July 8th, 2008

real apple pie vs mock apple pie

2 apple pies 1

this past friday was the fourth of july, which gave me a chance to unleash a recipe for one of my all time favorite things in the world – PIE. seriously, even my old AIM screen name had to do with my love of pie (i’m not giving it away, sorry). instead of a birthday cake, i would ask for a birthday pie. and what’s the best kind of pie? the answer is clearly apple (i’m not even going to recognize arguments to the contrary. and for independence day, what’s more american than apple pie? how about a no holds barred competition between two apple pies?

ritz cracker crumbslemon zestapple slicesapple pie 3

i’ve been intrigued by mock apple pie since i first read about it in jeffrey steingarten’s the man who ate everything. it’s an apple pie without any apples in it that promises to taste just like the real thing. i was doubtful, but the thought of a cheap and quick pie recipe was too much to pass up. this is a real celebration of conflicting american baking tactics: one pie is a carefully and lovingly crafted piece of americana, using fresh ingredients and a homemade crust. the other is a quick and easy answer (albeit a delicious one) to a hectic schedule that can satisfy in a pinch. but which pie will reign supreme?

mock apple pie 1apple pie 4

we rose to the challenge with a blind taste test. could we tell the difference between an apple pie with real fresh apples and one without? the girl and i both tried warmed forkfuls of both pies while blindfolded. the results? both of us INCORRECTLY named the ritz cracker pie as the real deal. needless to say, i was astonished, but also excited to find an apple pie i could whip up in half the time of an “authentic” one.

mock apple pie 4

some comments on each pie: the mock apple pie was characterized as tasting a bit like the apple pie filling you can buy at the grocery store. it was also a bit too lemony. i would cut down on the amount in the recipe. the real apple pie was delicious but not as flavorful as we had hoped. i think my crust had some “integrity” issues, and as a result, a bunch of the gooey sugary syrup from the pie leaked out. i’m betting a lot of the flavor went with it, so next time i’ll be more careful. you can actually see in the pictures that the pie deflated a bit as it cooled.

apple pie 6

you’ll also notice that although i made a fresh pie crust for the real apple pie, i did not document it in any way. this is because pie crust is a pain in the butt to tackle, and trying to take pictures of it at the same time does not make the job any easier. i will say that that the finished homemade crust was very flaky, buttery and savory. i would recommend making your own, but if disaster strikes, there’s no shame in using a frozen prepared dough.

2 apple pies 2

real authentic apple pie
my mom’s recipe – you will sit and eat the entire thing in one sitting. on a side note, today is my mom’s birthday! thank you thank you thank you mom for always putting up with late-night phone calls for recipes and inspiring me to bake.

6 cups granny smith apples, cored, pared and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 dash salt
1 tsp cinnamon1 dash nutmeg
2 Tbsp butter
pie crust (i used Alton Brown’s recipe, doubled)

1. make the pastry dough and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. cut up apples and sprinkle with lemon juice in a large bowl. set aside.

2. combine sugar, flour, spices and a dash of salt. mix with apples to coat.

3. line a 9 inch pie pan with your prepared crust and fill with the apple mixture. dot with butter. lay over your top crust and seal very well. use a knife or tines of a fork to make steam slits on the top crust. sprinkle the top of the pie with sugar.

4. bake at 400 F for 45 minutes or until golden brown. put the pie pan on a baking sheet in the oven in case any filling bubbles out.

ritz mock apple pie
from the kraft website

pastry for 2-crust 9″ pie
36 ritz crackers, coarsely broken (about 1 3/4 cups)
2 cups sugar
2 tsp cream of tartar
grated peel of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. preheat oven to 425 F. roll out half of the pastry and place in 9″ pie dish (or use ready-made pie crust dish). place cracker crumbs inside.

2. mix sugar and cream of tartar in medium saucepan. gradually stir in 1 3/4 cups water until blended. bring to a boil. reduce to a low heat and simmer for 15 minutes. add lemon peel and juice and cool.

3. pour syrup over cracker crumbs. dot with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. roll out remaining pastry and place over pie. trim and seal edges and slit top crust to allow steam to escape.

4. bake 30-35 mintues or until crust is golden and crisp. cool completely before eating. put the pie pan on a baking sheet in the oven in case any filling bubbles out.

29 Comments for real apple pie vs mock apple pie - why not leave some love?

  1. I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one wanting to bake with apples recently, even if they are out of season.

  2. Y says:

    I love your pie crust! I’ve seen that mock apple pie recipe somewhere else, and the mind boggles! Plus, it’s crazy that processed food would be cheaper than actual fresh fruit.

  3. Lelo says:

    And to think you made the mock apple pie look so pretty! Next I think you should try making the mock apple pie made from zucchinis. Yes, it’s true. And your post has inspired me to make it this summer and not tell anyone what it is. Oh so sneaky.

    Lovely, lovely photos!

  4. I made the Ritz pie once when I was a teenager (my parents were out of town; no wild parties for me, just some crazy baking), and I swear it did taste real. But I’ll take the authentic one any day, thanks for sharing your mom’s recipe, and happy birthday to her!

  5. Lore says:

    Oh that little logo was such a great idea, it made me smile. There’s nothing like mothers’ recipes so I’ll take you mom’s pie over the “ritz” anytime (there’s always a good idea to have apples in an apple pie :)!

  6. grace says:

    this baffles the mind. i like to think of myself as an apple pie connoisseur, but i’m afraid to do a taste test like this–i might lose my status! your mom’s recipe looks great, and i have no doubt it would result in an overstuffed belly and the need to lie down. 🙂

  7. Nickki says:

    My american neighbour made the mock pie a couple of weeks ago, and it totally blew me away. I would never had believed that ritz crackers were one of the main ingredients. I might need to try it for myself one day 🙂

  8. Sarah says:

    I don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to try this recipe out. I can’t bring myself to do it! Well, that and nobody in my family would eat it and it would all go to waste. Perhaps this year!

  9. Orchid says:

    This was a really interesting post and you have a nice site, but what’s with the lack of capital letters? Are you not a native English speaker and unaware of proper conventions? Or do you think aping e.e. cummings is cool? Either way, I’d be more inclined to read your site if it didn’t smack of a 15 year old’s writing style or a very lazy typing style.

    • Josh says:

      Orchid, please, didn’t your mother ever tell you the adage about not saying anything if you can’t find anything nice to say? Besides, you should see the way kids text these days!

  10. I like that you also enjoy writing on pie crusts. It’s something I enjoy doing, mainly for posterity – so that someday, when I stumble onto my pictures, I’ll know what kind of pies they were. 😉

    Both your pies look delectable. Thank you for the recipe.

  11. Michele says:

    Awesome. I’ve always wondered about this; thanks for finally satisfying my curiosity.

    Do you know what purpose the cream of tartar in the Ritz recipe serves?

  12. petebakes says:

    @michele – the cream of tartar probably helps stabilize the pie innards and provides volume (i’m only guessing here – i just know it’s used to help stabilize egg whites in meringue). i don’t think the pie would suffer greatly without it. if you don’t have it on hand, a bit of lemon juice or vinegar can also be used.

  13. Cakespy says:

    I’d totally take a slice of both!!

  14. Ashley says:

    That’s really odd that the Ritz cracker one tasted more like apple pie! I both don’t want to make the pie and am feeling like I must.

  15. Maggie says:

    Great experiment and both look delicious!

  16. […] Mock Apple Pie (in case you don’t actually have any apples at home) […]

  17. pumpkinpie says:

    Wow, who would have guessed the RITZ (I see you have no fear of capital letters on crust) would win a blind taste test? But as long as we are mocking conventions, don’t forget the hyphens, Orchid.

  18. Corrie says:

    I’m going to try this someday!! And your apple muffins recipe…and probably more of your recipes.

  19. […] fruit empanadas. the filling is cooked ahead of time and then wrapped inside a simple pastry dough. apple pie is my all time favorite, and the filling is so good that it’s hard to not just dump it all on a big bowl of vanilla […]

  20. Maggie A. says:

    I’m so excited to try this recipe out!! I was wondering, have you tried making pudding?? =D I’ll definitely post again after attempting this!!!

  21. Marvin W. says:

    Checking this out at your ‘best recipes’ posting, and had a few thoughts:

    1) It’s normal for pie juices to boil out, however

    2) One way to not lose as much, and to prevent deflation is to precook the apples.

    3) You might also try pre-cooking the crust for 10 minutes, weighted down with either beans or pie weights on a layer of parchment or foil (to prevent soggy bottom crust) and then really mounding on the apples.

    4) Also, corn starch (or starches from tapioca, potato or arrowroot) can help the flour in thickening the filling.

    5) Good, in-season baking apples are key. Get thee to a farmer’s market!

  22. […] 10. real apple pie vs mock apple pie […]

  23. Mangolassi says:

    Wow! This is pretty amazing…a mock apple pie. Who would have thought that Ritz can trick our taste bud into believing that it is an apple filling. I must try it…thanks Pete.

  24. Lan Vandis says:

    Thanks for a Complete Blog about how to cook Apple Pie.

  25. Thanks for a exceptional recipe about how to make Apple Pie.

  26. Donna Lethal says:

    I just found this while searching for “mock apple pie” … I am really stunned that it won. Wow. And your presentation is fabulous – I love the crust! While I like Steingarten, he is indeed “the man who ate everything” so it’s hard to tell what is good and what is bad.

  27. Timq4 says:

    Great recipe. Just like how mom did it.
    Thanks, glendale self storage.

  28. Sharon says:

    I made this pie years ago in about 1960 in home economics class. It was a good pie. We did not break up the crackers. We put them in the pie crust whole and the pie came out with the crackers looking like apples when the pie was cut.

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