Heirloom Apples at "Little Bee", a San Francisco Bakery

Pastry chef Stacie Pierce joins forces with organic apple farmer Freddy Menge to create delightful pastries in her San Francisco, California, bakery.

  • Chez Panisse alumni pastry chef Stacie Pierce.
    Photo courtesy Julie Ann Fineman
  • Heirloom apple farmer Freddy Menge harvests assorted heirloom apples.
    Photo courtesy Julie Ann Fineman
  • Assorted heirloom apples from Freddy Menge's farm in Santa Cruz, California.
    Photo courtesy Julie Ann Fineman
  • Apple farmer Freddy Menge holds a ‘Ruby Red’ apple.
    Photo courtesy Julie Ann Fineman
  • Apple farmer Freddy Menge picks heirloom ‘Spitzenberg’ apples.
    Photo by Julie Ann Fineman
  • Continually exploring, Freddy has test-grafted 50 new varieties. One of his resources is the California Rare Fruit Growers, a network of small and large-scale collectors sharing local fruit knowledge and scion wood, touring collections, assembling tastings, arranging presentations, demonstrations and workshops.
    Photo courtesy Julie Ann Fineman

After 8 1/2 wonderful years at Chez Panisse, pastry chef Stacie Pierce has just opened her own San Francisco bakery, Little Bee. I’m loving her apple galettes, or free formed tarts, and wanted to learn about the apples she uses and why. We met recently to explore apple cultivars with her coveted source, organic apple farmer Freddy Menge, at his home and orchard near Santa Cruz, California.

For her apple pies, Stacie uses red-fleshed ‘Ruby Reds’ and golden-fleshed ‘Spitzenbergs’ — gorgeous and unusual heirloom cultivars. Their common characteristic is their intense acidity and strong aromatics that punch through the sugar required in any baking recipe. The ‘Ruby Reds’ retain their red color even after cooking, making for a stunning surprise … pink apple pie! Biting into red, complex flavors would excite any palette … sharing this surprise with others opens the door to forgotten apple heirloom treasures.

Ten years ago, Stacie was interning at Oliveto in Oakland, California, under the tutelage of pastry chef Julia Cookenboo and chef Paul Canales. Paul recognized Stacie’s love and talent for making pastries. Knowing that his wife, pastry chef Mary Canales, was looking for help in the Chez Panisse kitchen, he suggested Stacie make contact.

With trepidation, she tried out for the job by presenting a dessert to the Chez Panisse chefs, a Shaker lemon tart with pistachio ice cream. Hired yet astonished, she asked, “Are you sure you have the right person? I have very little experience.”

Their response, “You have enough of a sense of the kitchen and no old habits to break. “

Discipline and exclusivity are de rigueur in a place like Chez Panisse, and talented chefs and farmers vie to get in. Being vetted by the Chez Panisse family can elevate the status of contributing chef or farmer in a heartbeat, but professionalism is a strict protocol.



Learn from Home!

Survival Skills, Garden Planning, Seed Saving, Food Preservation, Natural Health – Dozens of courses, 100+ workshops, and interactive Q&As.


Become a Preferred Subscriber and start enjoying the benefits today!

Fall in love with the flavor, versatility, and beauty of Mother Earth Gardener

Mother Earth GardenerDelight your taste buds, mind and eyes with beautiful photos and inspirational techniques on everything you need to know to grow, preserve and cook your own heirloom fruits and vegetables. You won’t want to miss the stories about plants passed down from generation to generation.

Don’t miss a single issue of Mother Earth Gardener. Published by the editors of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Mother Earth Gardener provides decades of organic gardening experience from the most trusted voices in the field. Join today and save off the newsstand price! Get one year (4 issues) for only $24.95! (USA only)

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube