This is a rough transcript of the internal monologue that followed a semi-last-minute decision to take dessert to a friend’s house for dinner yesterday (scroll down to “results” if you just want to know what the heck Ozark pie/Huguenot Torte is and aren’t interested in the documentation of my neuroses):
“I should just buy something. I don’t have time to bake. But how do you even do that? I can’t just buy a bag of Oreos or something, can I? A grocery store bakery pie? I don’t even want to eat that. Is there anywhere else I can buy a pie? Why are there a half a dozen stores that sell cupcakes and nowhere I can buy a goatforsaken pie…
“Is it okay to show up at someone’s house with a pint of ice cream? What if they don’t have any freezer space? Is that offensive—like a suggestion that they are incapable of purchasing ice cream or perhaps that if they did have ice cream on hand it wouldn’t be as good as whatever you brought? Oh, this is so stupid. [Generous host] specifically said there was no need for me to bring anything. What is wrong with me that I don’t know how to be a dinner guest without bringing something I made “from scratch”? This is why I am not done with my dissertation and will obviously fail at everything forever. Thanks, superego, helpful as always. sigh Surely there is something I can make that won’t take very long and will make me happier than showing up empty-handed or with a bag of Oreos…
“What was Huguenot Torte again? Oh, right, some kind of sunken apple-pecan meringue thing. Huh. Maria del Mar Sacasa of Serious Eats says it’s simple, ugly, and delicious, which sounds about perfect. But she also gave it a “makeover” with sour cherries and hazelnuts in place of the apples and pecans. I was not impressed with the canned sour cherries I got for NYE. Maybe I should just make the original…
“Egad, that sounds awfully sweet. And Amanda Hesser of the NYTimes says she likes it warm and that when it’s cold ‘you have to do battle to cut it.’ That does not sound like the best thing to make in advance and take somewhere. I wonder if I could make individual portions? Hey, the 2009 Recipe Redux by Sarah Magid is for ‘boozy apple-thyme meringue cookies’—maybe that would work?
“Curses! This recipe is so much fussier. You have to caramelize the apples separately and then use a piping bag to make individual meringues and it calls for both superfine and confectioner’s sugar…guh. The whole point of this recipe was that it was going to be simple. Hm. I wonder what the internet thinks about ‘individual Huguenot tortes’…
“Balls. None of these are actually for individual-sized portions, although Up Chef Creek came to the same conclusion because the caramelized crust, which is the best part, sticks to the pan & becomes impossible to serve after it’s cooled. So it would probably be better to bake it in individual ramekins. But who knows how that would affect the baking time? Or how full I should fill the cups? And do I really want to cart a bunch of individual cups of ugly apple-pecan meringue business to someone’s house? That seems stupid. I should just make the original. ‘Golden oldie’ Maria del Mar Sacasa, said. ‘I cooked it fairly often,’ she said. That is not something you do with a recipe that sucks…
“Wait, didn’t Amanda Hesser say this wasn’t actually related to the Huguenots at all and actually descended from something called Ozark Pudding? I wonder what the internet thinks about Ozark Pudding…
“Amen, Economical Epicurean, that Recipe Redux is the perfect example of taking something that sounds simple, easy, & relatively cheap and making it into a huge, fussy production. Although sometimes huge, fussy productions are worth it, and I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say that cookies and cupcakes are ‘tearing at the fabric of society.’ I guess you did admit this was a melodramatic rant.
“Oh, Marion Cunningham, it’s actually unclear whether or not fewer Americans are sitting down to a ‘traditional home-cooked dinner these days’ or how many of them ever did and I never did get around to writing the follow-up to that post about the studies about families who eat dinner together and how the television being on doesn’t actually matter. Of course, the researchers just shrugged and decided that there must be another causal mechanism, not that the relationship isn’t causal or that the arrow might go in the opposite direction (happy, healthy families –> more likely to eat dinner together).
“However, this recipe attributed to Bess Truman does sound easy and is scaled to fit in a pie pan and I have almost everything I need to make it already. I guess it’s worth a try.”
Totally easy—prep time was 15 minutes, start to finish even though I added a few extra steps. And pretty darn delicious—kind of like a cross between pavlova and pecan pie. The top was crunchy and the middle was kind of gooey and the bottom was chewy and sort of caramelized. I would totally make this again.
1) Instead of just greasing the pan, I greased it, dusted it with flour, and then sprayed it with cooking spray. It still stuck a little bit, but overall was pretty easy to get out of the pan, even though it sat for at least two hours before we served it.
2) I whipped the cream with some brown sugar and cognac. I would have used bourbon if I’d had any on hand because that would have been a natural pairing for the apples and pecans, but there was an unfortunate incident earlier this week involving a bottle of Bulleit and a flimsy plastic bag (yet another reason to take your own bags to the grocery store).
3) I tossed the apple pieces in a lemon-water bath to prevent oxidation while I was making the batter because I just do that automatically whenever I’m baking with apples.
This might be part of the reason my dissertation isn’t finished in a more general sense—the above doesn’t even begin to compare to the consternation and fussing about cooking I usually do when I’m not panicking about an imminent defense date—but it’s certainly not this particular recipe’s fault. I’d rank Ozark Pie near the top of my list of high reward/effort recipes. Right up there with no-knead bread and popcorn chickpeas and butternut squash soup.
The base recipe is also kind of a blank slate, so you could probably substitute just about any kind of fruit and nuts you had around…or chopped up chocolate or butterscotch or toffee bits or whatever else you thought might taste good in a meringue-type base as long as it isn’t super watery. Berries and chopped white chocolate might be good, or pear and almonds. If you wanted to fancy it up a bit, you could try any of the following: baking it in 1/2 cup ramekins filled slightly less than halfway, adding an herb or spice, or making a sabayon instead of just whipping some cream (bourbon-spiked would probably be great with the original apple-pecan).
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup apple pieces, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 of a large Granny Smith)
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2-3 Tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon bourbon, rum, or cognac (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease, flour, and spray a 10” pie pan (or just grease it, but don’t be surprised if it sticks).
2. Beat the egg and sugar together until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix well until combined. Fold in the apple pieces, nuts, and vanilla.
3. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. It will poof up, and then will fall when you remove it from the oven.
4. Whip the cream to soft peaks, adding the brown sugar and alcohol if desired.