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In the Kitchen with... Gail Marske
By Carol McGarvey
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Gail Marske
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Check out this recipe from Gail Marske:

Raspberry Pie Filling

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A blue ribbon from the state fair inspires a pie baker.

There’s power in a blue ribbon from the Iowa State Fair. Just ask Gail Marske of Clive. With encouragement and experience since she was a little girl from her mother, Marlene Noah of West Des Moines, along with the spirit of her late Grandma Dorothy, Gail started entering food competitions three years ago. “For all of us, pie is just our thing,” Gail says with a smile.

For the three generations, it’s all about the flaky crust. No surprise, then, that the crust is their family secret.

That tale brings in her husband, Alex, designer for AIM Kitchen & Bath in Beaverdale. As the primo fan of his wife’s pies, he entered her into the state fair competition three years ago. That year she placed third in the All-American Apple Pie contest. The next year, she took second place in the Two-Crust Any Fruit contest.

This past fair she took top honors in the All-American Apple Pie contest. “I was so, so excited. My pies are pretty rustic and basic. I learned and listened and started experimenting with various pie dough shapes and sizes as garnishes.”

In her comments, one fair judge said that Gail’s pie had the “best, flakiest crust.” The home baker was on her way.

Licensed home bakery

With growing numbers of orders from friends through word of mouth, Gail decided to create a small business. Working with the State of Iowa, Gail and her home kitchen became a licensed home bakery, and she started the Flaky Crust Pie Shoppe.

A former substance abuse counselor, Gail now is a stay-at-home mom to two daughters, Stella, 6, and Whitney, 4. The girls love that they live in a pie shoppe.

For her business, Gail carefully thought out her presentation. “I wanted people to feel as if they are getting a present when they get one of my pies. I knew I wanted a classic brown box tied with a white bow.” And because her mother has always served pie slices on delicate white doilies, Gail incorporated that frilly look into her box label for a festive touch. She includes a thank-you note to her patrons and a reference to her favorite Bible verse.

Taste panel

To determine which pie flavors to offer, Gail set up a taste panel: Alex; his father, Gary Marske; and their good friends, Ashley and Jeff Fuhrmeister. The panel determined the lineup: apple, peach, raspberry, blueberry, peach-raspberry, strawberry-rhubarb, “bluebarb” (blueberry-rhubarb), pumpkin, and pecan. “At heart, I’m a fruit pie girl,” Gail confesses. All pies are $25 each.

What’s special about pies? “It’s not your typical go-to dessert these days,” Gail admits. As for her own pies, she likes that they contain a sweet-salty flavor mix, including the sweetness of the fruit and the slight saltiness in the crust.

Gail buys flour and sugar in bulk from Costco and Granny Smith apples in bulk from Hy-Vee.

Her biggest order was for 25 pies from her realtor friend, Sara Hopkins of RE/MAX Concepts, who gifted a number of her clients.

Joys of pie

Gail has plans for spreading the wonders of pie. Her older daughter, Stella, came up with an idea to start a Sweets to the Streets program, sharing pieces of pie with the homeless as a way for the family to do God’s work. “I also think it would be fun to have a pop-up pie trailer or truck and set up at vintage and craft shows around central Iowa. Yes, of course, I would serve slices on doilies,” she says.

“We have had so much fun with this pie venture” since winning the blue ribbon, Gail says.

“It has been great seeing her have so much fun with this,” Alex says.

Alex is part of a pie ritual that Gail adopted a long time ago. Whenever she serves pie to family and friends, she always cuts the first piece for Alex to try to make sure the pie is perfect.

And what if it’s not?

“That’s never happened,” says the proud husband.

try it! For information, contact Gail Marske at

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