“I’VE ALWAYS LOVED to bake,” says Hannah Jacobsen of Pie Bird Bakeshop. “It’s definitely my love language. My way to show people I care for them.”
Luckily for Seattle, Jacobsen moved back home in 2018 after learning how to make fantastic pies at the highly regarded Petee’s Pie Company in New York City. As a baker at Petee’s, she learned the importance of high-quality ingredients. “You can’t have a good pie without good ingredients,” she says. Especially good butter. Petee’s uses grass-fed butter, and Jacobsen relied on it, too, until her local brand was discontinued. Now she uses a European-style butter from Wisconsin with 83% fat instead of the 80% fat typical of most domestic butters.
At Petee’s, she also learned how to make pies in quantity without skimping on ingredients. That means local organic fruit and organic cane sugar. “I learned from the best of the best,” she says. She’s happy to be back in the Northwest with fabulous ingredients.
Nearly all of her produce comes from local farms: berries, rhubarb, peaches, apples, pumpkin, honey. Her pies showcase the best of the season. Her marionberry pie tastes tart and jammy, not overly sweet or syrup-like. “I want it to be all about the fruit,” she says.
She nails the classics but also dazzles with creative flavors like Rocky Road (Theo chocolate and homemade marshmallow), Chocolate Tahini (“a fancy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup,” inspired by an ice cream flavor at Frankie & Jo’s) and Horchata Chess (Horchata is a Mexican rice milk. Chess is a traditional Southern custard pie.).
Jacobsen, 26, grew up in Laurelhurst, graduated from Roosevelt High School and attended the University of Richmond. She returned to Seattle and wanted to use her hands “to create beautiful things.” In spring 2018, she was accepted as a vendor at the University District Farmers Market and launched her pie business. Soon she added the Columbia City market and started baking at Seattle Commissary Kitchen in Sodo.
Starting a business wasn’t new to her family: Her grandmother and grandfather were entrepreneurial role models. Her grandma started a greeting card company, now called Madison Park Greetings, and her grandfather founded Pacific Trail, a clothing company. Jacobsen is proud that she got her start in the University District, where her grandmother, Judi Jacobsen, began in the 1970s.
Still, being a young businesswoman is not without growing pains. Jacobsen recalls last Thanksgiving, her busiest time ever, when she had 25 pumpkin pies in the convection oven but incorrectly set the temperature to 400 degrees instead of 300. “That was painful. I was in tears.” Her mom helped her make another 25 pies, and she was able to meet all of her orders.
Today, Jacobsen makes about 60 pies a week for the markets and 100 pocket pies, little 3-inch golden orbs. “Those are the most annoying to make, but they’re very popular.” She usually sells out, so pre-order online or get there early (look for the pink Pie Bird sign and a bright-eyed woman with blond hair piled on top of her head).
Besides selling at farmers markets, Jacobsen offers a Pie Club with a unique and seasonal pie-of-the-month. For $30 a month, members receive a handmade pie at their door. Pie Club provides an opportunity for her to get creative with flavors. This month is Blueberry Buttermilk, and July is Boozy Peach. August will be Plum Raspberry Crumble. To join, visit piebirdbakeshop.com/pie-club.
So far, Jacobsen is running the business by herself, with the help of one assistant on market days. As sales grow, she plans to hire another baker. It seems Seattle is eating up her vision of wrapping the season’s bounty in a tasty all-butter crust.