Denver Bridwell is hard to miss sporting orange crocs while he works as a line cook in the Saint Leo kitchen. He’s become a familiar sight around both Oxford and Water Valley, where he and his new wife Mary moved in August. Originally from Virginia, he came to Oxford as a transfer student after finding out about the Southern Studies program at the university, hoping to be able to rub elbows with his hero, Southern Foodways Alliance director John T Edge.
Despite the loudness of his appearance, Bridwell is still humble about his skills. He says he’s a relative novice to the world of professional desserts. He fell into it as a way to take on more responsibility in the Saint Leo kitchen, taking over the production of ice cream and other frozen treats about a year ago. He’s taken that task and used it as a way to flex his creative muscles, thinking up flavors like Apple Butter and Lemon Blueberry ice cream. His sideways move into pies was also a question of meeting a need, this time for Trusty Diner, a new restaurant in Water Valley.
Part of the reason Denver has been able to rise to the challenge is a love of all sweet things handed down to him from his mother. Before he was making ice cream and pie for restaurants, he was making ice cream and pie for friends. He’s enjoyed the chance to take his home baking skills and offer them to a wider audience, and to play with new ingredients at the same time.
Bridwell offered to share two recipes with us, both perfect for this time of year. First, a classic pie with a savory twist. When the Trusty Diner asked Bridwell to make an apple pie, he searched for a way to update the traditional diner dessert. Pork, it is well documented, pairs perfectly with apples, and bacon adds the smoke and salt that can balance out an overly sweet pastry. Bridwell also stirs extra crispy bacon bits and just a tablespoon of red wine vinegar to the filling to add texture and bite. Bridwell says you can use your favorite pie crust recipe, but his is a classic: King Arthur or Lily White flour, cold cubed butter smashed into discs, and enough cold water to hold it all together.
Instead of an ice cream, Bridwell gave us this easy recipe for Satsuma Rose Sorbet. We used satsuma juice and a sparkling rosé for the base, but you really can use any citrus juice and sparkling wine — making this a perfect way to use up that leftover bubbly and citrus from the holidays. Just keep in mind the different sugar content in different citrus fruits; Satsumas are high in sugar, with a super concentrated flavor, but grapefruit might require a little more sugar to balance the acidity of the fruit and the brightness of the wine. You can use any ice cream machine, and don’t stress about leaving it on too long: sorbet won’t turn to butter the way ice cream can.
BACON WEAVE APPLE PIE
1 sheet Chilled Pie Crust
7.5-8 cups of peeled and chopped baking apples. I prefer Jonathan apples or Granny Smith.
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup apple cider
1 Tbsp good red wine vinegar (I’m really enjoying Banyul’s aged vinegar but any mellow, sweeter vinegar as well as apple cider vinegar will work)
1 cup good crispy bacon bits
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 Tbsp tapioca starch
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp of nutmeg
1/4 tsp of cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
8-10 strips of good thick cut bacon. I worship at the smokehouse of Allan Benton and his bacon, but Wright’s Brand will work just as well.
Preheat oven to 425.
Grease a 9″ pie plate – Denver actually greased his plate twice: once with a stick of butter, and then finished with a coating of non-stick spray. “I really hate when things stick,” he explained.
Roll out the dough to 12″-13″ in diameter and place in pie plate, making sure to press the dough into the corners of the dish. Trim excess leaving at least a full inch of overhang.
Mix apples, bacon bits, and wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Combine thoroughly all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl them combine with the apples.
Pour the filling into the pie crust. Use a spatula to press the filling down into an even layer, making sure there aren’t any gaps at the edges where the crust can slump.
Now the most complicated part: the lattice. Lay strips of bacon across the pie horizontally. This layer should be stretch across the whole pie, and touch each other at the edges. Fold every second horizontal slice in half towards the left edge. place another strip of bacon vertically, then return the folded pieces to lay flat. Fold up the other strips, the ones you haven’t lifted yet, and place another vertical slice next to the first. Continue this process to the right and left of the center strip until you have a solid basket weave of bacon covering your pie.
Trim the bacon all the way around the pie, so that the ends lay at the edge of the pan. Next, fold the excess crust over the bacon and use a fork to press the crust back into itself and the bacon strips around the pie’s entire perimeter. Don’t worry too much about making the crust symmetrical or seamless, it’ll end up looking delicious no matter what.
Place the pie on a baking sheet and tent the pie with aluminum foil. Bake the pie for 35 minutes, then remove tent and bake for another 25 minutes uncovered until the filling is bubbling and the bacon is crisp.
Cool to just above room temperature before eating. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a spoonful of whipped cream.
2 cups fresh squeezed satsuma juice
– any citrus juice works well. Grapefruit is excellent!
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup champagne or sparkling wine. Prosecco or Spanish cava are fair game
In a saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in one cup of satsuma juice. Once the sugar is fully dissolved pour this and the remaining ingredients into a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate.
Once completely chilled, use your ice cream makers included instructions to create a frozen sorbet.
Let the sorbet set up in the freezer 2 hours before serving. The consistency should be more solid than slushy.
Use a melon baller to make sorbet pearls to add a sweet little touch to any sparkling wine at your next gathering or intimate night in with your sweetheart.