How Mock-Apple Pie Brilliantly Substitutes The Star Ingredient

An apple pie without apples for the filling? Thanks to Ritz Crackers, it's possible. In 1934, Ritz Crackers offered up an apple-free recipe for aspiring bakers to make at home. The texture of this dessert sans apples is similar to a traditional pie that has been made with fruit. With a chewy, gelatinous filling and recognizable crust, the recipe looks like an apple pie long before it reaches lips. 

Mock apple pie is soft and gooey, and the crust delivers a toothy bite. The inclusion of lemon and vanilla simple syrups combined with the added aromatics of cinnamon helps build a dish that mimics apple pie as soon as the pie begins to warm and bubble in the oven. In essence, you're tricking yourself with an assortment of ingredients so that the absence of apples isn't easily recognized — or missed. Just don't blame Ritz for the sneaky swap. Prior to the publication of the mock apple pie recipe, crackers and biscuits had been used as substitutes in other kinds of fruit pie recipes as early as the mid-1800s. Once the recipe started appearing on boxes, however, Americans became hooked.

The history of mock-apple pie

Printed onto the labels of cracker boxes, mock apple pie grew in popularity throughout the Great Depression at a time when Americans couldn't afford to spend much of their hard-earned money on food. Because the economy was in crisis, home cooks were having to make do with what they could get their hands on for cheap — and crackers fell into that category. And, because they didn't want to eat bland all the time, they were forced to branch out, create shortcuts, and make swaps for their beloved, but pricier, recipes.

Amid the Great Depression, as apples were bought in bulk and sold at an increased price by unemployed folks who hoped to make a profit, Ritz Crackers' recipe for mock-apple pie emerged as a way to provide people with a comforting and tasty dish that was not only easy to follow, but also quick to make. In 45 minutes, home cooks could feel confident placing this dessert onto tables for their families. And with lemon-flavored syrup, sprinkles of cinnamon, and Ritz Crackers, the imitation pie has withstood the test of time.

How to make mock-apple pie

You'll need a fair amount of sugar to make the recipe — two cups — and while you can use pie pastry for the crust, you can also break crackers and mix them with butter and sugar to form a crunchy case for your filling. To make the filling, boil sugar syrup and mix it with cream of tartar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Pour the mixture over the crust and finish the surface with extra butter and powdered cinnamon. To further caramelize the surface of the pie, a light coating of sugar will create a tempting crunch of sweetness once the pie is taken out of the oven. As with other crust recipes, it is helpful to cover edges with foil to protect from burning.

The next time you're craving a sweet treat and are faced with a cupboard that is a bit bare, fear not. This mock recipe can deliver. Topped with whipped cream or served with a scoop of ice cream, the guests at your table may be none the wiser.