The recipe, courtesy of 19th century Philadelphia cookbook writer Eliza Leslie, features whole apples baked in a deep dish enveloped by rich, spicy-sweet pudding. I loved the presentation – it sounded so interesting and pretty. As a complement to the warm baked apples, I made creamy caramel ice cream, a recipe originated by James Parkinson, another 19th century Philadelphian. The subject of my current book, The Thousand Dollar Dinner, Parkinson and his parents were famous for their ice creams during that era.
The idea of baking whole apples in a pie dates back at least to Elizabethan England, as evidenced by the 1615 cookbook by Gervase Markham, The English House-wife. Cookbook collector and author Esther Aresty called this book the “most influential of early English cookbooks.” Unlike the Miss Leslie’s pudding, Markham’s version calls for a double crust. However, the concept is the same: a circular assortment of peeled, cored apples placed in a deep dish and baked with sugar and spices.
Here’s an adapted version of his recipe:
A Pippin Pie with Whole Apples
(From The Delectable Past by Esther B. Aresty)
Golden yellow apples are best, but winesaps will do nicely. First, position the uncooked whole apples in a pie plate to determine the size plate needed. Allow a whole apple for each serving. Prepare enough pastry for a double-crust pie, and line the plate with half of it. Peel and core the apples and arrange on the pastry. Put a few raisins inside each core. Then to each apple add 1/8 cup sugar mixed with ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of cloves, ½ tablespoon butter and 1/8 teaspoon grated lemon rind (optional).
Sprinkle the raisins in the spaces between the apples. Roll out the remaining pastry in thin strips, a half-inch wide and long enough to twist around each apple. These strips will prevent the apples from wandering into each other as they bake, and they create a handsome effect. Bake at 375 in a preheated oven for one hour.
“As American as apple pie” is a popular phrase, but apples and apple pie are actually not New World discoveries. While settlers found a few native crab apple varieties when they started colonizing the Americas, apples are essentially an Old World food, thought to originate in Asia Minor. But it didn’t take long for the seeds, buds and small plants they brought over with them to proliferate through the region. Because every seed in every apple is a new variety, by 1850 there were thousands of named apple types, especially in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, upper Midwest and Northwest states.
The word “pippin” originally meant any apple grown from a pip, and is derived from the French word “pepin,” which means both pip and the apple. By the 16th century the term was used to describe any hard, late-ripening, long-keeping, acid-flavored apple. In America, the name “Pippin” was used for different types of apple, the most famous the Newtown Pippin, a purely American variety that originated on Long Island in the 1700s. These yellow-green fruit were well-known for their extraordinary storage qualities and crisp yet juicy, acid but sweet taste. In 1753 a Pennsylvania farmer wrote, “The Newtown Pippin exceeds everything for fine taste and duration.” Unfortunately this historic variety is not grown much today since it is difficult to manage.
Eliza Leslie’s recipe does not specify Newtown Pippins, but I am assuming that is implied as it calls for “pippin apples”:
A BAKED APPLE PUDDING
(From Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery, 1837)
Take nine large pippin apples; pare and core them whole. Set them in the bottom of a large deep dish, and pour round them a very little water, just enough to keep them from burning. Put them into an oven, and let them bake about half an hour. In the mean time, mix three table-spoonfuls of flour with a quart of milk, a quarter of a pound of brown sugar, and a tea-spoonful of mixed spice. Beat seven eggs very light, and stir them gradually into the milk. Then take out the dish of apples, (which by this time should be half baked,) and fill up the holes from whence you extracted the cores, with brown sugar; pressing down into each a slice of fresh lemon. Pour the batter round the apples; put the dish again into the oven, and let it bake another half hour; but not long enough for the apples to fall to pieces; as they should, when done, be soft throughout, but quite whole. Send it to table warm.
This is sometimes called a Bird's Nest Pudding.
NOTE: I didn’t have a big enough baking dish to fit nine apples, so I went with seven and used only five eggs and less milk. I also ended up cooking the pudding at 350 F for about an hour, not a half hour – I set the timer for a half hour and kept checking and putting it back in to cook more. And, the apples release quite a bit of liquid during the cooking process, so do keep this in mind and go with as deep a dish as you can find – my pudding almost bubbled over a few times. But it was all well worth it – not only was the pudding delicious, it was attractive and easy to make.
In the mid-19th century, THE place to go for ice creams, candy and other sweet indulgences was the internationally famous Philadelphia confectionery shop run by George and Eleanor Parkinson. Located at 180 Chestnut Street, it was later expanded to include a restaurant and catering business by their son James, an extremely talented and innovative chef who planned, prepared and hosted a 17-course $1,000 dinner in 1851 in response to a culinary challenge from New York’s Delmonico family. He was known for inventing a number of fancy frozen treats, including champagne frappe a la glace, sorbet au vin de Tokia (an elegant sorbet made from Tokay wine), and this luxuriously rich caramel ice cream designed to conjure up the texture and flavor of cream caramel:
Caramel Ice Cream
(From The Confectioners’ Journal, Dec. 1874)
- 4 oz. granulated sugar
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- 1 stick cinnamon, coarsely broken into small pieces
- 1 cup water
- 10 egg yolks
- 12 oz. superfine sugar
- 1 ½ pints heavy cream (3 cups)
- 4 tbsp. Orange Curaçao Liquor
Work quickly. Add the grated lemon zest and cinnamon. Stir until the burnt syrup begins to foam. Then add one cup water, taking care not to spatter yourself with hot syrup. Continue to stir until all the burnt sugar is dissolved. Then let the liquid cool.
In the meantime, cream the egg yolks with the superfine sugar. Beat the heavy cream until it begins to stiffen, then fold it into the egg and sugar mixture. Beat again then strain the liquid and work into the batter. Heat the batter over a moderate flame and stir until it reaches a custard consistency. Cool. Add the curaçao and freeze.
NOTE: It is not necessary to freeze this in an ice cream maker – any clean, tinned copper or stainless steel container will do. However, I did put the mixture in the container of my ice cream maker and covered it with aluminum foil, which worked fine. Also, I never was able to heat the mixture to a custard consistency – it thinned out and I ended up adding more cream to compensate. Next time I will take it off the burner sooner. It also took quite a bit of time to freeze – my suggestion would be to make it first thing in the morning or even the night before. Because of the high proportion of invert sugar, it is supposed to retain a soft texture, although mine eventually did freeze like a normal ice cream.
In any case, it tasted great – very rich with an intense caramel flavor, which went perfectly with the baked apple pudding. Kind of like a grown-up version of caramel apples – yum!