This is a story about two bakers brought together by Shakespeare. Before Caitlin Bebb and Jessica Giannone started baking pies (and putting them on sticks) in Greenpoint, the two women were actresses in a production of Titus Andronicus. They bonded over a love of baked goods and decided to fill the time between performances (next up: As You Like It) with their own roving pie stand, Pie Birds. We recently caught up with Caitlin between baking sessions and rehearsals to hear more about the small company's roots.
SCOUT: How did you and Jessica first get started baking?
CAITLIN: Well, we're both actors and we were doing a production of Titus Andronicus in Central Park, and we were like, "Oh, you live in Greenpoint! I live in Greenpoint!" Then one day it was, "Oh, you like baking! I like baking!" [Laughs] So we became friends. At the time, we both didn't have solid day jobs aside from the show at the time ... so started baking for fun. I'd been wanting to do something on my own for awhile, and once we were into it, it seemed like that would be more fun with a partner. We started testing recipes and selling them at intermissions at friends' shows.
SCOUT: Which came first, your love of baking or acting?
CAITLIN: Probably acting [laughs], but my mom taught me to bake. I grew up in Los Angeles, and my grandma was a hand model for cookbooks in the 1950s. Back in those days, the person that was the hand model was also the chef that made what the took pictues of, so she would make these various things and model them. My mom always loved baking pie with me, because she's not too into sweets, and I tend to make pies that aren't too sweet (though, I do like playing with boundaries!) Jessica went to high school in Nashville, so she has a lot of Southern baking roots.
SCOUT: How'd you get started developing your own recipes?
CAITLIN: I personally wanted to start like really with classics ... the first thing we started doing was blueberry, and I remember buying these mass quantities of blueberries from the farmers market and then thinking "Man, this is getting really expensive!" [Laughs] So then it became: okay, what fruit is cheaper than blueberries!
SCOUT: Do you have a favorite?
CAITLIN: My personal favorite to this day is Peach-plum-apricot, which was sort of an accident, but they're all pit fruit, so they work really well together. Jessica's a fan of the apple crumb recipe; I also sort of the Lemon Chess pie lady.
SCOUT: What made you put them on a stick?
CAITLIN: I don't know where she got that idea, but it's absolutely brilliant! One day she was like, I think we should make something more portable. Something easier to eat. So that was all her idea, and kids went crazy over it!
SCOUT: What's on the horizon for Pie Birds?
CAITLIN: I have friends who do a coffee cart, and they sort of can take that everywhere. I love that idea, us having some sort of pop-up stand. We've been joking about a bus, but that's not really our aesthetic, we sort of want to keep Pie Birds homey, and make it feel like you just got it right out of our kitchen.