No matter how you slice it, Alice White is one of North Port's most high-profile residents, and she's known by many titles.
For nearly a year, she's been City Commissioner White. For about two decades, she's been called “the Tree Lady,” as the founder and chairwoman of People for Trees, a staunch advocate for the protection, preservation and appreciation of natural, local flora.
But for others, White is “The Pie Lady.” Through her Pie-Licious Bake Shoppe, she has earned a reputation as a talented purveyor of pie, earning rave reviews and a steady following for her fruit-filled fare.
You might assume pie-making represents the lighter side of White's personality, a homey cottage business venture compared to her civic-minded and eco-conscious endeavors. But there's more in her pies than the four cups of fruit filling under the top crust. Every pie that comes out of the schoolteacher-turned-entrepreneuse's oven is more than a 10-inch taste treat, it's a culinary educational experience.
When Alice White bakes a pie, she's making a statement — a statement advocating the preservation of pie — real pie.
“I've always liked to cook and bake,” White said. Over the years, scratch cooking and baking has been pushed out in favor of commercialism and convenience to the detriment of quality, she said, and there is no clearer, sadder example than what passes for pie today.
“A pie that you get in a store is nothing like what a pie should taste like,” White said.
When someone orders a Pie-Licious pie, they're getting a pie like mother used to bake. Or grandma, or in some families maybe you have to go back to great-grandma.
“People have gotten so used to what they pass off as pie today,” White said. “I wanted to bring back what a pie is really supposed to taste like.”
If you want to do pie right, White says, it begins and ends with the crust. She spent a long time perfecting her dough recipe, hitting on the right combination of butter and shortening to produce a crust that is both flaky and tasty. You have to mix the dough ingredients cold, without overmixing, she said. And she adds a touch of vinegar to prevent overworking the dough.
White's approach to pie filling can be summed up in one word – authenticity. She only uses fresh fruit, nothing canned, and certainly none of that stuff manufacturers label “pie filling.”
White thinks a more appropriate name for it is “goop.”
When White makes a pecan pie, it isn't a layer of nuts on top of a pool of goop. There are nuts throughout, “a half pound, to be precise,” she said. And she adds a splash of bourbon for character — bourbon, not bourbon extract.
The pecan pie is one of her most popular pies. So is strawberry/rhubarb. White thinks that may because rhubarb is pretty scarce in Florida. In all, she offers 31 pies on the Pie-Licious website, and is open to requests.
What's the most popular?
“Apple is always number one”
When you can make the classics something special, it means you're doing something right.
To see White's pie and cookie offerings and to order, visit www.pieliciousbakeshoppe.com.