I have this desire to recreate some of the recipes that my grandmother made years ago, when she was raising her family. Since she didn’t leave many recipes behind, it’s been a little difficult to do at times.
Unfortunately, by the time I came along, she wasn’t cooking like she did when my mom and her siblings were kids, so there aren’t many things that I remember specifically about her cooking. I did remember her making an apple stack cake one time. Oh, how I loved that cake! Her Apple Betty was to die for. I remember that she used to scorch her green beans a little bit. I’d actually forgotten about that and a couple Thanksgivings ago, while at my aunt and uncle’s house, my aunt accidentally scorched her beans. As soon as I took a bite, the memory came back and I started crying because, even after 15 years, I still miss my mammaw.
Two years ago, my mom’s sisters threw her a surprise 60th birthday party. I decided that, as a thank you, I’d make each of her near-by siblings their favorite dessert from mammaw’s repertoire.
At first, I tackled her apple stack cake. Let me tell you, it’s a day-long process to make one of those (and I made 4 that day). It’s made from dried apples that have been cooked in apple juice and spices to create a dark, flavorful, chucky apple mush. The mush is spread between layers of dense cake seasoned with molasses and spices and cooked in an iron skillet. Then it needs to sit for a few days to allow the apple mush to seep into the cake layers.
I hunted for weeks to find a recipe. I finally found one that mom thought looked like what mammaw would have used. I made the apple mush, and my mom and I developed a mini assembly-line approach to making the cake layers. I made the dough, which is so stiff it has to be patted into the skillets by hand. We used 2 little iron skillets and we had our oven working overtime that day. I think each cake had 8 layers.
Anyway, the cakes were delicious! My mom’s oldest sister said it was pretty close to mammaw’s – it just needed a little more molasses in the cake mix. I called it a success, because there weren’t any crumbs left after a few days.
Next, I made Mammaw’s Apple Betty for my uncle. This one was super-easy, because I had the actual recipe that mammaw used. I think I made it even better, because I used my own home-canned apple sauce for the filling. Let me tell you… if I were stranded on an island, that Apple Betty just might be what I’d want to take with me!
My other aunt’s favorite was Lemon Meringue Pie. I put this one off for awhile, because I was scared of tackling a pie crust, a pie filling that is supposed to set up like a gel, AND a meringue. Finally, I had to bite the bullet and just do it.
My other issue was that somewhere between the Apple Stack Cake and the Lemon Meringue Pie, I started eating healthier so I would become healthier! Good grief. How was I going to handle this problem?
I researched sugar-free versions of lemon pie and decided that I was either uncomfortable with using a large amount of artificial sweeteners, or I didn’t want to spend a lot of money purchasing other sweetening agents like erythritol and xylitol (which is toxic to dogs).
I just figured I’d make an old-fashioned, full-of-sugar pie….and try to not eat any of it!
Right. That’s going to happen.
While I was gathering the ingredients for the pie (and yes, I cheated on the crust by buying frozen), I remembered that I have some little crème brulee ramekins. Those would be a perfect solution to my problem! A ramekin eliminates the need for a crust, which contributes about 1/3 of the fat and calories to the pie. A small ramekin also provides built-in portion control!
I made two regular pies to share with my mom’s siblings and made 4 little mini-pies for us. They were just about perfect.
They were sweet.
They were tart.
The meringue was really good, although the next time, I’ll beat the egg whites a little longer so that it’s a bit stiffer.
They were the perfect size for someone who’s eating healthier, but still wants a little sweetness occasionally.
Think about buying some ramekins for your kitchen. Make sure they are oven-safe and small enough to create the right portion-control for your needs.
Oh, by the way, the pie wasn’t just like mammaw’s, but it was good. I’ll just have to keep trying…and really, I don’t mind!