Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kitsch-en Kounter: Apple Pie Without Cheese Is Like A Kiss Without A Squeeze

As I am like to do, I was recently watching a rerun of I Love Lucy in which Lucy offers Fred a slice of apple pie with a "big ol' hunk of cheese" on it.  I was immediately reminded of the saying that has been handed down through generations of my mom's family, "Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze."  Very much akin to, "They go together like bacon & eggs," apple pie and cheddar cheese used to be such an ordinary and inseparable flavor profile that it had its own saucy little epigram.  Somehow, somewhere along the line, cheese lost out to its oh so à la mode cousin, à la mode (since when did a scoop of ice cream become so fashionable?).  How, in such a short time, did what was once so commonplace become completely forgotten to the contemporary palate?  Why, I wonder, did this all-American culinary combo fall so far out of f(l)avor?

Immortalized in a 1956 ad for Miss Wisconsin Cheddar
Cheese, the long-lost dynamic duo of desserts

The only eatery I've ever visited that offers the apple pie/cheese taste sensation is the world-famous Du-Par's (serving the Los Angeles area for over 75 years).  Just out of high school, on our very first visit to  The Original Farmers Market location, my friends and I were receiving less-than-stellar service from a crusty, old waitress who had been slinging hash for the better part of her 100 years and wasn't about to waste any charm on a bunch of snotty-nosed bad-tippers (a valid supposition, I guess).  After ignoring our table for the entirety of our meal, she came to present the bill and ask in a bitter monotone if we had "saved any room for dessert."  One member of our party who had been looking at the dessert offerings bellowed in disgust, "Yech, apple pie with cheese?!?!?!!!"  Before the waitress could use the rest of her limited strength to lunge across the table and strangle my dining companion, I jumped in with, "Of course!  My mom always said, 'Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze'" (I've always been a bit of a brown-noser).  The change in countenance between the wizened, old waitress and the newly-beatific server was staggering as she quickly became my new best friend.  Knowing all too well the classic pie pairing, she was thrilled to learn a new saying (one that she could use to boost sales), that she brought us a free piece of pie - with cheese!

Tis the season for all things apple, so Mr. Tiny went apple picking (picking the
best apples from the giant apple mound at the grocery totally counts) with pie in mind.
Using a mix of Fuji and Granny Smith apples, I quickly learned why pie seems like
such a special-occasion treat -  peeling and slicing a bushel of apples stinks!

How though, beyond serving the most pedestrian of pies with a single sliver of cheddar cheese, could I recreate the classic American sweet-and-savory dessert dynamo?  It didn't take long before I realized that the king of all cheese crackers would be the perfect vehicle for such a long-awaited flavor reunion.  Like so many times before, it was Cheez-It to the rescue!

I had heard of a Depression-era, mock-apple pie where Ritz crackers actually served as apple proxy; thinking that a similar technique (resulting in a mouth full of cinnamon-sugar soaked Cheez-Its) might be a bit much, I changed direction and ground the crackers to a fine crumb.

Never having made a proper pie before in my life, I waffled between using cheese cracker crumbs for the pie crust or creating a cheesy crumb topping.  Lousy at decision making, I decided to do both - that's right, cheesy apple pie two ways!!!

The evolution of pie
Using a traditional bottom crust and filling, I made a
Dutch Apple Pie with a Cheez-It/pecan crumble topping. 

Introduced in 1921, the Cheez-Its imparted a subtle-yet-solid cheese flavor to the Dutch Apple Pie (are you listening Netherlands?  I've improved your namesake pie!).  While I thought this creation was both tasty and mildly clever, the pie was neither quite as impactful nor as wacky tacky as I knew we could get.  C'mon Cheez-Its, don't fail me now!

I made the base of the second pie in the same fashion as a graham-cracker
crust, using instead Cheez-It crumbs and only a scant amount of sugar.

This pie was filled with the same traditional filling as the first and baked, tented in foil so the apples would not dry out.  After it cooled, it was piled high with homemade, cinnamon whipped cream.  I don't know if it is smart or insanely masochistic to constantly make desserts to which I am highly intolerant (dairy is most assuredly not my friend).

Wanting to get a little fancy and invite a bit of genuine cheese to these pie proceedings,
I made crispy, cheddar cheese/parmesan tuiles to decorate the top of the pie.

With plenty of pie on hand and a favorite cousin visiting from Texas (Yeehaw! Cuzzin Bobbi!!!), the only logical thing to do was throw an impromptu dinner party.

Cuzzin Bobbi, Nick, Cynthia, Lauren, Mr. Tiny, and Mary (taking the photo)
gathered around the old, family table to break bread.  But dinner was a mere
formality, dessert was definitely the star of this show.

With a diverse range of palates surrounding the table, the results as to which pie was best were decidedly mixed.  Lauren, an inveterate "I don't like my food to touch" purist, favored the Dutch Apple Pie.  Cynthia, a world-class extreme eater with adventurous taste buds, gave the prize to the cheese tuiles and Cheez-It crust.  I was so interested in finding out what everyone else thought, that I didn't do my own small sampling until everyone was gone and the dishes were washed.  I love a good mix of sweet/salty/savory and without sounding too self-satisfied, I think the cheese crust is the definite winner!  It's genius inspired everyone at the table to think of other applications for a Cheez-It crust (sweet and savory).

The winner, Mr. Tiny and the pie

In any event, after samplings were made of each pie, we collectively came to know the true meaning behind the phrase, "Apple pie without [Cheez-It] is like a kiss without a squeeze [it]!"  Great, now I'm thinking of ways to combine cheese crackers with that sugary, wax-bottled beverage of my youth (remember Squeezits - the drinks that only the cool kids had in their lunches, clearly explaining why I never had one in my lunch?).

Surrounded by loved ones and a bounty of cheesy-apple-pie goodness, I realized that, much like Johnny Appleseed, "the Lord is good to me."  In turn, I feel like I am good to the Sunshine Biscuit Company for giving them a brand new lease on their delicious "baked snack cracker."  In an effort to pay it all forward, I share with you what will undoubtedly become the centerpiece of your holiday festivities.  Give your family what they want this holiday season - Jesus, cheeses, and squeezes!!!

"The Lord is Good to Me" - from Walt Disney's Johnny Appleseed 
Performed by Dennis Day

Are you a Cheez-It fan?  Have you ever had apple pie with cheese?  Did your parents/grandparents hand down the "cheese/squeeze" saying in your family?  Is the apple pie/cheese combo still going strong where you live?  What's the weirdest dessert you've ever concocted (we want to try it)?


Mr. Tiny


  1. My grandmother often served fruit cake (the dark christmas-cakey variety, although without the marzipan) with Wensleydale cheese - a pale, crumbly, slightly acidic little number. I now have the urge to run to the farm shop.......

    1. Oh, now that has me scheming for a Christmas Kitsch-en Kounter. "Fruit cake without Wensleydale is like a kiss without a..." I just need to find something that rhymes with wensleydale!!!

  2. Oh I love cheese its this I totally must try

    retro rover

    1. Please do! If you do, I'd love to hear how it went and how you like it!