The flaky, buttery goodness of an apple pie was not always the way they were made. Today’s pies range from the super sweet to the melt-in-your mouth delectable. Early in the fourteenth century, pies were served in a crust shaped like a coffin or a trough. This coffin was not usually eaten, because the taste was bland and meant only as a vessel for the filling. Recreating the recipe today would require flower rich in protein and gluten, otherwise the pie would spill. Original recipes also omitted butter, which must have made them very difficult to shape.
It’s important to understand the bland taste is a result of a lack of sugar. 14th century England had sugar, but the cost made pie making extremely expensive. Not even King Henry III could easily find and acquire sugar. Pies of this early age were mostly tart, relying on the fruits and spices for flavor. Spices were mostly akin to cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves we use today. Amounts also would have varied substantially by cook and by region, so “to taste” is probably the best way to teach someone today how to bake one.
One of the major problems one encounters recreating these recipes is the paltry lack of foodstuffs for it. Historic varieties of apple do exist, but are next to impossible for the hobbyist to track down. Golden Delicious apples are a decent substitute, being a descendant of the Golden Reniette, and would have been close to the flavor of apples from that period.
About the Author: 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 Phineas Upham website or Twitter page.