A traditional sweet treat for the soul
Sweet dough pies have long been held as a culinary tradition in St. Landry Parish. Inexorably linked to the pâtisseries of France, a connection that permeates both Creole and Cajun, these pies are as much a part of the parish’s identity as zydeco music and seasonings that make any dish taste just right.
One of the long-standing practitioners of the art of sweet dough pie making are the Hertzockfamily of Yam Country Pies located in the Zydeco Capital of the World, Opelousas. Over 50years of experience colors the made-from-scratch pies that decorate the shelves of this family-owned bakery.
“It started in the cafeteria of the Holy Ghost Catholic Church,” says the Hertzock matriarch, Patricia, about the first pie she ever made. “My aunts needed help making some for the congregation, and it just grew from there.” Similar stories were told by her daughter, Lucretia,and son, “Dough Master” Conrad. True comfort food taps into the nostalgia of time spent with family and friends the Hertzock family has perfected the soul of this idea in their pies.
But what makes a sweet dough pie different from any other pie? If you ask Patricia, she would just laugh and say, “It’s in the name.”
The verbatim way she interprets the question belies her practical nature, but there is still more to be said about the saccharine taste of a sweet dough pie. The melt-in-your-mouth crust, slathered with fillings ranging from the Herzock favorite, sweet potato, to the slight crunch of coconut and all the flavors in between, make for an experience that leaves people coming back for more.
“Dough Master” Conrad has his own interpretation of the question.
“The difference is in the tradition,” he explained. As Yam Country Pies’ jack-of-all trades, he is also in charge of acquiring the locally-sourced sweet potatoes for their pies. In the past, sweet potatoes and yams were a large part of the culture of Opelousas. He spoke on the importance of keeping their recipes old-fashioned, “If we don’t keep the tradition alive, who will?”
Yam Country Pies is not the only place in St. Landry Parish where you can find these great tasting pastries. The Kitchen Shop, located in Grand Coteau, Louisiana the Sweet Dough Pie Capital of the World, lauds their own award-winning, blackberry sweet dough pies. Ray’s Bakery in Eunice also carries an impressive spread of flavors. If that is not enough sweet dough pie for you, there is also a festival dedicated to this iconic treat. Every year, pastry chefs and home cooks vie for first place in the sweet dough pie contest. This year the event will be taking place on October 26 from 9am-3pm at the historic St. Charles Borromeo Church in Grand Coteau. A large variety of pies are available for purchase, including fig, custard, lemon, blackberry, and other local, seasonal ingredients.
You can even make your own sweet dough pie by visiting our website at CajunTravel.com. Chef Nancy Brewer of The Kitchen Shop has detailed one of her own recipes. Before you begin baking, keep in mind, and Patricia asserts this too, the best baking tip is to go to your family and find the recipes important to them. Add your own flair to traditional treats.
Anywhere you go for a sweet dough pie, be it the time-honored sweet potato of the family-owned Yam Country Pies or the award-winning blackberry of The Kitchen Shop, each will be layered with the distinctive years of experience and traditions of the hands that made them. If you want to find out which is your favorite, you will just have to taste them all. Find out more about the Sweet Dough Pie Festival and the bakeries mentioned here at CajunTravel.com.