Twelve-year-old Paige Senseman of Hamilton Township in Warren County is an entrepreneur at heart. With a newly created micro business, Lil Paige’s Pies, she is not only carrying out a fifth-generation family tradition, but she’s pursuing the love of baking, and furthering a lost art of homemade pie making.
We caught up with Senseman, a homeschooled seventh grader, in her kitchen to talk about the new business as well as to find out some of the secrets behind her award-winning pies. Senseman sells the pies to cafes, coffeehouses and individuals. Royce Café and Coffeehouse in Lebanon is one of her regular customers, which has been serving pumpkin and apple pies this fall.
“My Aunt Paige came over when I was 9, and she said, ‘I’m going to teach you how to make pies.’ One day, we made three pies, and that was all we did that day,” said Senseman. “She taught me how to make a batch of crust, how to roll it out, and how to make the filling,”
A chocolate dream whip pie, a strawberry pie and an apple pie were the first pies she learned to make with Paige Spitler, her great aunt, who lives in Dallas, Texas. Since the first pies she made, Lil Paige, who got the nickname from her Great Uncle Galen, has probably made more than a hundred pies. Many of the family recipes date back to the mid-to-late 1800’s.
The five-generation family pie makers include Grandma Bridenbaugh, Lorene Althouse, Spitler, her dad, Mark Senseman’s generation, and then Lil Paige.
“Paige is named after her Great Aunt Paige, so they are very special to us. We spend a lot of time together for being in Cincinnati and Dallas,” said Patt Senseman, Paige’s mom. “A lot of the recipes came from Grandma Bridenbaugh.”
For the Thanksgiving holiday, Senseman offered pumpkin, apple, cranberry apple and pecan pies to an already established customer base. In the course of two days, she made 41 pies. All of the pies are made-from-scratch crust with fresh ingredients. Paige often gets up before school at 4 a.m. to make the pies. She usually makes two pies at a time, which take 30 to 50 minutes to bake, along with 20 to 25 minutes of preparation time.
“So much of pie baking is all of those little tips and tricks, of not over mixing a crust, or having a good crust recipe and not handling it too much, or adjusting the temperature when it bakes,” Senseman said. “So, a lot of people can have good recipes, but they don’t have the techniques down, and that is what has been passed down through the generations, as much as the recipes.”
One aspect that can be the most challenging is not burning the crust while the pie is in the oven. When rolling out the crust, humidity and the weather can also impact the consistency of the crust. And, if it’s too dry, it’s going to crumble, Senseman said.
“That’s probably the hardest thing, is trying figure out how to get it exactly perfect, so that when you pick it up, it’s not going to fall apart,” she said.
Coconut cream and fruit pies – from blueberry to peach — are among the pies she makes. Coconut cream is one of the most requested pies. Senseman also has her own favorites.
“My favorite to make is apple, but my favorite to eat is strawberry,” she said.
Senseman has previously been named as a first place winner in the 2013 Fall Festival competition at Christ’s Church at Mason, the church where she’s a member with her parents and brother, Blake.
As far as starting the business, “It just happened. People kept asking for them. There was a need and they are homemade,” Senseman said.
A few weeks ago, she came up with a name and a logo, brainstormed slogans and a tagline, created an order form and determined prices. Pies sell for about $11 to $13. Visit Lil Paige’s Pies online at www.Facebook.com/LilPaigesPies.
In addition to excelling in school, being involved in church, and baking, Senseman is a ballet dancer, who loves music. She recently starred in The Nutcracker with Ballet Tech® of Ohio at Little Miami High School.
“I’m a ballet dancer, so I dance 12 to 15 hours a week, and I practice five days a week. I also play a lot of instruments, including guitar and piano, so I’m very into music,” Senseman said.
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