Eliza Bowman is just like you and me. She loves excellent beer. Wine and spirits as well. She also loves delicious baked goods, especially the ones that come from her own oven.
But different from you and me (or maybe just me) who tend to overindulge on the things we love, Eliza took two of her delicious vices to another level and married them into one, putting a whole new twist on baked excellence and starting what’s become a creative, wildly popular enterprise.
One year ago today, Eliza cut the ribbon on Eliza’s Oven, a brand new business in Pittsburgh that combines local-born beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, rum, and more into a wide variety of baked goods. What started as a whimsical experiment to see how baked goods and booze would “get along” has morphed into one of Pittsburgh’s most unique and up-and-coming success stories. As Eliza puts it, a few dates between baking and booze resulted in a wonderful marriage that’s blossomed into a large family that’s getting bigger every day, all featuring a beautiful blend of flavors and spices, sugar and hop.
“It’s really fun,” Eliza said. “There are unlimited possibilities with what can be created! In a way, we are a lot like a bar. We keep making up new products just like a bartender would.”
Eliza’s love affair with baking started at a young age in Seattle as she helped her mom and grandmother create delicious sticky buns whose aroma wafted through the house in a dizzying array of fresh baked bread, cinnamon, and sugar. As she states on her website, “Sticky buns represent everything that makes me a baker today. Tradition, family, the joy of making something delicious and sharing it with people you love. Fresh, wonderful ingredients. Amazing scents, fabulous flavors, and that particular satisfaction that arises from creating food that will linger in your memory forever.”
Eliza spent time working for a small catering company on the road to launching her own business, but felt her creativity was stunted due to a limited menu.
“We had a list of 20 desserts and that was it,” Eliza explained. “It stopped being fun. I wanted more of a challenge and the opportunity to be creative. That’s why a lot of my menu items today are never the same. If someone falls in love with one of my items and I no longer have it, I point them towards something else I know they’ll enjoy.”
Eliza’s journey continued in the Big Apple where she worked as a Production Stage Manager for Ensemble Studio Theatre. Her culinary skills were not put on the back burner during this stint as she baked cupcakes, cookies, small cakes, and other delectable treats for patrons to purchase on show nights. Due to the overwhelming popularity of her goods, she realized her true passion laid within the baking pan and not on the stage.
In 2011, Eliza found her way to the Steel City and immediately fell in love. It was here in this burgeoning confluence of unbridled creativity that Eliza’s game rose to a new level of uniqueness as she began combining flavors in off-the-wall ways and incorporating her favorite beverages. These creations were met with great acclaim from friends and co-workers.
Without question, baking wasn’t just a hobby for Eliza. This revelation led to enrollment in a local community college where she studied Patisserie and Small Business Management and, ultimately, the founding of Eliza’s Oven in October 2013. Eliza’s Oven is a Community Supported Bakery, meaning a local business is featured each week in the creation of different baked goods, thus giving you the ability to provide feedback on each item and support two local businesses at once.
Eliza’s Oven is located inside the Pittsburgh Public Market in the historic Strip District. The Public Market brings back a method of shopping that dates back to the old days, allowing small local businesses to establish small storefronts in a centralized location for shoppers looking for a variety of items. The development of the Pittsburgh Public Market began in 2003 and has blossomed into a tremendous one-stop-shop for shoppers in the Strip District. You can learn more about the Pittsburgh Public Market by clicking here.
Eliza takes great pride in the fact that EVERYTHING she makes is from scratch. Nothing is store-bought. Her pie doughs are made by hand with no food processors, a homemade quality you simply won’t find in a lot of big chain places these days.
“Making my products by hand and knowing the exact texture of my recipes is extremely important and I would never want to lose that as I continue to grow,” Eliza said. “It’s all about the experimentation and what can be created next.”
That experimentation has been at the forefront of everything that’s driven Eliza’s Oven for the past 12 months and been the catalyst behind so many creations featuring local craft beverages. From whiskey to rum to craft beer and beyond, Eliza has found the perfect way to infuse the latest and greatest Pittsburgh-born products into her baked goods, resulting in a plentiful bounty of insatiable treats.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with many local breweries including East End Brewing, Milkman Brewing, Roundabout Brewery, and Hop Farm Brewing,” Eliza said. “I’ve also had the opportunity to work with Maggie’s Farm Rum and Wigle Whiskey. It’s great to be able to have so many Pittsburgh-based craft beverages at my disposal. It really enhances the flavor and uniqueness of each new item we put out!”
So…the goods. I’ve been told by some I’m a gifted writer, but even I don’t have the skill set necessary to put into words the deliciousness of Eliza’s final creations. This is something you’re going to have to experience for yourself. From Barleywine Pretzels made with East End’s Gratitude Barleywine to Whiskey Peachy Scones featuring Wigle’s White Wheat whiskey (both pictured below) and everything in between, your taste buds are about to embark on an expedition from which they may never return.
I urge you to check out Eliza’s website for a full menu breakdown and discover the world of goodness available to you!
NOTE: For those concerned about the alcohol content in these goods, rest easy. The alcohol is cooked out of the finished product, meaning these delicious treats won’t make you late for work the next day and are safe for youngsters to consume, too.
You’ve undoubtedly experienced one of Eliza’s creations at a wedding or, at her personal favorite place to showcase her wares, local beer festivals. Now, with a year of experience, experimentation, and excellence under her belt, Eliza is looking to continue her journey by expanding beyond her station in the Pittsburgh Public Market. Future plans involve moving into wholesaling, meaning you’ll be able to find Eliza’s products outside of the Strip District in the very near future.
“I’m very excited to get the wholesaling aspect started,” Eliza stated. “One of the big reasons this has become an option is because of the quality that goes into the production of our baked goods. A lot of people like that. This is going to give so many people in Pittsburgh who don’t normally make it down to the Strip the opportunity to taste our goods.”
Things are already in the works for Eliza’s wholesaling expansion. In the very near future, you will be able to purchase her pot pies, pocket pies, and nine in pies at the East End Food Co-Op and Bryant Street Market.
The first year for Eliza’s Oven has been one of tremendous growth and, just like all start-up businesses, evolution. Eliza’s offerings have quadrupled in the past 365 days, and her storefront in the Pittsburgh Public Market has doubled in size. It goes to show that creativity and listening to your calling can lead to fantastic, delicious things.
Eliza looks for more of the same in the upcoming years.
“I am happy to have found a home in a burgeoning culinary environment filled with local pride and a true sense of community, and am thrilled to add to that community by baking up smiles and good memories for all of you, just as my grandmother did for me.” — Eliza Bowman
Eliza’s Oven is located at 2401 Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District and is part of the Pittsburgh Public Market. You can reach Eliza’s Oven at 412-886-4533 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org