01/24/2012 06:51 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2012

Pies on Tour

With the arrival of snow, snow and more snow here in Chicago I find myself daydreaming about sweet potatoes with honey and pecans coated in sugar and splashed with bourbon; it's the perfect time of year for baking. 

My reintroduction into baking began with a pie pumpkin. One crisp fall afternoon my boyfriend Aaron and I peered into our CSA box and discovered that Shelly and Irv had decided to give us the tiniest of pumpkins. We had no inkling it would be the beginning of everything. We simply knew that we had been gifted an adorable pumpkin that came with a recipe for pie; and we both loved pie. We decided to give it a shot, and on a rather chilly Sunday we started our first pie.

Having learned the art of pie baking from my mum, I tackled the crust while Aaron mixed together delightful amounts of honey and roasted pumpkin, cinnamon and heavy whipping cream until it was time to bake. The whole evening was permeated with the feeling of being home. Munching on baked pumpkin seeds, the kitchen filling with warmth and the big broadcast playing its timeless and helplessly romantic songs on the radio, Aaron and I waited for the pie in the oven to turn golden brown.

It became a tradition. Sunday nights we filled our apartment with quintessential fall smells and music that demanded we dance to it in our stocking feet. The oven kept our tiny kitchen toasty all throughout the blustery Chicago winter and the week following would fly by because mornings were filled with coffee and breakfast pie. We had friends who gladly trooped through the winter snow to share in slices of bourbon pecan and apple pie. Who brought with them good conversation and more often than not whiskey and apple cider. We passed the winter with apples, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and a fairly consistent sugar high and I met the spring with the vague idea of a lady bakership floating around my head.

In September I began what I'm fondly referring to as my "tour of pie." The idea is that I'll travel all over the United States and apprentice at a slew of different pie shops and bakeries in order to learn as much as I can. I'm educating myself in all things pie, and blogging about my journey toward becoming a lady pie baker.

My first stop on the tour was High 5 Pie in Seattle. Having never been to Seattle before I was a bundle of nerves and anticipation. However, I had no reason to worry. The owner, Dani Cone, and lead baker Anna Bicknell were perfectly happy to host and rather enthralled with the idea of a touring apprentice. Over the course of three weeks I learned how to make fillings by the pound rather than by each individual pie. I helped bake the wholesale pies, packaged them and got them ready for delivery and of course there was always crust to be rolled out. Every day at the kitchen felt like a collaboration. If we weren't making the actual fillings we were talking about them, bouncing ideas off of each other and essentially letting the excitement of baking pie permeate our lives.

So, onward and upward and all things pie. I'm perfecting crusts and crumbles and everything in between and someday... well, who knows... let's just say I'm taking this adventure one pie at a time.