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Flapper Pie

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Flapper pie! As always, I’m late to the party – I’ve made two of these in two days, and only managed to eat a slice this afternoon. I’m a sucker for recipes with unusual names, particularly Canadian ones and anything that has to do with pie – if you haven’t heard of it, flapper pie is a prairie thing, although no one can say whether or not it was invented here. It’s a graham crust filled with vanilla custard and topped with meringue, and was popular in the prairies because its ingredients are easy to find on farms and don’t depend on seasons – there is nothing more exotic than sugar, milk, eggs, cornstarch and a box of graham crackers that were easily obtained at the corner store. (In fact, some say this recipe was originally printed on the box.)

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There are plenty of flapper pie recipes out there, and most of them are very similar, with small tweaks to the quantity of each ingredient, and often a pinch of cinnamon added to the crumbs sprinkled overtop. I couldn’t resist going with a recipe shared by Amy Jo Ehman, whose grandmother won first prize for her flapper pie (among others) at the Saskatoon fair in 1957. I consider any Saskatchewan grandma to be the preeminent expert on flapper pie – or all pie, really. I made a few tweaks – reducing the crumbs slightly to allow the crust to hold together a bit better, and upped the sugar from 2 Tbsp to 4 in the meringue, making it closer to the ratio I usually use to top a pie. Other than that, it stayed true to the 1957 version.

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It’s simple, truly – a press-in graham crust (I like bashing Digestive cookies into crumbs, too) quickly baked while you stir sugar, cornstarch, milk and three egg yolks into pudding on the stovetop. This reminded me of how delicious plain vanilla pudding is, and made me wonder why I never make it. You pour the custard into the shell – this part can be done a day ahead of time if you like – then top with meringue and pop it back in a hot oven for a few minutes to brown. You don’t have to worry about your pie being too juicy or runny or stodgy – there’s a reason everyone on the prairies relied on flapper pie.

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If the idea of meringue makes you nervous, you can always keep the egg whites for pancakes and top the custard pie with fresh or stewed fruit – rhubarb comes to mind – but don’t try to pass it off as flapper pie. Great, now I want to serve my flapper pie with a pitcher of cold stewed rhubarb, just to double down on the prairieness of it.

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I need to stop writing about pie immediately before bed. I sent some of this home with a friend, but the rest is calling to me from the fridge…

flapper pie 12

flapper pie 11
flapper pie 11

Flapper Pie

Recipe link

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March 15, 2017

Ingredients

Crust:

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

Filling:

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 1/2 cups milk

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

Meringue:

3 egg whites

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (optional)

pinch cinnamon

Directions

1Preheat the oven to 375F.

2

3In a small bowl, stir together the graham crumbs, sugar and butter. Remove a couple spoonfuls and set aside. Press the rest into the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate and bake for 8 minutes, or until golden.

4

5Mix crust ingredients. Scoop out 2 tbsp. and set aside. Press crumbs into the bottom and sides of a pie plate. Bake at 375 F for 8 minutes and cool.

6

7In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in the milk and cook over medium heat until it bubbles and thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir a spoonful of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks in a little dish; stir with a fork and quickly whisk back into the milk mixture. Cook for another two minutes - it will bubble and be very thick. Stir in the vanilla. Pour into the graham crust. (This part can be done ahead of time - cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight.)

8

9?To make the meringue, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until it’s foamy and holds soft peaks; gradually beat in the sugar, whipping until it holds stiff, glossy peaks. Spread over the custard, mix the reserved crumbs with a pinch of cinnamon and sprinkle over top. Return to the oven for 6-8 minutes, until meringue is lightly brown, watching carefully - it darkens fast. Cool pie and refrigerate a few hours before eating.

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17 comments on “Flapper Pie

  1. Danielle
    March 15, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    This is my dad’s favourite pie, though w always skip the meringue (he’s not a fan) and top it with whipped cream instead.

    • Julie
      March 16, 2017 at 11:22 am

      YES. I like the way he thinks! Add some bananas before you pour in the custard and you have banana cream pie!

  2. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.)
    March 16, 2017 at 1:02 am

    I have never really been tempted to make this (sorry!) but your post and pictures might convince me to change my mind!

    • Julie
      March 16, 2017 at 11:22 am

      Don’t be! I wasn’t for a long time either, but we had a few requests on CBC, and I’m glad I gave it a go!

  3. Gail
    March 16, 2017 at 6:05 am

    I would love to try this one…

    • Julie
      March 16, 2017 at 11:21 am

      You should! it’s surprisingly easy!

  4. Jennifer Jo
    March 16, 2017 at 6:45 am

    The recipe was probably printed on the FLAP of the graham cracker box, don’t you think?

    • Julie
      March 16, 2017 at 11:20 am

      Possibly! who knows?

    • Lucy R
      March 16, 2017 at 11:28 am

      ? ? ?

  5. Lise Mayne
    March 17, 2017 at 9:32 am

    Thank you for this recipe Julie. It was my favourite as a child, but I have never made it! My grandmother owned a restaurant on the prairies and said she could never keep up with demand. I went to Pie Sunday at Art & Soul Gallery in High River last week & Herb had made it but they were already sold out! I believe the name Flapper came from the flapper girls in the 1920’s. Not sure but I love the image. Grandma said it was a staple during the Depression years.

  6. Lydia
    March 17, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    I had some graham crackers and milk to use up, so I’m making this right now! I’d never heard of this pie before, but it has all my husband’s favourite pie components, so I think it will be a hit. Thanks!

    • Julie
      March 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

      I hope he loves it!

  7. Henriette
    March 18, 2017 at 11:31 am

    My meringue always come watery , over my custard , it a mess ???

  8. Barb
    March 23, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    We had a graham cracker issue last summer at our cabin when it was s’mores time. The crackers were off and we weren’t sure of the reason. The crackers were purchased for campfire time and we thought they were fresh. Turns out the major graham cracker company (which will remain nameless) had changed their recipe, used some kind of weird ingredient and the crackers smelled like paint thinner and tasted worse. We still laugh at the sounds people made after one bite! Have you ever tried scraping graham cracker off your tongue in 3 seconds or less? My kids are of the google generation and sure enough there was a #stinkycrackers with all kinds of comments so it was a thing not just our one off package. Since that experience I think I’ll stick with the digestive cookies. Anyone else have issues with graham crackers because flapper pie is the best!

    • Julie
      April 2, 2017 at 11:14 pm

      HILARIOUS! I wonder if they still taste like paint thinner??

  9. AndreaDW
    April 3, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Yum! In my family we call this “My Pie” as it was the only kind of pie that my little brother liked, and he would always get so excited when my mom would make it. And I just made it for my parents last night, modifying our family recipe to make it gluten free (GF graham crackers), and used coconut sugar which made it more like a butterscotch pudding. We loved it! Thanks for sharing this great prairie recipe!!

  10. Natalia
    April 26, 2017 at 2:08 am

    Thank you, Julie. I am definitely going to try this one. It looks delicious.

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