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Jan 22, 2018
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Apple Pie Gone Bananas: Three unusual takes on the fall favorite
By Ligaya Figueras | Photos by Carmen Troesser
Posted On: 10/28/2009   

Only on saucemagazine.com

Granny Smith, Cortland or Jonathan? Crisco, butter or lard? Because every American seems to hold a different secret to a praiseworthy apple pie, we thought we’d do some behind-the-scenes sniffing of a few unconventional approaches around town. Once you see this showcase of folded, fried and deep-dish pies, we guarantee that you’ll want to make eating apple pie even more of a fall ritual than baking it.

Fried pie
Remember the fried McDonald’s apple pie from way back when? Piping hot and oozing with sweet apple filling. Kind of like the famous fried fruit pies still made by Flippens Fruit Farm in Troy, Tenn. One fan is Mississippi Mud Coffee Roaster’s Christopher Ruess, who is looking to bring the Southern legend of the fried pie to St. Louis.

Ruess has created Mississippi Mud Pie, a fried pie with a chocolate brownie filling that includes toasted pecans and his signature Mississippi Mud espresso. “My pie is more of a combination black bottom pie and fried pie,” Ruess explained. “In the South, black bottom pie is an open-top pie with a graham cracker crust and fudge-like filling; it tastes like a fudge brownie. I’m basically using black bottom pie filling as the filling for a fried pie.”

The secret to making a good fried pie, he said, is keeping the frying temperature at a consistent 350 degrees. (You gotta expect a coffee roaster to rate heat high on the list.) Ruess uses what he calls a standard pie crust recipe, but noted that chilled Crisco and chilled ice water are important to achieving the right dough consistency. He uses a coffee can (how apropos) to cut out the dough into 6-inch diameter circles.

Which fat to fry the pie to a golden brown crispiness? “You can use lard or Crisco,” Ruess said. “I prefer lard for taste, but Crisco will work. Remember when french fries tasted good? Lard.” If you can’t bear to toss the pies in a few inches of liquid fat, go ahead and bake them, but you won’t have nearly the euphoric feeling when you take your first bite, and you’ll miss out on that memorable fried pastry waft.

Deep dish
Pi, with locations in the East Loop and Kirkwood, dishes out not one but two all-American faves: pizza and apple pie. Pi’s dessert pie also features the pizzeria’s signature cornmeal deep-dish crust, filled with tart Granny Smith apples, caramel sauce, a hint of amaretto syrup, cinnamon and other spices. Add to that a buttery sugar-and-spice crumb topping, all baked to a golden brown. Each wedge comes with a mound of whipped cream, though we order it à la mode.

A seasonal special such as pumpkin, peach, cherry or blueberry pie sometimes makes the menu, but “apple seems to be everybody’s favorite. It goes well with the crust,” said executive chef David Harper.

About that crust, how about sharing some secrets? “I can’t give you that recipe,” Harper smirked.

Apple Thingy
The Apple Thingy at Soulard Bakery most closely resembles an apple turnover, but it’s certainly not typical. Owner Marilyn Sanfilippo uses puff pastry to make her mini fruit pies. “It has real sliced apples in there, not jellied apple stuff,” she said. Meaning you get straight-up apple with a dash of cinnamon, rather than the thick, sweet, sometimes cooked filling of a traditional fruit turnover. And while the edges of most turnovers are sealed, Sanfilippo doesn’t seal hers. “I stuff them too much. They would pop open anyway.”

Just how did this dainty apple pastry get its name? “A lot of names come from customers. They’ll come in and go, ‘Gimme one of those apple thingies,’” Sanfilippo said. (Her cherry version is aptly named Just Cherry. “It’s just loaded with cherries,” she said.)

So next time you’re making the rounds at the Soulard Farmers’ Market, stop by to see Sanfilippo. She reminded us that “there’s no charge for just smelling.” But at $2.85 apiece, we think you can afford to taste this thingy.

Want more apple pie? Click on My, oh my, the products for apple pie.

Mississippi Mud Pies
Mississippi Mud Coffee Roaster's Christopher Ruess
Makes 12


For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. sea salt
½ cup chilled lard or shortening
½ cup cold espresso

For the filling:
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup pecans or walnuts (if desired)


• Sift the flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Cut in the lard or shortening with a fork or pastry blender or work it in with your fingers until the flour clumps together.
• Add the cold espresso 1 tablespoon at a time, working it into the dough until it is just moist enough to hold together. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
• For the filling, sift the sugar and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms small pebbles. Stir in nuts, if using.
• To make the pies, roll out the crust until it is no more than �-inch thick. Cut into circles using a coffee can or saucer as a guide.
• Spoon 2 tablespoons of filling into the center of each crust. Dip your fingers in water and moisten the edges of the crust. Fold the crust over the filling so that the edges align. Seal the edges by pressing with your fingers, then crimp with a fork.
• Heat 1 inch of lard or shortening in a heavy skillet over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees. Gently place the pies into the hot oil one or two at a time. Cook for 1 minute, then flip and cook for another minute. Drain the cooked pies on a cooling rack or a plate lined with paper towels.

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