Clintonville’s section of High Street is teeming with brick buildings; some squat to the ground, others soar a couple stories high. Approaching the North Broadway intersection, however, a smile of yellow rises alongside the busy artery. With big windows and a simple font announcing Dough Mama in all caps, walking into the new bakery feels like stepping into a sweet embrace—a brick-and-mortar Snuggie.
Standing outside on the second day of business, I marvel at the color of the building: a soft yellow, the color of yolks that have been whipped with a frenzy. The color is actually called “butter,” explained Lee Wilkoff, father of Perrie, the proprietress. How appropriate for this new bakery, serving both sweet and savory eats with a special emphasis on pie.
Perrie Wilkoff has been selling pie and other treats around Columbus for a little over a year—from setting up at the Flea events, to massaging the dessert menus of such local tastemaker menus as Skillet, Yellow Brick, Mission Coffee, and The Rossi. Dough Mama’s goods are beloved by the community and many, many dough hounds have been stroking their sweet teeth, just waiting for the bakery to open. “Yesterday was intense, we ran out of everything,” she said, taking a window seat as the bakery closed up for the night. “I feel drunk… so out of it… I’ve never been this exhausted and excited for the future … this is just the beginning.”
Wilkoff is all about pie. It all started in college with a key lime that she made to top off a special meal she made for her parents. A friend, noticing how much she enjoyed making the simple sweet-tart dessert, bought her a pie cookbook that had 350 recipes.
“I made them for my stoned roommates, friends, parents… they made their way around campus and sometimes someone I didn’t know would bring back a pie pan and say, ‘This ended up in my apartment.”
“I spent a year cooking my way through that book,” she laughed. “I made them for my stoned roommates, friends, parents… they made their way around campus and sometimes someone I didn’t know would bring back a pie pan and say, ‘This ended up in my apartment.’”
College was Hampshire in Massachusetts and the yet-to-be-crowned pie queen was studying vintage clothing and textiles. At the same time she was burning through the pie book, Wilkoff was awash in images of women from the 1920s–’40s, many holding pies and baking in spotless kitchens. There was something about the combination of baking at home and being immersed in that specific aesthetic that inspired Wilkoff to go all in with the pies. Having once floated the dream of going to culinary school, but deciding against it, Wilkoff reignited this ambition and attended the French Culinary Institute in New York City. “I hated it,” she said. “I just wanted to make pies—and everyone thought I was crazy.”
An admitted cake-ist, Wilkoff is just not into the pie’s frenemy. “They are just not my thing … it’s throwing everything into a pile, stirring, and throwing it into a pan. I like the making and rolling of dough … every part of a pie’s life is pretty, from the dough to cutting into it,” she said. “I am inspired by other people’s food, turning something that’s not a pie into a pie … one of my favorite things is a lox bagel, so I turned it into a quiche with goat cheese, smoked salmon, and capers.”
Wilkoff, surprisingly, does not come from a lineage of bakers; however, she was always encouraged to try any and all kinds of food. “When I was four, I had pasta with fresh baby clams and I remember looking at it—this crazy-looking dish—but it was so good,” she recalled. “That’s when I got hooked on food; I remember my great aunt and uncle scolded my parents for ordering that for me, saying ‘that’s not children’s food!’”
After graduating the Culinary Institute, Wilkoff stayed in New York, where her father is a stage actor and her mother a director, and worked her first professional gig at the storied Pies & Thighs sweet and savory eatery. “I loved working there. It was such an inspiration. Everything was so good and made with integrity.” When Wilkoff decided to move to Columbus, she brought these ideals with her and found a supportive community.
“I love it here,” she smiled. “My New York friends were like, ‘oh-hiiii-yo?’ and I thought, why not? There is a level of intimacy here that you don’t have in New York—I love seeing a person I used to work with at the store and saying, what’s up?”
With high shelves strewn with plants and little pops of art here and there created by friends, Dough Mama is a comfortable place to sit with friends and watch the world go by. Near the counter is an area where local artists have set up darling displays. “I have so much respect for the Flea, Nikki [Portman] and Erica [Anderson] who gave all these people a chance to do what they love, that I want to give people exposure too.”
As Dough Mama employees bustle around, picking up coffee cups and wiping down the light wood tables, Wilkoff looks out the window, crossing her arms in front of her, tattoos on display. One represents her grandmother. “She was important to me,” she explained, smiling the semi-secret smile of good memories. “On her deathbed–we had hospice at the house–she couldn’t really eat so I fed her my rosewater cream pie.”
A gorgeous black-and-white tattoo on her forearm is beguiling in its winged imagery. “I just got this,” she said. “It’s by Kat Moya—my mom and dad got tattoos, too. My mom was here for five months helping me out.”
“It represents my baking philosophy,” she said. “A shamen told me about being a hollow bone—a ciphon between earth and spirit—and when I was first opening the brick-and-mortar, I was scared… but if you are doing the thing you are supposed to be doing, you can never go wrong.
“She said, be a hollow bone, infusing my energies into my food. If I am feeling stressed out, the food is suffering.” Wilkoff explained a study done with children who were given glasses of water. When asked to think about the nastiest thing they could conjure up, they drank the water and spit it out, but when they were asked to think happy thoughts, the water was sweet.
“When I bake, I always want to embody that-the hollow bone – and bake with love and happiness.”