“My mama liked pies. We always had pies more than cake.”
Growing up in north Keller, Martha McCormick, a Keller native, often helped her mother in the kitchen, working alongside her to create desserts and goodies that would later inspire her to do the same for others. Now she’s known as the “Pie Lady” in area circles, having launched her own baking business, called MMM Pies, a year and half ago out of her home kitchen after retiring from a lengthy banking career. At 78 years old, McCormick is just getting started on her sweet new venture.
“When I retired, I wanted to do something fun,” she says.
Her travels took her to almost every state and around the world as far as Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Norway.
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After graduating from Keller High School, McCormick got a job at Keller State Bank, eventually working her way up to a travel director position over the bank’s travel club. McCormick was in charge of coordinating and attending trips with top customers. “I didn’t have a boring banking career, that’s for sure,” she says.
When the company sold to Frost Bank in 1999, McCormick’s office moved to southwest Fort Worth – a lengthy drive from Keller amid growing traffic. She continued with the bank but retired after 25 years, only to return to banking for a brief stint at American National Bank in Keller. Though she was closer to home, McCormick still wanted something more.
“I’d just been in banking all of my life, and I really had a wonderful life with bank travel,” she says. “But I always thought before it’s all over, I wanted to do something different and exciting. I thought it would be fun making pies.”
McCormick began studying what baking and selling from home would entail. She was encouraged by the Texas Cottage Food Law, which allows home bakers to legally bake and sell goods. She was also inspired after seeing the home of an elderly woman in a rural part of town with a small sign out front that read “pie today.”
“She only put her sign out when she had the pies,” McCormick recalls. “We would go by and get a pie. I thought, ‘I’m going to get a little sign and put it in the front yard and see what happens.’ ”
With her phone number, her business name – which stands for Martha Moren McCormick – and a picture of a classic cherry pie with a woven lattice crust, McCormick’s sign is now a Keller landmark for homemade pies of all kinds baked to order with a phone call.
“My first customer was the man who printed my sign,” McCormick says. “I told him I make 28 different pies, but he wanted the cherry lattice pie on my sign.”
She launched the endeavor in October of 2014. Her first Thanksgiving in business, McCormick had more than 50 pie orders. Last year at Christmas, she had 60. She makes pies – including cobblers, meringues, classic pies, ice box pies and five-inch mini pies she dubs “Sweetie Pies” – almost daily, reserving Saturdays for her and spending time with family as much as she can. Pies ranging from $8 to $20.
“I always bake to order,” she says. “I just think that’s how it should be. If you want a pie, you want a pie.”
Most of McCormick’s business is generated by word of mouth, but living just outside the entrance of the Oakmont Hills neighborhood, McCormick’s home, and her sign, is in prime view for the community’s residents and guests. She receives phone orders regularly, but if customers place an online order, they can expect a confirmation call from McCormick.
“I’m kind of old-fashioned like that.”
While McCormick admits she doesn’t have a giant home, she does make good use of a compact space. Just more than 100 square feet, her kitchen houses two double ovens, multiple mixers, and a large dough board in the middle of it all.
“All of my appliances are new. I can bake eight pies at once if I need to,” she says. “I wore my other ovens out.”
With pops of red and a bit of decorative flair, McCormick’s busy kitchen also features a few treasures that are near and dear to her heart, including a print of Good Housekeeping magazine’s November 1931 cover of Young Mother Hubbard rolling dough and a monthly wall calendar with pictures of her own pies given to her by her daughter.
McCormick says challenges are few with the business so far, even when a large request comes in, like the order for 18 pies she received in December from a businessman giving them as gifts.
“I got up at 1 a.m. to start baking. The house smelled so good,” she says. “I also haven’t really burned anything. I think an angel has been on my shoulder. I haven’t really had any disaster of any kind.”
While McCormick likes to stick to her own list of varieties, which include pecan coconut chess, peach cobbler, buttermilk and old-fashioned banana pudding with elaborately whipped meringue, she will take custom orders to make customers happy.
“One man wanted chocolate meringue with the pecans in it. He said it was just like his mama’s.”
McCormick’s forest berry pie, a cobbler made with a blend of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, is also popular. She shares the recipe here.
“I was on my way to Alaska on a train for my banking job,” she says. “They were serving that pie and it was absolutely fabulous. I thought, ‘I know I can make that.’ ”
While McCormick loves being in the kitchen, she especially loves seeing the look on her customers’ faces when they pick up their neatly boxed pies tied with big red bows. Even more, when she receives phone calls of thanks later, she is proud to have brought joy to others, she says.
“I am surprised with myself that I would be making pies,” she says, laughing, as she does often. “I’m supposed to be retired. But people say I’m the pie lady.”
Forest Berry Cobbler
•2 cups flour, plus 2 tablespoons
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2/3 cup shortening
•6 tablespoons ice-cold water
(plus more if needed)
•1 cup blackberries
•1 cup blueberries
•1 cup raspberries
• 1 1/2cups sugar
• 1/2 cup water
•6 tablespoons butter
•Sparkling sugar, as needed
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Mix 2 cups flour and salt together. Cut shortening into flour until mixture is crumbly. Add the ice-cold water and mix until dough comes together, adding more cold water if needed. Divide dough in half.
3. Roll out half of the dough onto a lightly floured board and then place in the bottom of square 9-inch pie pan. Combine berries and pour into the pan, spreading evenly over crust. Cover berries with the sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 cup water. Slice butter into pieces and place evenly over berries.
4. Roll out remaining dough and place on top of cobbler. Sprinkle a bit of sparking sugar over the top crust. Bake for 40 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.
—1860 N. Pearson Lane, Keller, 817-228-2952, www.mmmpies.info