When customers meet Rodney Henry, they're often incredulous that he's the man behind the pies that look and taste like they were baked by someone's grandmother. He looks more like a rocker than a baker. In fact, he's both.
Henry, 39, has made pies since he was a boy, a hobby he turned into a sideline business to fund his rockabilly band. The pies proved more popular than the band, and in 2003, he opened Dangerously Delicious Pies in Baltimore.
Like Henry, the setup's a little rough around the edges. The shop's sign sports a pie and crossbones. His pies have no artfully crimped edges or pastry embellishments. Also absent -- thankfully -- is the gelatinous syrup that plagues so many store-bought fruit pies. Henry's pies are entirely handmade and use only all-natural ingredients. The only frozen fruit he uses are blueberries, which he freezes himself in June.
Be prepared to pucker when you delve into the key lime pie. Or, for something more sublime, try the lemon chess pie. Cornmeal mixed into the filling rises up to create a delicate crust over the silky lemon interior. (The 10-inch pies are $20; cherry pie is $24.)
Henry stands firm on the issue of crust. After years of experimentation, he swears by lard, salt, baking powder, milk and a little sugar. It makes a crust that is crunchy on the outside, chewy and slightly sweet inside, and versatile enough to be used with almost every pie he makes. "I want my crust to look like someone's hands have been up in there," he says of his pies' homey appearance.
Dangerously Delicious pies are now sold at Dean & Deluca's Washington store and grace the menus of restaurants along the Baltimore-Washington corridor. Yet Henry has not forgotten his roots. "If everything goes well, music and pie will be intertwined," he says. Friday nights his shop stays open late to host bands so customers can rock out over coffee and pie, and Henry still plays occasionally. The shop also sells pie by the slice for customers who want to hang out at its cafe tables: $3.50 for sweet pies and $5 for a savory slice.
When he started, Henry had only seven pies on the Dangerously Delicious roster. Now there are 35 offerings, as well as an increasingly popular line of savory pies. One of the favorites is steak chili ($30). It's "bigger and nastier than any other pie out there," he says.
-- Christianna McCausland (May 2005)