If you would have asked us several years ago if Tippin’s would ever offer a gluten-free pumpkin pie, we would have told you emphatically, “No.” There is so much flour being mixed-in here or spread there around our bakery that it would be crazy to think we could pull off gluten-free anything.
Then we had a chance meeting with a local Kansas City gluten-free bakery called Emily Kate’s.
After hearing the story behind how Emily Kate’s bakery got started, it occurred to us that there was a segment of the pie-eating universe that was essentially being unserved, and we wanted to see what we could do about that. We hear so many wonderful stories of people gathering to share our pies. And we thought it would be great if we could include the friends and family members with gluten intolerance into that gathering.
The Challenge Was in the Crust
So we approached the Emily Kate’s Team with the challenge to try to make a gluten-free pumpkin pie that tastes just like a Tippin’s regular pumpkin pie. The challenge was totally in the crust, because Tippin’s pumpkin pie filling is already gluten free. We shared our crust recipe, and even gave Emily Kate’s some of our super-special pie shortening.
Many of the early efforts were failures. One version was so tough we could have broken a tooth on it; we couldn’t cut it with knife. Robin, owner of Emily Kate’s, still shrinks every time we laugh about that version. We took samples of fresh-baked Tippin’s crust to Emily Kate’s to reinforce what Tippin’s pie crust looks and tastes like. We sampled the Tippin’s crust in Emily Kate’s parking lot so we wouldn’t accidentally get gluten in their bakery.
The samples started getting progressively better; so much so that we took Tippin’s resident pie quality expert and 38-year company veteran to Emily Kate’s to get his opinion. In a blind taste test, he couldn’t tell the gluten-free crust from the Tippin’s original crust. This was a moment we will remember for a long time because when he mistook the Emily Kate’s crust for Tippin’s crust, Emily Kate’s lead baker, Amber, just about jumped through the roof of the bakery. She got some serious air.
Starting Small, Serving a Need
One of the next big challenges was getting this project to scale. Tippin’s uses ovens that hold approximately 400 pies each. Emily Kate’s ovens hold from 16 to 32 pies each. And while neither bakery relies on a great deal of automation, Emily Kate’s truly does everything by hand, including rolling out the pie dough.
So for the 2016 holiday season, we decided to start small and cautiously. We offered a limited number of gluten-free pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas, available by pre-order through Hen House Markets in Kansas City.
Due to the positive response, we expanded our gluten-free pumpkin pie offering in 2017. And for the 2018 holiday season, our gluten-free pumpkin pie can be found at Dierbergs Markets in St. Louis, as well as Hen House Markets in Kansas City. Use our Pie Finder to locate a store near you.
We view feedback as a gift and use it to get smarter and better, so please share your thoughts with us about our gluten-free pumpkin pie. We hope it makes your holidays more enjoyable and delicious for everyone!