I can’t say where or when I first tried Flapper Pie. I know that it was on one of those family winter sports trips to one of the prairie cities that we were blessed to take when the kids were a little younger. I think it was in Winnipeg, but maybe it was Saskatoon? Flapper pie is a Canadian prairie classic, and you don’t tend to hear of it in the other provinces.
It’s a light and fluffy concoction of custard on a graham cracker crust with a meringue topping, quickly baked to seal in the flavours.
It may be called Flapper Pie, because it became popular in the 1920s during the time of Flapper ladies. It pre-dates the 20’s though and is basically what’s known elsewhere as a Vanilla Custard Pie.
The frugal Canadian in me thrills to the fact that you use an equal number of egg yolks in the custard to the number of egg whites in the meringue. No wasted egg bits here. That just wouldn’t be right.
The key to baking Flapper Pie in my opinion – is to get each of the three layers just right. There are quite a few published recipes for Flapper Pie, and this is a tweak of several!
The Graham Cracker Crust for example can (and will) be crumbly, but I use butter instead of margarine, as it will congeal a bit better at the end.
I use brown sugar as well instead of white sugar, to give the pie a bit more zip and sticktogetherness. A traditional Flapper Pie I believe uses white granulated sugar. The cinnamon in the crust adds a bit of mystery! My pie crust sticks to the pie plate. Round pie plate shaped parchment paper sheets could help with this.
The Custard layer, needs to set correctly, it’s not that hard, but it requires full attention and constant whisking. Don’t forget to use whole milk for this, and don’t panic but keep whisking. I put more Vanilla in than the norm, but it is needed with 5 eggs. This is a big pie – and deserves big flavour. I went for a 5 egg sized pie – many recipes are 2 or 3 eggs – I have a lot of hungry men to feed, currently hovering around my stay-at-home pandemic kitchen
The Meringue is a traditional topping, but try and let your egg whites get to room temperature before whipping – and keep those bits of egg yolk out. You will have greater success. I confess, I left out the Cream of Tartar – but the Meringue turned out well enough without it. The Cream of Tartar is just used to keep the shape of the Meringue and keep it from collapsing. My Tartarless Meringue did not collapse, but why risk messing up your meringue if you have it on hand?
My version of the recipe is below. Forgive me if it’s not true to the original, but it does taste lovely.
Flapper Pie Recipe:
Graham Cracker Crust Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup ground graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar – packed down
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp butter – melted
Graham Cracker Crust Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine ingredients in bowl, and press down firmly in a 10 inch pie plate, Spread up the sides of the pie plate. I used a large flat spatula for this.
Bake piecrust at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and then remove from oven.
Leave the oven on at 350 degrees, because you will be using the oven again!
5 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
5 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons corn starch
Mix corn starch with about one cup of milk – whisking together until lump free and set aside.
Mix remaining milk and sugar in a pot. Place over medium heat whisking constantly for about 5 minutes. Add butter. Gradually whisk in corn starch and milk mixture to thicken.
Mix egg yolks with vanilla.
Ladle a few cups of heated milk mixture into a heat proof bowl. Gradually pour the egg mixture in – whisking constantly.
Gradually pour and whisk this mixture back into the hot milk.
(You are trying to keep the milk from burning or curdling, and trying to keep the eggs from scrambling if they mix with the hot liquid too quickly. It’s a balance, but it’s do-able).
Continue whisking, and turn the heat just a little higher until the mixture bubbles up a little and thickens. Remove from heat and pour over pie crust. This recipe completely covered my crust and that was wonderful!
5 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Sprinkle cream of tartar over egg whites. Gradually pour sugar into egg whites, mix with electric blender until soft peaks form. Spread meringue over custard.
Optional Sprinkle Topping
1 Tsp Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Graham Cracker Crumbs
Mix topping ingredients together and sprinkle freely over meringue topping
(I went without the crumble topping, as one of my boys is anti-crumble if you can believe it)
Place pie in pre heated 350 degree F oven for 15 minutes.
Remove pie from oven when meringue is lightly browned.
Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours (if you can get away with it) to allow custard to set.
This recipe took a bit of paying attention, and some extra dishes, but was not difficult. My boys loved Flapper Pie, and even though it was a big fluffy pie, it disappeared quickly.
If you have any Flapper Pie family secrets that you’d like to share, by all means do!