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American Pie: Recipe for a Quick Fix

Not apple pie
Apple pie is an enduring symbol of America. Why? Well, there are more reasons than we can go into right now--but if you're curious, we highly recommend Apple Pie: An American Story by John T. Edge.

But what happens when apples are scarce or prohibitively expensive, as during the rations of World War II?

You do another all-American thing: find a quick fix! During those war years, that fix was making a mock "apple" pie filled with a slurry of (inexpensive) Ritz crackers, sugar syrup and lemon rind. Ready to throw up in your mouth a little? Well, hold it in, because while not as good as "real" apple pie, it's strangely passable if you close your eyes and think really hard about apples while chewing.

And when we made this pie recently, we decided to go a little further on the mock concept. In celebration of what seems to be a New England-centered (or does it perhaps root from the Midwest?) preference for eating pie with a wedge of sharp cheddar, we made our mock pie using cheese-sandwich Ritz crackers. Here's a shot of it in progress (before adding the sugar syrup and top crust):

Pie filling
So how did this concoction taste?
Well. It smelled amazing while baking and once out of the oven.  The crust was tantalizing. Taste-wise, however, this regional specialty didn't really translate to the chemical counterpart. The cheese remained somewhat gravelly in texture and didn't really ooze throughout the way we'd hoped; instead, it remained in grainy, salty, cheesy deposits which acted more like landmines than sweet surprises on the palate.

I'm not apple!
Of course, perhaps the most insulting part of this story is that living in Washington state, we're currently experiencing a bounty of delicious (real) apples--and next time we'll try to remember the saying of another great american icon Marvin Gaye, "Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby". Because friends don't let friends eat fake pie.


Ritz Mock Apple Pie (from backofthebox.com)

The classic pie, featuring Ritz crackers baked in a golden crust,
is perfect for the holidays.

Pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie
36 RITZ Crackers, coarsely broken (about 1 3/4 cups crumbs) --we used the mini cheese-filled sandwich crackers
1 3/4 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Grated peel of one lemon
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Roll out half the pastry and line a 9-inch pie plate. Place
cracker crumbs in prepared crust; set aside.

2. Heat water, sugar and cream of tartar to a boil in saucepan
over high heat; simmer for 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and peel;

3. Pour syrup over cracker crumbs. Dot with margarine or butter;
sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll out remaining pastry; place over pie.
Trim, seal and flute edges. Slit top crust to allow steam to escape.

4. Bake at 425 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is crisp
and golden. Cool completely.

Makes 10 servings

Preparation Time: 45 mins.
Cook Time: 30 mins.
Cooling Time: 3 hrs.
Total Time: 4 hrs. 15 mins.






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Reader Comments (32)

Strange. Almost...scary. And yet, it looks like apple pie, which is the greatest taste in the land. I'm just looking at your pie and pretending that it's real...

September 30 | Unregistered Commenterfeathermar

Cakespy! You sat out this month's Daring Bakers challenge, then went and made pie from sandwich crackers!? Too funny. Actually, they were rather disgusting, probably not much more delicious than the Ritz pie disaster...but you could've used those mean, dry old lavash as sugar shovels, or built them into see-saws in a candy and cake playground diorama...

: )

September 30 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Cracker Pie?

Isn't that kind of like a bread sandwich?

September 30 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Louise: With good reason--it's not exceedingly delicious, but it's sort of fun. Bring on October though--I LOVE apples!

Noisy Penguin: He's a snarky little crust, isn't he?

Ricki: I know! It was a bummer though because the crust was SO good, I wish I could have scooped out the ritz stuff and put in something else!

Alexa: I know!!! I went to Metropolitan Market after and got a nice big Honeycrisp!

Wandering Coyote: Yup, better to read about this one than try it alas. We had made it years ago in High School but I guess enough time had passed for us to think it was a good idea again??

Chou: There's a great recipe for apple pie with cheese in the crust in the John T Edge book mentioned. What type of cheese do you use?

Faine: Thank you so much! That is really sweet! If you love ritz crackers this one might be for you--but then again it's strange how they don't really taste like Ritz crackers once you make it, so beware!

Caked crusader: Maybe you'd like the version Chou mentioned, with it baked in the crust, it's a bit more subtle that way!

Joanne: Tempting, but you might be better off with apples!

Happy cook: ha! Well put!

Katie: bet yours tasted better! Switch?

Nuria: it did smell really good while baking. Interesting how times of need breed such ingenuity, huh?

Lisa: You said it--we NEED real apples after this!

RecipeGirl: You might have. I know a lot of schools do it as a chemistry experiment.

Grace: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the snarky little piecrust apple. He was delicious, btw.

Anonymous: Ooh, haven't seen a version with both. But it makes sense, maybe it started by using the ritz crackers to spread out the few apples they had, and it became all ritz crackers when apples were scarce.

EB: Touche--good point. ;-) Wondered why they called it "cheez"...

StickyGooey: Photoshop, baby! I love photoshop!

Kickpleat: Yeah, it tastes enough like it to give you a moment of pause...but I don't think you'd fool people with it. Who knows though, maybe some people would be!

Deborah: It's strange how it does...it's a good one to try once i think!

Lyndsay: Wow, now that one DOES sound good actually--I like the sweet and salty combo!

Reeni: Awesome! Wish I could have seen their faces!

Feathermar: As an apple pie lover I don't know if you'd love this one! It really does look weirdly like it though, doesn't it?

Amanda: Ha! Busted! Alas I love a good cracker but have never been a crack at Lavash. ;-) Had to drop out of Daring bakers because I don't know if the schedule will allow it for the next several months but maybe I'll return one day!

Anonymous: In college we had an assignment to make a "contradiction" (these were the types of assignments we got at Art School...sigh) and I made a "Bread Sandwich" with bread in a roll and called it an Atkins Nightmare. So you just brought back that memory!

September 30 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

I've never heard of Ritz pie, but hey I've added cheese to my apple pie before now & I bet this one would be just as scrummy too :)

Rosie x

October 2 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

Over here in Australia, this used to happen in a slightly less... fake... Manner.

Apple pie would be extended with Choko, cooked down until the right consistancy. Usually mixed with apples (Or juice)... Up to six chokos for one apple.

Lots of families felt betrayed once they learned that mum/nanna had been feeding them chokos as apple pie:P

October 14 | Unregistered Commenterquadlex

Rosie: I think the apple pie is probably tastier! :-)

Quadlex: that is really interesting. I'd never heard of choko before-- but found this cool link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chayote

Here's the most fun part: In Australia, where it is called choko, a persistent rumour has existed that that McDonalds Apple Pies were made of chokos, not apples. This eventually led them to emphasise the fact that real apples are used in their pies. This legend was based on an earlier belief that tinned pears were often disguised chokos.

Cool! Thank you for teaching me something new!

October 14 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy
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