Early pies in the fourteenth century were served in what we might call a “coffin” of dough. It was shaped like a boat, and its primary purpose was to hold the deliciously tart filling inside. The dough wasn’t meant to be eaten, but that was one measure improved upon by the sixteenth century. Cooks by then had started using saffron to give the crust a nice color and flavor.
The crust of these pies was meant to be thin and tender, most likely consumed along with the filling. The flour had to be finely milled, and the saffron would have made it look golden and beautiful. If you want to recreate one of these delicious treats today, use “all-purpose flour” for the desired result.
Sugar was another major difference, so pies of the sixteenth century had less tart and bite to them. Sugar had become more abundant thanks to established trade routes and better technology in shipping. During the Elizabethan era, it’s likely that cooks used white sugar. It was easily accessible and widely considered to be the best.
If you’re wondering about the kind of apples used, they are quite difficult to find today. The best approximation to the flavor would probably be something like Granny Smith, which are green. Original recipes called for “grene” apples, and it’s likely that cooks of the time knew of them well. Other original recipes called for Sops of Wine or Summer Rambo apples. The entire pie was seasoned with cinnamon and ginger for a bit of spice.
About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Facebook.