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8 Forgotten Pie Recipes We Should Bring Back

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Sometimes simpler is better. That’s certainly the case with these old-fashioned pies, which have been unjustly relegated to the back of the recipe box. Made from just a few basic ingredients, they still manage to be rich and full of flavor. So break out the apron and the rolling pin, and give them a try.

1. BUTTERMILK CHESS PIE

The beauty of this pie is in its simplicity. Known as a “desperation pie” because it relies on just a few very basic ingredients—the only ingredients many cash-strapped farm families had back in the 19th and 20th centuries—the chess pie nevertheless manages to be decadent, with flour, sugar, eggs and butter coming together in just the right quantities. Adding in buttermilk along with some cocoa powder makes it even more satisfying. From there, you can customize it any number of ways—with lemons, pecans, even with citrus fruits.

2. MINCEMEAT PIE

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Mincemeat reaches all the way back to the 13th century, when Crusaders returned from the Holy Land with the three main spices: cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cooks used them mainly as preservatives for fruit and meat, and found that combining everything together made for a tasty pie filling. Recent generations have done away with the “meat” part of mincemeat pie, though chefs swear on their grandmother’s grave that it’s the best version of the dish. For those put off by elk or venison or beef in their dessert, give former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl’s found recipe a try.

3. SUGAR CREAM PIE

If you grew up in Indiana, there’s a good chance you're familiar with this, the official pie of the Hoosier State. The recipe comes from the Amish, who settled in Indiana in the 1800s, and it calls for heavy cream, milk and, of course, sugar. Like chess pie, this desperation pie has gone out of style in recent generations. But dutiful Hoosiers have kept it in their holiday rotations for years. Mixing brown with granulated sugar can deepen the flavor, while a cinnamon topping can spice things up a bit.

4. SHOOFLY PIE

Molasses is the main ingredient in this pie, for which we can also thank the Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch, in this case). There are two types: “dry bottom” shoofly pie, which has the consistency of gingerbread, and “wet bottom,” which has a custard-like quality and comes topped with crumbs. There are a few theories about the name, the most convincing one being that the sweet molasses drew flies while pies were cooling, causing cooks to have to shoo them away. Alton Brown has a highly rated recipe for shoofly pie that includes brown sugar crumb topping. Give it a try—and keep the window closed.

5. VINEGAR PIE

Don’t be put off by the name of this pie, which combines the silky quality of a custard pie with the tartness of an apple pie. The use of apple cider vinegar was a way for 19th-century cooks to mimic the taste of the actual fruit, making this an early culinary hack. And while you won’t find it in most restaurants, it’s pretty simple to make at home. Try this recipe from Epicurious, or this one from Martha Stewart, and serve it up with a scoop of ice cream.

6. MARLBOROUGH PIE

This New England specialty was once a staple in the region, where the plentiful supply of apples met with the custard pie recipes settlers had brought over from England. The name is thought to refer to the English town of Marlborough. Recently the pie has fallen out of favor in kitchens and restaurants, which is a shame since it combines two delicious pie elements—apples and custard—along with lemons and sherry wine. The taste, according to historian John T. Edge, author of Apple Pie: An American Story, carries “the tang of lemons, the silky musk of sherry, the base register of apples.” Yankee Magazine has a recipe that adds dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg to the mix.

7. FLAPPER PIE

If the phrase “Canadian prairie pie” doesn’t pique your interest, then perhaps the graham cracker crust, the custard filling, or the meringue topping will. Pioneered by home cooks north of the border, flapper pie is another decadent dessert made from the most basic ingredients—namely eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and butter. The crust can be a bit tricky, but you can always opt for a premade version from the store. As far as a recipe goes, Canadian grandma Irene Hrechuk won’t steer you wrong.

8. HUCKLEBERRY PIE

The hardest part about making this pie might be finding the title berries, which grow mainly in the Northwest and can only be found in the wild. Online sellers offer them frozen by the pound, which can be expensive. But with a uniquely tart taste, they’re definitely worth the investment. Pastry chef and author Greg Patent believes they’re one of the best baking berries around. Try his recipe for huckleberry pie, which he claims took him 20 years to perfect.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Little Baby's Ice Cream
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Food
Pizza and Cricket Cake Are Just Some of the Odd Flavors You'll Find at This Philadelphia Ice Cream Shop
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Little Baby's Ice Cream

Ice cream flavors can get pretty out-there, thanks to the growing number of creative scoop shops willing to take risks and broaden their customers’ horizons beyond chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Intrepid foodies can cool off with frozen treats that taste like horseradish, foie gras, and avocado, while Philadelphia's Little Baby’s Ice Cream is pushing the boundaries of taste with chilly offerings like everything bagel, Maryland BBQ, ranch, and cricket cake.

Cricket-flavored ice cream, created by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

Everything Bagel-flavored ice cream, created by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

As Lonely Planet News reports, Little Baby’s Ice Cream launched its first signature “oddball” ice cream—Earl Grey sriracha—in 2011. Since then, its rotating menu has only gotten quirkier. In addition to the aforementioned flavors, customers who swing by Little Baby’s this summer can even try pizza ice cream.

The store created the savory flavor in 2011, to celebrate neighborhood eatery Pizza Brain’s inclusion into Guinness World Records for its vast collection of pizza memorabilia. The savory, Italian-esque snack is made from ingredients like tomato, basil, oregano, salt, and garlic—and yes, it actually tastes like pizza, Little Baby’s co-owner Pete Angevine told Lonely Planet News.

Pizza-flavored ice cream, made by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

“Frequently, folks will see it on the menu and be incredulous, then be convinced to taste it, giggle, talk about how surprised they are that it really tastes just like pizza … and then order something else,” Angevine said. “That’s just fine. Just as often though, they’ll end up getting a pizza milkshake!”

Little Baby’s flagship location is in Philadelphia's East Kensington neighborhood, but customers can also sample their unconventional goods at additional outposts in West Philadelphia, Baltimore, and a pop-up stand in Washington, D.C.’s Union Market. Just make sure to bring along a sense of adventure, and to leave your preconceived notions of what ice cream should taste like at home.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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