Karen’s Pick: Tiny Pies
Soulful treats baked by a dynamic mother-daughter team at two Austin locations
By Karen Spezia
Photographs by Leah Muse
I NOMINATE AMANDA BATES FOR BEST MOM EVER. When her young son requested a slice of pie in his lunchbox, she not only agreed, she created a recipe for a single-serving portable version. The hand-sized pie was a hit with her kid — and sparked an idea that became a booming Austin business and Instagram sensation.
Tiny Pies started modestly enough. It was 2011 when Bates solicited the help of her mom, Kit Seay, to assist with her son’s portable-pie challenge. Both women were lifelong amateur bakers who’d spent hours together in the kitchen whipping up tasty confections. But they were also savvy businesswomen, with Bates running a real estate service and Seay working for the state government. After satisfying the youngster’s wish for a lunchpail pie, they sensed they were on to something. So they baked 75 miniature pies, peddled them at a local farmers market, and sold them all. Soon one farmers market turned into five, which led to an online shop and catering opportunities. They expanded their offerings to sweet and savory flavors in large and small portions. In time, they opened a brick-and-mortar store — and then another. Oprah came calling, as did the Cooking Channel, The Huffington Post, and CNN’s Headline News. In six short years, Tiny Pies has become a very big deal.
The reason is simple: The pies are delicious. Using old family recipes and made from scratch daily, Tiny Pies aren’t your typical grocery store dessert. These pies have the soul of a loving mom and grandma. They also have balance, from the perfectly flaky crust to the farm-fresh filling. Flavors include traditional favorites like apple, cherry, key lime, and pecan.
There’s also seasonal specialties like pumpkin-cheesecake, pear-cranberry, and sweet potato. Not a fruit-pie fan? How about chocolate cream, coconut cream, or the signature Texas Two Step, a decadent combination of chocolate brownie and gooey pecan pie. For savory tastes, there’s the Texas Pete, filled with vegetarian chili and cornbread, and my all-time favorite, the seasonal Farmers Market Veggie Pot Pie, brimming with hearty veggies like roasted leeks, wild mushrooms, butternut squash, rainbow carrots, and Yukon Gold potatoes. Pair it with a green salad and a glass of wine and you’ve got a meal made in heaven.
In addition to the original hand-held pies, Tiny Pies now offers larger five-inch and nine-inch Not So Tiny pies, perfect for sharing or families, and one-bite Teeny Tinies, ideal for parties. They’ve also added savory empanadas and bake-at-home pies packaged in adorable mason jars. Their products contain no preservatives and, whenever possible, use ingredients from local farms like Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Oak Hill Farms, Hi-Fi Mycology, GT Kindle Farms, East Texas Blueberry Co-Op, Twin Cedars Farm, and the Oliver Pecan Company.
Pies are sold fresh at their two Austin stores for dine-in or takeout. The company also delivers locally and ships throughout the U.S. There’s a popular catering service for events like weddings and parties. And if you’re looking for that unique Austin-made holiday or corporate gift, look no further. Bates and Seay still keep their hands in the dough, but as Tiny Pies has grown, they’ve expanded their team to include kitchen manager William Ankeney, a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and a specialist in French cookery.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, the sweets in my lunch-box were a Chips Ahoy cookie or the occasional Twinkie. But never a custom-made pie — especially not one that inspired a blockbuster business. So if that doesn’t make Amanda Bates the Best Mom Ever, I don’t know what does. tinypies.com
Read more from the People Issue | December 2017