Dining With Denise Neil

Kansas is so famous for pies, there’s now a movie about it (with lots of local stars)

How to make a fried pie

Bradley Monahan shows us how to make a Fried Pie at his new Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies drive-through near 13th and Tyler. The drive-through-only business opened to the public in August 2018.
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Bradley Monahan shows us how to make a Fried Pie at his new Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies drive-through near 13th and Tyler. The drive-through-only business opened to the public in August 2018.

Kansas is one of those homespun, grandma-filled kind of states that’s known for its great pie. Look no further than Carriage Crossing, the popular restaurant in nearby Yoder that is known far and wide for its huge selection of homemade pie, from cherry to banana cream to coconut meringue.

Kansas is such a haven for pie lovers, in fact, that a new documentary that tracks the states best slices is about to be debuted.

On Monday, viewers of KPTS-Channel 8 will be able to watch the premiere of the station’s new documentary called “The Pie Way...Kansas Style.” (Spoiler alert: I have a cameo in the film, in which I share how learning to make homemade pie crust changed my life.)

The documentary will air for the first time at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 3, and will repeat at noon on Wednesday, Dec. 5. In addition to my apple pie, it will feature pies made by the baking magicians at Kansas restaurants like Carriage Crossing in Yoder, Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies in Park City, Spears Restaurant & Pie Shop in Wichita and The Breadbasket in Newton.

There’s also an accompanying cookbook, which includes recipes for many of these famous Kansas pies. For now, it’s available for people who pledge $96 during the KPTS pledge drive. That pledge will also get them a DVD of the documentary. The station is considering selling the books and DVDs individually in the future.

KPTS has given me permission to share with you the apple pie recipe I contributed, but the real gem here is the recipe for my pie crust. I have told anyone who will listen about how learning to make my own pie crust changed my life, and I will eternally be grateful to the Wichitan who taught me — Chef Gregory Cole, who teaches pastry classes at Butler Community College’s culinary arts program.

It was four years ago that I was writing a story about sweet potato pie. Cole agreed to show me how to make one, and in the process, he demonstrated how to make a homemade pie crust using just butter, flour, sugar, salt and ice water. For years before, I’d been a disastrous pie baker. I always used boxed Pillsbury pie crusts, which unfailingly burned or just flopped over in the oven.

DeniseNeilApplePie.jpg
My apple pie co-stars in a new movie about the glory of pies in Kansas. Courtesy photo

The same day chef Cole showed me how to make his pie crust — which I had previously considered a task too hard to take on — I went right home and made one. I’ve been a pie-making machine ever since, and it’s all gloriously culminated in a co-starring roll in a pie movie.

The cookbook and documentary were made by Beth Bower, a local food journalist who for years put together The Wichita Eagle’s Holiday Cookbook. We ended that a couple of years ago, so this might make a happy holiday fill-in.

Denise Neil’s Apple Pie

2 Gregory Cole Pie Crusts

Six cups sliced Granny Smith apples

1/2 cup sugar plus more for dusting pie

1 tablespoon flour 1 teaspoon cinnamon plus more for dusting

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare two Gregory Cole Pie Crusts. Slice apples thin then toss them in a bowl with 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of flour. Roll out one on the bottom of a pie pan and poke holes in the bottom of the crust. Next, add apples. Roll out second crust and place on top, trimming excess and fluting edges. Cut several slits in the top of the pie. With a pastry brush, brush entire top of pie with beaten egg. Then sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over top crust. Cover edge of crust with foil or a crust protector and bake for 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 to 30 additional minutes.

Gregory Cole’s pie crust

Makes one pie crust

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons of butter, chilled

3 tablespoons ice-cold water

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut stick of butter into small cubes and work it into the dry mixture with fingers until it looks like cornmeal with a few pea-size chunks remaining. Drizzle ice water into the dough and work it in, just until the dough starts to hold together. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll it out and place it in the pie plate, pressing it into the bottom, fluting or crimping the edges with a fork, and poking fork holes into the bottom and side of the dough.

Lexington cookbook author Barbara Harper Bach shares her tips and secrets for making good apple pies.

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