Last year Bearskin experimented with selling home-baked pies, both as full pies and by the slice. Years ago Bearskin sold pies created by Chef Sally, but after Sally retired the pie baking at Bearskin ended. We happened to have an excellent baker on our housekeeping staff last summer who wanted to try creating pies for Bearskin. It was a big success.
This year we don’t have anyone on staff who loves to bake. We all love to eat, yes, but bake…well, not so much. Fortunately, Bearskin found a wonderful artisan baker to continue the pie tradition.
Lesley Gradek comes from a long line of home bakers, starting as a girl learning from her great grandmother, grandmother, and mother while growing up in New Zealand. To this day Lesley still shares ideas and recipes with her mother. Now an American citizen and permanent resident of Grand Marais with her husband George, she bakes her delicious Artisan breads and pies in her wood-fired brick oven.
Lesley makes a variety of pies including apple, blueberry, fruits of the forest, strawberry/rhubarb, and bumbleberry. She also offers several “no sugar added” varieties on special order. Lesley takes great care in ordering her pie ingredients. She uses natural ingredients for her pies and is proud to create products with no preservatives or artificial fillers.
We ravenously enjoyed devouring Bearskin’s pies last year, but they did contain a great deal of sugar. (OK, we admit it — we are suckers for a sugary pie!) The pies had a unique, sweet tasty crust but our pies were also very hard to slice evenly without the pie crumbling.
Lesley’s pie are quite different . We taste-tested them with a group of staff members and we all had a very similar reaction: We were impressed that we could taste the fruit much more than the sugar. We thought there was just the right amount of sugar to enhance the fruit flavor, not mask it. Lesley’s pies taste healthy. The pies slice nicely into firm pieces that hold together well, so it will be a bit easier for a family to share a pie without any quarrels over who has to eat the pie pile rather than the pie slice.
The first pies will be available Wednesday evening this week. That will continue to be the pie schedule. Pies are new enough for us that we really aren’t sure how many Lesley should make each week. Last year for awhile we couldn’t keep up. If you know that you’ll want a pie on a certain date, call or e-mail us to put in an order before Wednesday each week — then she’ll be sure to bake the pie you want.
Lesley will also be creating the homemade bread that we leave in cabins during the summer for guests who are here for a week. That should start shortly. The bread we chose is a delicious breakfast bread. We think you’ll enjoy it very much.