Indulge yourself in a culinary cliche this weekend.
Saturday is the Fourth of July, and that means a feast for friends and family. It’s a time for barbecue, for cool drinks and for pie. (Sorry, watermelon. You don’t count as a decadent dessert.)
Whether it’s the ever-popular apple pie or a more adventurous mix of filling, who doesn’t want to take a fork to some flaky crust while scanning the sky for fireworks?
Chef Benjamin Davidson, who shares the kitchen with Katie Puryear at West Oak Coffee Bar, said the downtown bistro-style cafe and bar had just decided which pies would tempt diners from the July menu.
“We change up our menu every month, and that goes for desserts, too,” Davidson said.
As of Wednesday, West Oak patrons had the hard work of choosing between peach blackberry pie, chocolate cream pie, and a peanut butter mousse pie in a brownie crust.
Davidson said he and Puryear were trifling (get it?) with apple-based recipes expressly for this weekend, too.
“We’re tossing around ideas for a pie flight,” he said. “That way, you could get the three pies on the menu and the fourth would be the special pie we’re thinking about.”
Like drink flights, the pie flights would feature small servings of the desserts — though the crew at the counter will gladly serve typical slices from each pie if your pants have some give.
But what if a body is feeling adventurous? Local farmers markets are selling berries and peaches and other sweet things.
Alyssa Stevenson, a former food blogger who still likes to whip up treats in the kitchen in between teaching in Dallas, said it’s much easier to bake a mouth-watering pie than you might think.
“One of the biggest things is the crust,” Stevenson said. “If it’s homemade, I prefer an an all-butter crust. You can get a really flaky butter crust without too much work.”
Stevenson is also a big believer in taking a risk while following a recipe.
“When you’re thinking about filling, you should really have your filling coordinate with your crust,” she said. “If you’re doing strawberry rhubarb filling, then you might think about adding a rosemary or gingersnap crust. Or a lemon zest crust. One of my favorites is doing a lemon icebox pie, but I think if you don’t do it with a shortbread thyme crust or a gingersnap crust, you’re kind of missing an opportunity to take your pie to the next level.”
Stevenson said it’s an easy task to kick up a crust. She recommends starting with a tried-and-true pie recipe from well-known culinary celebs such as Ina Garten, a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa, or Martha Stewart.
Then? Sit down with Chef Google.
“I think it’s simple as saying ‘simple apple pie’ in a Google search and then perusing the first few pages,” Stevenon said. “There are so many blogs that all have these new takes on pies that come up early in your searches. If it has reviews and sounds good to you — it’s probably really close.”
Google can help you ease into more exotic pie crusts, but Stevenson said you can follow your nose and taste buds, too.
“I would always start with something easy and straightforward,” she said “While you’re making your butter crust, throw in a little extra lemon zest and see how you like it. If you’re doing a traditional Fourth of July apple pie, you should definitely try a white cheddar crust. And if you use a food processor for your crust like I do, it’s super easy — add some cheese. One extra little step. It takes some thoughtfulness and the planning, but it’s not hard.”
Both Davidson and Stevenson said that, when it comes to pie, serving temperature matters. Creamier pies tend to be chilled. Fruit-filled pies are typically served warm.
“The chocolate cream pie and the peanut butter mousse pie, those will be served cold,” Davidson said. “The peach blackberry, we really want to showcase the freshness of the fruit, so that’ll be served warm.”
Just about every pie at West Oak Coffee Bar is served with a luxurious scoop of whipped cream made on site, too.
“You don’t want to serve a pie too cold or too warm,” Stevenson said. “You want it to be closer to room temp because that stands out on your taste buds.”
Stevenson stonewalled when faced with the crucial question: Team Pie or Team Cake?
“That’s just not fair,” she said “I’m just Team Butter. Butter crust, butter frosting, butter cake, butter cookies.
“That’s like asking Brad Pitt or George Clooney? I'll take both, with a scoop of ice cream on the side.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.
Cast Iron Skillet Upside Down Apple Pie
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 21-ounce can apple pie filling
2 cups apples (any type), sliced
1 refrigerated pie crust
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons fruit juice concentrate (apple, cranberry, grape or other)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, apple pie filling and sliced apples in a large bowl.
Heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet or oven-proof pan over medium-high heat, and add the pie filling mixture.
Unroll pie crust. Once mixture begins to bubble, place the pie crust over skillet.
With a wooden spoon, push down the edges of the crust into pie. Cut a slit in the crust to allow steam to escape, and brush with apple juice concentrate and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for one hour before slicing.
— By Ernie Goucher, from Robson Ranch Quick & Easy Recipes, Kiwanis Club of Robson Ranch
Prime slices in Denton
Don’t feel up to making your own? No worries. Denton has a pie for every taste.
Peach blackberry pie by the slice at West Oak Coffee Bar, 114 W. Oak St.
Chocolate cream pie by the slice at Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant, 821 N. Locust St.
Key lime pie sold whole at Ravelin Baking Co., 416 S. Elm St.
Double crust apple pie sold whole by Crickles & Co., 2430 Interstate 35E, Suite. 136
Coconut cream pie sold whole by Davis Purity Bakery, 520 S. Locust St.