of sharing, then opted to start with a classic: sweet potato.

The filling was smooth, creamy and buttery and had a mild, slightly nutty whole wheat crust. Unlike some recipes, it didn’t mask the natural flavor of the vegetable in sugar, but allowed the potato to shine with a fresh, minimalist approach. It felt light as a feather in my stomach; and, thinking back to all the carb-induced naps after Thanksgiving dinners of time’s past, would be a delicate encore to a dense feast.

Next, my sister and I fenced with our forks to get to the chocolate oatmeal. Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, as my pie experiences thus far mostly centered around fruit filling. But it was thick and hearty and immediately reminded me of a granola bar in a pie form.

Morris told me later that she enjoys taking her favorite meals, in this case oatmeal, and transforming them into recipes for her bakery. Notes of cinnamon brought the treat into the fall season. Cold, it was a tasty snack. But I think heating it up in the oven would really bring out its decadence.

I saved the most anticipated for last: apple crumb. Diced sweet and tart apples were housed within a whole wheat crust and topped with a crumbly mixture of sugar and spices. It didn’t have that heavy, congealed syrup that holds some fruit pies together. Instead, it depended on its crisp, fresh ingredients to round out the recipe. Morris says all of the apples used in her pies come from Backyard Orchard, a fruit business that offers local, low-spray produce.

My trip to Teeny Pies took me out of my comfort zone in the best way possible. I dug into traditional flavors and tried some new ones I wouldn’t have normally gravitated toward in the past.

While the 9-inch pies are perfect to bring to holiday dinners, the miniature ones can be added to stockings on the mantle, given as hostess gifts or even enjoyed solo in a portion that’s just enough. Though, you might have to stop yourself from eating more.

Teeny Pies can be found at Findlay Market on Saturday and Sunday and at the Northside Farmers Market on Wednesday. For more information or to order pies, visit teenypies.com.