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FOOD 101: Apple Pie History & Types Of Apple Pie

Apple Pie With Appliques
[1] The classic: as American as apple pie (photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd).

Dutch Apple Pie
[2] Dutch apple pie has a streusel topping. Here’s the recipe from Kraft.

Lattice Apple Pie
[3] Salted caramel apple pie with lattice crust. Here’s the recipe from Williams-Sonoma.


[4] Tarte Tatin is an upside-down apple pie. Here’s the recipe from Martha Stewart.

Rosette Apple Pie
[5] Rosette apple pie. Here’s the recipe from Honestly Yum.

 

December 3rd is National Apple Pie Day. It’s time to get your fork and dig in!
 
 
THE HISTORY OF APPLE PIE

While apples were baked in pastry long before they were mentioned in print, the first written apple pie recipe dates to 1381 England. The recipe, printed by Geoffrey Chaucer, included apples, figs, raisins and pears—but no sugar—baked in a pastry shell.

Western Europeans only discovered sugar as a result of the Crusades, in the 11th Century C.E. The first mention of sugar in England was in 1099.

By 1319 C.E. it was published that sugar was available in London at two shillings per pound, today’s equivalent of $100 per kilo [source].

Why didn’t Chaucer add honey? It’s too late to ask now. Maybe the fruit was so sweet then, before modern hybridization for commercial benefits, that the natural sweetness levels were fine.

He could have used honey: Honey bees, though not native to Britannia, were introduced by the Romans around 500 C.E. (the history of honey).
 
 
APPLE PIE CROSSES THE POND

Apple pie is one of America’s cultural food icons, but it isn’t native. It was brought to the U.S. by Dutch and English settlers.

Apples themselves are native to Central Asia; the only apples native to North America are crab apples.

Apple varieties for both cider and pies made their way to Europe, where large numbers of orchards were planted.

As ships were provisioned for their voyages to the New World in the 17th century, young trees or cuttings were brought to America. The first apple orchard in North America was planted in Boston by Reverend William Blaxton, in 1625.

Today, the apples in apple pie are typically mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Other ingredients may be added, such as:

  • Alcohol: brandy, liqueur, rum, vodka (check it out)
  • Dairy: cream cheese, grated cheddar or gruyère cheese, heavy cream, sour cream (our favorite apple pie recipe is Sour Cream Walnut Apple Pie)
  • Dried Fruit: coconut, cranberries, dates, figs, raisins/sultanas
  • Fresh Fruit: a second or third fruit (blueberries, cherries, cranberries, grapes, strawberry-rhubarb)
  • Nuts: pecans and walnuts are most popular
  • More: bacon, base of custard/frangipane, caramel, green chiles, honey, lemon or orange peel/zest, maple syrup, nutmeg, vanilla, white chocolate
  •  
    The conventional crust is shortcrust pastry (also called short pastry), a soft, tender pastry made from flour, fat, salt and water, kneaded into a dough and rolled out. Lard is a popular fat for delivering flaky crusts.

    Shortcrust is typically made without sugar, although sugar and eggs can be added.

    So can cheddar cheese.

    Here’s how to make a cheddar cheese crust, honoring a New England tradition of pairing a slice of apple pie with a wedge of cheddar.
     
     
    TYPES OF APPLE PIE

    There are numerous types of apple pies—not to mention tarts and pastries—from which to choose. The journey can take you galettes to phyllo crusts to fried pocket pies, mini pies-on-a-stick and beyond.

    We’ve even had cheesecake apple pie and apple pie with a cinnamon-tortilla chip crust.

    Here are a few of types you may encounter in the U.S.:

  • Apple Crumb Pie: A variation of Dutch Apple Pie, the topping is made of a streusel of brown sugar, oats and butter.
  • Classic Apple Pie: seasoned with cinnamon and ideally a bit of nutmeg and lemon juice, this two-crust pie is made with shortcrust pastry.
  • Dutch Apple Pie: Dutch apple pie has a streusel topping of butter, flour and sugar instead of a pastry crust. This makes it sweeter than a pastry crust, with a slight crunchiness. Some Dutch apple pies include raisins.
  • French Apple Pie: Instead of a top crust, buttered, sugared bread crumbs—a variation of streusel—are used.
  • Mock Apple Pie: The crust is made from crackers, and probably invented for use aboard ships (the recipe was used in the British Royal Navy as early as 1812). It became popular in the antebellum South. In the 1930s and for many years afterwards, Ritz Crackers printed a recipe in its ads and on its boxes. We suggest cheddar crackers.
  • Tarte Tatin, French version of apple pie, was created by accident by hotel owner Stéphanie Tatin when she was trying to make a traditional apple pie in the 1880s. Here’s more of the story.
  •  
     
    APPLE PIE TRIVIA

    We’ve all heard the phrase, “as American as apple pie.” While apple pie is America’s most popular (followed by pumpkin and pecan), the pie came to us via English and Dutch immigrants.

    Did you ever wonder about the phrase “apple pie order,” meaning perfectly organized? What does apple pie have to do with organization?

    Perhaps it’s due to the neat layering of sliced apples in an apple pie?

     
    Actually, it’s likely an English mis-translation from the French nappe pliée ordre, meaning neatly folded linen napkins.

    It’s an oldie: The phrase was first recorded in 1780 in Pasley’s Private Sea Journals: “Their Persons Clean and in apple-pie order on Sundays.”
     
     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PIES
    IN OUR PIE GLOSSARY

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PIES & TARTS

      




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