Food-lore experts tell us traveling pioneers short on apples figured out they could make palatable pies sans pommes if they soaked their crackers in the right mix of ingredients. Cookbook writer Mrs. B.C. Whiting’s 1894 “How We Cook in Los Angeles” included an 1852 recipe for “California Pioneer Apple Pie” with soda crackers, brown sugar, water, citric acid and cinnamon. Years later, Depression-era cooks short on funds to buy apples loved it when some food-history savvy gent at the National Biscuit Company (we know it as Nabisco) embellished on the pioneer recipe. Printed on the back of Ritz Cracker boxes starting in 1935, this recipe was a sensation. We’ve modified it here, to make bite-sized minis that are a nice, nut-free, cookie-like alternative to pecan-tassies.
Makes 24, bite-sized pies
- One package roll-and-bake pie crust, or, your favorite one-crust pie-dough recipe
- 3/4 of a sleeve (25 crackers) Ritz crackers, coarsely crushed
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp melted butter, divided
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- shortening for greasing mini-muffin tin
- Preheat oven to 425. Roll out crust. Using 2-inch to 2 1/2 inch cutter with decorative edge, cut 24 circles out of the pie dough. Grease mini-muffin tin very well. Carefully push each dough circle into mini-tin depressions, The dough will be a little below the edge of the tin. Crush 25 crackers into pea-sized pieces (some smaller crumbs fine.) Fill each mini pie crust with 1 1/2 tsp of cracker crumbs. Drizzle 1 Tbsp of the melted butter over the crumbs. Set aside.
- In a sauce pan, whisk together sugar, cream of tartar and water. Heat to boiling. Lower heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Whisk in lemon zest and juice. Whisk in remaining Tbsp of butter until it melts. Stir in cinnamon. If you like, transfer syrup to a squirt bottle for easier dispensing, or, carefully spoon a teaspoon syrup over cracker crumbs in each mini pie crust. Let sit for a minute to ensure syrup has soaked into crumbs. Add a little more syrup to fill each pie, but do not fill over top of pie crust. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes or until minis are golden brown.