Forks up, Phoenix! Chow Bella and Roosevelt Row present the fifth annual Pie Social from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, November 15, at the "What Should Go Here" Pop Up Park at Second and Roosevelt streets. We've got an all-star lineup of bakers making pies for you to taste, and from now till Pie Social, we'll introduce them to you, one by one through a quick Pie.Q. quiz to test their baking prowess.
Today: Shelley Au of Shelley's Specialty Desserts
Shelley Au started baking at a very young age. Not because she had a particular passion for it, but because it provided heat.
"I've been baking ever since I can remember," Au says. "I grew up in Minnesota, so I always hung out wherever the warm spot was, and the oven was always warm."
It's not that Au didn't like baking, but it was her grandmother who really started her down the path of making desserts for a living.
"When I was pretty young, I would help my grandma with the pie crust. I think it was like (Tom Sawyer) except I was making a pie crust instead of painting a fence. I think that was her master plan," Au says.
These days, Au runs Shelley's Specialty Desserts in Glendale, where she makes everything from pies to cookies to sugar art from fresh local ingredients.
"We use as many local fruits as possible. For instance, we get these peaches that are picked on Tuesday, and I drive an hour to get them on Wednesday morning. We don't compromise on ingredients, people can tell the difference."
It's 15 minutes until Pie Social and you drop a pie: What do you do? I always have a backup pie, no matter what I'm doing. So I grab the backup.
What's the single most important tool in pie making? It's how you mix the pie crust, or the ingredients.
What's the most important ingredient in a pie crust? The butter.
What's the secret to the perfect fruit filling consistency? The tapioca, but it really depends on what kind of fruit it is.
Hand pie, pie in a jar, or no mini pies EVER? I do all three of those. We do tons of mini pies because people love mini pies, but then a lot of the restaurants always want the pies in the mason jars.
What's on your pie-making playlist? I always mix it up. I listen to a lot of classic rock. I love hip hop. Sometimes it's classical French music. It just depends, that's the great thing about music.
What will be the next big pie trend? The buttermilk pie, but we've been doing that for 16 years now. Last year we started doing a lot of a pecan praline pie. It was pretty popular, so maybe that.
You have to make 100 pies in 5 hours. Who you gonna call for help? Definitely not the culinary schools. I've had some culinary school students in here. They're super nice, but I had to show one of them how to use a can opener. I'd call in all of the grandmas and the aunties, because they know how to make a pie.
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How do you spend your down time while your pies are in the oven? Usually making sugar art. We're always doing so much around here.
In one word, what's your strategy for competing as a celebrity baker this year? Top-quality.