HOUSTON (KTRK) --Pies have a lot of ingredients.
The ones created by Bella Katherine Curtis have some that aren't part of any written recipes, but they are part of what make people go to great lengths to buy one.
My Dee Dee's Pies was the name of Curtis' shop just off the North Freeway. Built to resemble a Victorian house, it included a large bakery and a tea room. Three years ago, it burned to the ground. Curtis' son was killed by a hit-and-run driver on the street on the front of the shop. Then her mother, for whom the business was named, died.
Curtis had no insurance on the property. Friends and some Houston chefs, who regard Curtis was an exceptional baker, raised money to get her back in operation.
She now bakes her pies at a commercial kitchen on Crosstimers Rd., renting space for a few hours a week, to fill orders that come in by text or Facebook messages.
"I bake like my mother and my grandmother. That's what makes my pies different. No machinery and no mass production," she said.
But they also tell a story of love for the family members she's lost.
"It takes me back to my son, my mother and grandmother, and I have incredible customers," she said.
There are a lot of customers who come for fresh-baked pies: apple, cherry, pecan, pumpkin, lemon, coconut, buttermilk, and probably more. The crust is same as what her mom and grandmother prepared.
"It's supposed to be flaky, and not hard," she explained, as she crimped the edges of a pie ready for the oven.
"I can tell a Dee Dee's pie in a blind taste test," said Tamara Hall. "They're that good."
The secret ingredients of love, courage, and determination aren't lost on Mary Chatagenier, who's been a customer for years.
"They tell me that she's worked hard, come a long way, and she's getting there," Chatagenier said.
Bella Curtis will soon be getting her own shop again. The new place will be a few miles from the shop that burned.
"At 67, I'm starting over again," she said.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are her big seasons. She has limited production capacity in the commercial kitchen, so the pies are spoken for - before they're baked.
To give you an idea of how much in demand they are, she had a new last-minute customer who really wanted a pie. He offered $50. The one leftover pie went with him.