In this mini-taste-test: variously spiced apple pie-lets.
Another year, another March, equals another Pi day. Last year we looked at fresh vs. store bought pie crust. This year we wanted to test some of the various seasonings that could go into pie. In addition to there being various types of cinnamon available for purchase, we were also interested in deviations from the typical cinnamon + nutmeg spicing that is ubiquitous in recipes.
We constructed a “base” apple pie filling:
- 8 small apples, peeled, cored, & diced
- 1/2 c. white sugar
- 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
- 3 TB all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup salted butter, melted
To simplify our lives, despite the fact that homemade crust was more awesome than store-bought in our previous test, we used a store-bought crust to line the 12 cups of a muffin tin.
For each flavoring we tested, 2/3 cup of the base filling was pulled out, mixed with the flavoring then used to fill 2 muffin tins. Each pie-let was covered with pie crust, and marked to indicate the filling. Flavors tested, amounts added to each 2/3 cup subset, and mark used on top of each pie, are as follows:
- base recipe (no additional flavor), “p”
- “Cinnamon” Tone’s brand from grocery store + freshly grated nutmeg, 1 pinch each, “T”
- Saigon Cassia “cinnamon” + freshly grated nutmeg, 1 pinch each, “S”
- Ceylon “true” Cinnamon + freshly grated nutmeg, 1 pinch each, “C”
- Durkee 100% Pure vanilla extract, 1 dash, “V”
- O3 Orange Liquor , 1 dash, “O”
Pie-lets were baked at 375°F for 25 minutes, and allowed to cool for 40 minutes.
Note: to be consistent, for pinch and dashes we used these for measuring.
|Plain base recipe (P)||least favorite|| clear, clean, single flavor, uninteresting
“a well executed under-seasoned pie”
|Tone’s Cinnamon (T)||1 person liked this cinnamon the best
2 of 3 liked this the least of the cinnamons
|standard apple pie, good cinnamon-y flavor, spicy, warm distinct nutmeg|
|Saigon Cassia (S)||2 of 3 liked this less than C but more than S||strong cinnamon aroma, more subtle than T, warm but not spicy. Possible floral aspects.|
|Ceylon Cinnamon (C)||1 person’s favorite
2 of 3 thought this was the best cinnamon
|prominent apple aroma, apple flavor shines through with cinnamon playing a background note;
spicier than C, but without same warmth as T. Maybe more fruity than S.
|Vanilla (V)||1 person’s favorite||prominent or rich vanilla flavor. One person thought it was like pie ala mode without the rush or mess;
another thought it was similar to P, but sweeter and slightly cake-y.
flavor lingers and hides the apple flavor, maybe amount should be reduced?
|O3 (O)||1 person’s favorite||seems fruitier, although one person wasn’t sure which fruit they were tasting.
distinctly different than the others, could pair well with the Ceylon.
Comments: Taste testing is highly personal, especially when there are no clear winners. Every taster preferred something different in this case, with two people preferring (different) non-cinnamon variants. The cinnamons were noticeably different, although sometimes distinctions were subtle (e.g. the Saigon and Ceylon were more similar to each other than they were to the grocery store Cinnamon; which was most likely Cassia). The least favorite was the plain base pie, mostly because it was not very interesting compared to the others. However, none of the taste testers would have turned down that pie, and two of which could also recall previously having apples pies that were worse than the plain version tested today (one story involved a garlicky apple pie… it was unknown how that came to be, but it was known that pie was not finished).
We would like to explore the orange liquor variant of apple pie more fully (perhaps with a brownie-style test), as it was intriguing, even if only one person claimed it as their favorite at this point.
Thanks for reading! Happy Pi-Day!
Anderson, L.V. “Why ‘Real Cinnamon’ is a Bogus Term”. Slate. 1/22/2014 <http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/01/22/real_cinnamon_or_true_cinnamon_vs_cassia_both_chinese_and_ceylon_cinnamon.html>
Falkowitz, M. “Spice Hunting: Cinnamon”. Serious Eats. 1/20/2011 <http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/01/spice-hunting-cinnamon-canela-ceylon-saigon-cassia.html>
The Spice House “Cinnamon – Information and Spice Variations” <http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices-by-category/cinnamon#content>