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3-course interview: Nicole Eiden, Windowsill Pies baker 

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Nicole Eiden (pictured left) and her business partner Marielle Dupre started the pie-making business Windowsill Pies (www.windowsillpiesnola.com) five years ago. After winning both the Junior League of New Orleans' Woman Entrepreneur Fellowship, and a $10,000 prize on the Cooking Channel's Sugar Showdown, the duo is ready to open a shop. Eiden spoke with Gambit about the pie business.

How has your business evolved?

Eiden: This is our sixth Thanksgiving. We started out in my house. Basically, we were longtime friends and both were looking for a change. I asked (Dupre) if she wanted to do this thing with me ... and she said yes right away. So we got to work ... and we started doing the Covington Farmers Market. That was our introduction to making new customers, meeting people, creating relationships and being a part of a market community. That's also when we got into Whole Foods (Market), and that was really a game changer, just in the sense of building credibility.

  The next big thing for us was winning the Women Entrepreneur Fellowship. That was huge because that helped with the next step and our business plans. Since then, all these people have been reaching out to us, and this is really the first year that we've had a lot of people (contact us) who are first-time customers. They have to come to us directly, which is really why we want to have our own shop.

What can we expect from the brick-and-mortar once it opens?

E: It's going to be a European- style coffee shop. So there will be beer on tap, wine and coffee — we're going to have Congregation Coffee — and sweet and savory pies. We are looking at Uptown, and we're still trying to figure it out: maybe Lower Garden District, maybe Maple Street, maybe Oak (Street). We want it to be somewhere that's not too far off the beaten path, and it has to be big enough so we can also bake.

What advice do you have for home bakers?

E: Keep the dough really cold while you're rolling it out. It's really hard to roll out sometimes because it's so hot here, so parts of the dough get really warm fast, and parts of the dough stay cold, and then the dough ends up cracking. So keeping the dough from doing that is a big deal. Also, browning (in the oven) so you give the pies some color is important. In America, everything is so underbaked. It's a cultural thing, I guess, but not a good one. Think about when you get a quiche at the grocery store: The bottom is completely white, and there's really no flavor there. So really, people shouldn't be afraid of browning the crusts — the top and the bottom. You'll just get a much better flavor. — HELEN FREUND

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