Gourmandistan

Fried Pie Face-off: Neal vs. Egerton

Fried apple pies (pie crust version)

Fried apple pies (pie crust version)

Fried dried-fruit pie is one of those foods that everyone loves to argue about because nobody can find the “real thing” anymore. Michelle remembers her parents debating, decades ago, the merits of pies her dad would bring home from country stores all over Western Kentucky. It seems they were never quite as good as they remembered their mothers making. Then chains like McDonald’s and Popeye’s started offering their own versions, trans-fats took over, and the “real thing” became even harder to recognize.

Fried apple pies (biscuit version)

Fried apple pies (biscuit version)

As keepers of more than a few Southern cookbooks, and recent purchasers of several bags of dried local apples, we decided to pit two great books against one another in a Southern Fried Pie Battle.™ (If we see reports of one of these in Brooklyn, Daisy, we may have to sue.)

Lard and more-or-less the same filling would be used in each recipe. The crucial difference would be the crust. Neal goes with biscuit dough, while Egerton uses pie crust (think a less fatty pâte brisée). While Steve thought he recognized the texture of Egerton’s from college-era visits to Central Kentucky grocery stores, we both agreed Neal’s flaky biscuit crust was better—though, unlike Egerton’s, it definitely needs to be eaten while hot.

Fried apple pie

We can’t say whether either of our versions was the true “Southern fried pie,” but there is one thing we can be completely sure of: either is much, much closer than Deep Fried Derby Pie®.

FRIED APPLE PIES

  • Servings: depends on size
  • Print

(Biscuit version adapted from Bill Neal’s Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie; pie crust version adapted from John Egerton’s Southern Food)

Filling:

  • 4 oz. dried apples
  • 3 c. water (approximately)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c. sugar, to taste
  • 2 TB dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • a few grates of fresh nutmeg or a pinch from a jar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp. butter
  • Lemon juice to taste

Cook apples in a saucepan in enough water to cover over low heat, covered, for 30-40 minutes until fruit is soft. Drain well in a colander, shaking out remaining water.

Return apples to pan and add remaining ingredients. Warm over low heat and cook off moisture.

Place in a bowl and cool to room temperature, then cool further in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Biscuit dough:

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • Heaping 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Heaping TB baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 5 TB chilled shortening (we used half butter, half lard)
  • 1 c. buttermilk

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add cold shortening and work into flour with a pastry cutter or your fingers. Add buttermilk and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball. Form into a disc, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate.

(Alternative) Pie Crust:

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. chilled shortening (we used half butter, half lard)
  • 3-4 TB (or more) ice water

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Add cold shortening and work into flour with a pastry cutter or your fingers. Add water and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball. Form into a disc, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate.

Assembly:

Using half of dough at a time, roll out onto a floured surface. If using biscuit dough, roll out to about 1/8″ thick. If using pie crust dough, roll out a bit thinner. Cut into rounds. We used a 3-1/2″ round cookie cutter, which is probably about as small as you can go. 5″ or so is more traditional.

Place some filling in the middle of each dough round. For 3-1/2″ rounds, it took a slightly rounded teaspoon. Adjust accordingly if using larger circles. Fold dough over to form a half circle. Press edges together with a fork. Then flip over and press the other side the same way. If still not sticking, flip again and repeat. Place pies on a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper while preparing the remainder.

Fry pies on both sides in a skillet with about 1/4″ of fat (neutral oil, lard or a combination) over medium heat. Drain on a cooling rack set over parchment paper.

As Neal says, “[t]he hand is usually the serving dish, but fried pies may be served on a plate.” If you choose the latter, you can sieve some confectioners sugar over.

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31 comments

    • Definitely a Southern U.S. thing. And, to be authentic, you’ll have to dry those apples first. But worth trying! And I know you all have had a great apple crop this year. 🙂

  1. Interesting to see that you use both baking powder and baking soda in the biscuit dough. I’m supposing that must be on account of the acidity in the buttermilk. It sounds like it could be a funny tasting biscuit to me…not even that funny. Even without tasting, I’m sure the pie crust is the best route. Nice looking pie.

    • Yeah, Roger, buttermilk biscuit recipes almost always contain both baking powder and baking soda. Sweet milk biscuits, on the other hand, generally use baking powder only. I think you’re exactly right that it’s an acidity issue. I was really surprised at the biscuit dough version. I don’t think I’d have guessed that’s what they were made from.

  2. MMM! Fried Pies…Love them! Good ones are so hard to find. I have never tried my hand at them. My pie crust tends to be tough but this post makes me want to try again. Or go home and ask my mom to fix me some 🙂

  3. I’m a big fan of apple pie and something that’s this warm, flaky and crisp and golden…well I could basically eat the whole bowl…Lol! It’s slightly warmer here as we move into summer, but I secretly crave all the delicious comfort food I’m seeing in the northern hemisphere as people cosy down 😉

  4. They both seem to have their merits, but that biscuit-wrapped one is calling to me. As a chronic mouth-burner, I have a feeling that one couldn’t make it to the plate before I inhaled it.

    • I loved the biscuit one. Most folks around here do the pie crust version, and using biscuit dough was new to me. We’ve got some out in the freezer and it’s quite difficult not to heat some oil and fry them up!

    • Thanks so much, Rachel. I know what you mean about working with lard—though apples, I think, can take a little porky flavor. This particular lard, though, was (stereotype alert!) rendered by my husband from (another alert!) a pig raised by some friends and is very mild and makes a lovely flaky crust.

  5. A Southern Fried Pie Battle? You’re so on, my friends! Many apologies for the delay in response. This semester is kicking my butt and taking names. It’s been a long time since I’ve had 100 students to run after and I’m out of practice at keeping on top of things!

    In any case, your pies look amazing. And I totally remember those fried apple pies that McDonald’s used to have. That filling was nuclear hot?

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