By Patrick Alexander
Oregon Coast TODAY
For most people at Thanksgiving, baking just one pie can be enough to tip them over the edge into a full-blown kitchen crisis.
But for Kathy Draper at Captain Dan’s Pirate Pastry Shop, the prospect of being surrounded by dozens of orders for everything from pumpkin pie to marionberry to coconut cream is pure bliss.
“When I’m doing pies all day for two days, I’m just in heaven,” she said.
Kathy, who runs the bakery together with her husband, the swashbuckling Captain Dan himself, has been baking ever since she was a girl.
“My mother and I used to make Christmas cookies together,” Kathy said. “She would bake them and I would frost them and decorate them. When she got too old to bake cookies anymore, we kind of reversed roles.”
Kathy carried on baking through her teens, winning ribbons at the county fair every year. But, when the time came to pick a career, banking won out over baking, with Kathy going on to work at several financial institutions including the Federal Reserve Bank and meeting husband Dan along the way.
But her culinary talents continued to show through and hardly a potluck passed by without one of her colleagues urging her to open a bakery.
So, nine years ago, the couple walked the plank, took the plunge and Captain Dan’s was born.
Ever since opening, the pair have baked throughout the day in small batches to keep cases filled with fresh goods, partly, Kathy said, because they couldn’t figure out any other way to do it. The baking strategy also means that customers have the chance of stepping through the door at the very moment that a fresh batch of treats is emerging.
“A lot of times, people will wait because they know they love it fresh out of the oven,” Kathy said.
Anyone who delights in the aromas of baking might well want to stop by the bakery on Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 22 and 23, the two days before Thanksgiving, during which Kathy will go into pie overdrive to fill all the holiday orders.
A fair number of those orders will be for traditional pumpkin pies but Kathy also offers a deluxe version, with heavy whipping cream, rum and brandy. Pecan, another holiday favorite, also comes in a deluxe version.
Marionberry and peach-huckleberry are among the most popular fruit pies, alongside the traditional apple. But for the more adventurous, the Grandma’s Pirate Apple Pie offers something a little different — handmade caramel sauce poured over a lattice pastry lid.
Kathy’s Mile-high Lemon Meringue Pie is a slightly unusual addition to the Thanksgiving stable but harks back to holidays spent at her aunt’s home in southern California, surrounded by citrus groves. So, each year Kathy and Dan squeeze a bunch of lemons for a trip down memory lane.
Also among the offerings is a strawberry-rhubarb pie that uses custard to absorb any extra rhubarb juices, preventing the dessert from becoming too runny.
“When people have had the strawberry-rhubarb-custard, they don’t go back to the regular,” Kathy said.
Almost all the pies on offer have their origins in Kathy’s mom’s cookbook but, for the mincemeat pie, Kathy had to go further afield.
“The recipe in my mom’s cookbook just said ‘open a jar of mincemeat filling,’” she said. “Nah. That’s not going to do it.”
Instead, Kathy uses a recipe she got from a former colleague at the Federal Reserve Bank, which goes back at least six generations and calls for real meat in the filling — elk neck to be precise.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, elk neck is tough to find from a certified food supplier so Kathy substitutes buffalo — another lean meat that combines with the suet; apples and citron; rum and brandy; and plenty of spices to form the filling.
“It cooks all day and smells fabulous,” she said.
Holding every pie together quite literally, is Kathy’s famous pie crust, whose flaky texture she puts down to her Hobart mixer and a gentle touch with the rolling pin.
“I can’t make biscuits for beans,” she said, “but I can make really flaky pie crust.”
Most regular pies cost from $14 to $15, with deluxe versions coming in at $20 to $25, depending on how deluxe you want it — or as Kathy puts it “the booze factor.”
Kathy will accept orders for Thanksgiving pies up until Wednesday, Nov. 23, but a few days notice makes life easier. Mini gluten-free pies are also available with advance order. Pies can be picked up until closing time on Wednesday, Nov. 23, and there will be a few extras in the cold case for people who need a last-minute dessert.
That cold case came in handy last year when a woman leaving the bakery with four pies stacked high got caught by a gust of wind, sending her deluxe pumpkin crashing to the ground. Kathy was able to replace the dessert with a stand by but now anyone leaving with multiple desserts can count on another deluxe piece of service, an escort from a certain charming buccaneer — complete with cutlass. Remember, “trust a pirate to do pie right!”
Captain Dan’s Pirate Pastry Shop is located at 5070 SE Hwy. 101 in Lincoln City and is open from 8:30 am to 3 pm every day except Monday when hours are 8:30am to noon. Closed on Tuesday. Find them on Facebook, or call 541-996-4600.