■ Madrona obstetrician-turned-baker Barbara Schwartz bakes up to seven pies for a neighborhood restaurant, including the favorite cherry (in hand). photo/courtesy of Barbara Schwartz
■ Madrona obstetrician-turned-baker Barbara Schwartz bakes up to seven pies for a neighborhood restaurant, including the favorite cherry (in hand). photo/courtesy of Barbara Schwartz
When Barbara Schwartz left Southern California for Seattle in 2002, her intent was to take a brief career sabbatical. But Schwartz, a registered obstetrician, discovered a secondary passion that had laid dormant for decades: the craft of baking.

Growing up, Schwartz does not recall her mother baking pies. In fact, her first trial followed a television special on pie baking. Crisps and crumbles were within her repertoire, though the thought of baking a pie had always been terrifying.

"There's a certain mystique about baking a pie," said Schwartz, who specializes in classic fruit pies. "It's bringing together the right and left brain to satisfy the senses. [Pie] excites multiple layers of pleasure with its texture, aroma and taste."

LOTS TO LOVE

Schwartz and her husband, Tom, live in the Madrona area and frequently dine at St. Clouds restaurant, 1134 34th Ave. It was there where they first met John Platt, the restaurant's owner, at a crucial junction.

Without a signature baked good on the dessert menu, Platt learned about Schwartz's talents and asked her to bake him a sample.

"We had a pie on the menu, but slowly, it was getting less love from our customers," said Platt, who admits he was sold on Schwartz's pies upon his first bite.

"To me, it's all about the crust; her pie crust is unbelievable," Platt explained. "Our customers always look forward to her next pie."

Their partnership began over summer 2007. Each week, a new fruit pie is featured at St. Clouds for $7 a slice. Platt said dessert sales are up from two whole pies to nearly seven each week, with blueberry, blackberry and sweet cherry as reining favorites among patrons.

BEAUTIFUL CREATIONS

From physician to culinarian, Schwartz recently added teaching to her list of new endeavors. She offers private three-hour pie-baking lessons to small groups. Classes are conducted in-home, with Schwartz providing all the necessary tools and ingredients.

"The teaching element to baking is truly what I enjoy the most," she admitted. "When a student sees their beautiful creation coming out of the oven, their face says it all."

She admits it's been tough imagining her life without practice medicine. Nearly eight years removed from the profession, she maintains her annual board certification. "Practicing medicine has always been a passion of mine, and it felt like a calling," said Schwartz, who estimates she's performed nearly 3,000 deliveries in her career. "It's hard for me to imagine I won't be doing medicine again."

THE SECRET TO SUCCESS

For Schwartz, the trick to pie making is simple: working cold and working fast. She believes there's a tendency to overwork the crust, resulting in a flat, doughy product. She said keeping the fat source cold and solid guarantees a flaky and succulent crust. With practice and repetition, she's confident that anyone can successfully bake a pie.

"I really didn't plan on this as my new career," Schwartz said, laughing. "Pie is an interesting thing that can bring family and friends together."

For more information, visit www.piesbybarbara.com.