Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Lemon Chiffon Pie Day!

In 1947, a 64-year-old California man named Harry Baker approached General Mills with a secret recipe. The secret ingredient was - salad oil. The discovery - "the first new cake in 100 years," Chiffon Cake.

While I was gathering up tidbits to share about Chiffon Cake in a previous post, I happened upon many delectable recipes for Chiffon Pie. What? I thought. They aren't one in the same? Hey, what do I know, I'm not much of a baker, as we are all quite aware of by now. So, who gets the credit for "inventing" the chiffon pie? Well, according to the resources I found at the foodtimeline, it was self proclaimed "pie engineer," Monroe Boston Strause who invented chiffon pie. As a matter of fact, the California "Pie King" wrote a recipe book in 1939 titled Pie Marches On where he also lays claims to the invention of black-bottom pie!

Monroe Boston Strause
"This is without doubt the most sensational pie that has ever been introduced and is one of the outstanding originals of the writer. Aside from being a sensation, I believe it brought the highest price that any pie ever sold at commercially; $1.90 for a nine-inch pie, retail." (source)
I don't have a copy of his illustrious book. Actually, it's a new one to me:) However, in her book BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking... Shirley O. Corriher confirms Mr. Strause's reputation when she refers to him as "the old master." She also credits him with the invention of crumb crust. Look see...

In all fairness, we mustn't skim off the cream without digging in just a bit deeper. In her book, The American Century Cookbook, Jean Anderson devotes an entire page to the history of these billowing gems.
Chiffon Pies
"My research tells me that these fluffy unbaked pies debuted in the early 1920s as "souffle" or gelatin pies. A headnote to the Eggnog Chiffon Pie recipe in Woman's Day Old-Fashioned Desserts (1978) say that "Chiffon pies were invented in 1921 by a professional baker who lived in Iowa. By beating egg whites with a fruit-flavored syrup until the mixture was light and fluffy, he achieved a filling that his mother said 'looked like a pile of chiffon."
It's a story I've been unable to substantiate. Besides, Knox Gelatine's 1915 booklet, Dainty Desserts for Dainty People features gelatin "sponges," "marshmallow puddings," and "marshmallow creams" - the airy mixes that would one day emerge as chiffon fillings. It only took a few more years for someone to pile them into pie shells.
Searches of several dozen early-twentieth-century cookbooks turned up a few souffle and "sponge" pies, but these contained no gelatin and/or whipped cream. They were baked pies with stiffly beaten egg whites folded in just before they went into the oven.

Chiffon pies remained popular right through the '70s. Then in the 1980s when salmonella began compromising the wholesomeness of our eggs, they fell from favor. But only briefly. Savvy food manufacturers discovered that powdered egg whites, cream cheese, whipped toppings and marshmallow cream could double nicely for raw egg whites.

Chiffon pie is a very light, airy pie made with gelatin and beaten egg whites. It usually has a ginger-based crust and is sometimes covered in a layer of whipped cream, to add to its light-as-chiffon reputation. Lemon chiffon pie is a famous example, but you can make a chiffon pie with strawberries, coffee, pumpkin, mango or other flavors.
The word "chiffon" is from the French meaning "rag". Chiffon pie is first mentioned in American print in 1929. Early chiffon pies were apparently called Sissy Pies (as well as Fairy Tarts, Fluff, Sponge and Souffle pies) in the early 20th century, when they were made by mixing pudding with egg whites and baking in the oven. Now, 21st century chiffon pies use gelatin to set the filling... (source)
I know I should be focusing on Lemon Chiffon Pie. After all, it is Lemon Chiffon Pie Day. I just need a few minutes to shout about how much I absolutely adore Chiffon Pies, even more so then Chiffon Cakes! The reason is simple. I don't do pastry crust. Pie crust and I (and yeast when it comes to bread baking) just don't jive. I've accepted it for the time being. However, crumb crusts I can do. As a matter of fact, to me, crumbling up a bunch of cookies and turning them into a tasty "plate" for a light and airy chiffon filling captivates my imagination. The heck with those pre-made crumb crusts they sell at the supermarket. You know the ones. I'd be happier pulverizing a bunch of graham crackers with melted butter for my chiffon pie than use one of those. Just think of the "chiffonade" of possibilities! (I couldn't resist:)

Off the top of my head, I can think of just a few of the "crumbs" I've used as a crust for chiffon pie. I know I've used all sorts of cookies crumbs, granola, macaroons, brownies, oatmeal, gingersnaps, and even corn flakes. I get a thrill flavoring the melted butter with assorted spices that blend well with the kind of crumbs I'm using. Liqueur is a lively flavoring in place of vanilla or almond extract. Oh, I forgot to tell you the best part about using crumb crusts vs dough crusts. Dough crusts don't hold the moisture as well and it tends to get a bit soggy, where crumb crust holds up better. Hmmm...it seems Pieman Strause did know a little something about chiffon pies:) Just take a peek at Anna's recipe for Brownie-Bottom White Chocolate Raspberry Chiffon Pie. Seriously, how cool is that? Did you read her recipe made the Honor Roll at the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchens? The possibilities are endless, I tell ya? Or, did I say that already

Foodsayers chant "the pie is the next cupcake." If that's the case, I can't think of a better time to revive the Chiffon Pie. It's quick, it's versatile, and you probably have any number of intriguing ingredients hanging around the pantry. In Fannie Merritt Farmer's The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, (1943) there are recipes for Lemon Chiffon Pie, Coffee Chiffon Pie, Eggnog Chiffon Pie, Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, and Strawberry Chiffon Pie. Gelatin was used in all her pie recipes. If you don't have any unflavored gelatin hanging around, and you're squeamish about beating uncooked egg whites, try use flavored Jell-O granules. As a matter of fact, did you know, at one time the folks at Jell-O sold a Jell-O Chiffon Pie Filling? Look at this ad.

"Chiffon pies are absolutely wonderful,
rather like elegant Victorian ladies, quivery or trembly, always delicate, but with a sound, well-bread constitution."

Marion Cunningham, The Fannie Farmer Baking Book 1984.

I can't think of a better time of the year to re-introduce Chiffon Pies in all their refreshing elegance. Why not try a No-Bake Chiffon Pie for a light and airy Springtime dessert? They're so easy to make. How cool would it be to "bake" each guest their very own mini chiffon pie? You could make the crumb crust the night before, fill it early in the morning and just let it chill!

If you would prefer not to risk any possible of contamination from Salmonella, you could use a Bavarian Cream filling. Technically, it won't whip up a "true" Chiffon Pie because it doesn't contain beaten egg whites but the texture is quite similar. I read that you can prepare a "Swiss Meringue" over simmering water until the whites hit 140 degrees. You need to increase the sugar to 3 tablespoons to stabilize the whites. It seems to have worked out beautifully for this Butternut Squash Chiffon Pie. Here's a recipe from Martha Stewart for "Swiss Meringue." Of course, you can use powdered egg whites with true success. (I use both powdered and organic eggs depending on the whether I'm serving for company or for just Marion and myself)
Swiss Meringue
4 large egg whites at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 pinch cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Fill medium saucepan one quarter full with water. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring water to a simmer.
2. Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of electric mixer, and place over saucepan. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Test by rubbing between your fingers.
3. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use meringue immediately.
If all else fails, there's always Grasshopper Pie! According to the folks at Cook's Country, where I harvested this Grasshopper Pie image, Grasshopper Pie was born during the 1950s, when chiffon pies were all the rage!
In closing, I'd like to leave you with a few of my favorite crumb crusts. Remember, store bought graham cracker crust is always an option and perhaps a better way of introducing chiffon pie to your family and friends. First up is sugar cookie-crust. I know the picture of my Lemon Chiffon Pie is a bit "fuzzy," but I took it in a snap and that is that. If you notice, it's even on a paper plate:) I used the sugar cookie crust for this and let me tell you, Marion loved it!!! I didn't get a chance to actually eat the crust this time because I had spent the days prior at the dentist:) By the time I was feeling better, it was demolished!!! I don't use a food processor for this recipe but it is so much easier!!!
Sugar Cookie Crust
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut into slices
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
In food processor, process first three ingredients for one minute or until crumbly. Add egg and vanilla with processor running until mixture forms a smooth dough.
Now this is what I call "easy as pie."
Corn Flake Pastry
4 cups corn flakes cereal
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
Roll the corn flakes to make 1 cup of fine crumbs. (if you have a food processor use it!) Add sugar, cinnamon and melted butter to crumbs; stir well. Press mixture firmly into an 8-inch pie plate. Fill with your favorite chiffon filling and chill.
I prepare this recipe for Coconut Crust whenever I'm seeking a breeze of piña colada. It works GREAT with the following recipe for Coffee Rum Chiffon Pie from the one and only Louis P. De Gouy.
Coffee Rum Chiffon Pie
Mix together in the top of a double boiler, 1 tablespoon of unflavored gelatin and 3 tablespoons of good rum. Let stand 5 mintues, then stir in 1/3 cup of fine granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 3 well-beaten egg yolks. Gradually, and a little at a time, add 1 cup of very strong coffee, beating briskly after each addition. When thoroughly blended, place over hot water and cook, stirring constantly until mixture coats the spoon heavily. Remove from hot water and cool. When thoroughly cold, fold in 3 stiffly beaten egg whites, seasoned with a few grains of salt and flavored with 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Sweeten with 1/3 cup of sugar. Beat until foamy. Pour as evenly as possible into a 9-inch pre-baked shell (or make my favorite crumb crust for this pie below) and chill until firm. Serve cold topped with unflavored and unsweetened whipped cream forced through a pastry bag, using a fancy tube.
Coconut Crust:
1. In a mixing bowl combine 2 cups flaked coconut and 3 tablespoons butter melted.
2. Turn coconut mixture into a 9-inch pie plate.
3. Press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides to form a firm even crust.
4. Bake in 325° oven for about 20 minutes or until golden.
5. Cool thoroughly.
The greenhouse is opening tomorrow and we've been working our butts off getting prepared. I miss visiting all of my favorite blogs but it looks like I'm done at the greenhouse for the time being and I should be back to visiting tomorrow. Have fun dreaming up all kinds of chiffon pies!!! Just let your imagination go wild. And, be sure and let us know when we can get a visual:)
1. BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking... (preview available @ google books)
1.. Tangerine Chiffon Pie
2. Watermelon Chiffon Pie
3. "Mile High" Lemon Chiffon Pie
4. Butterscotch Chiffon Pie with Pecan Topping
5. Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
6. Eggnog Chiffon Pie (Dave Lieberman)


  1. Louise love your posts, for me lemon is nice in everything so this chiffon lemon day is amazing, nice recipe, xx gloria

  2. Thanks for posting all these great chiffon pie recipes! Yum!

  3. Another one of your great posts Louise! You do bring me back a while; I use to make this light chiffon pie; haven't made this in years. They seem to have fallen off my radar; you are giving me the urge to try this again. They are so light and tasty; feels like to are eating a cloud.

  4. I will take that grasshopper pie. I remember those. Yummy.

  5. Hmmm... I've yet to have a lemon pie that I loved, but I'm not sure I've had a chiffon...

  6. Always enjoy the soft, fluffiness of chiffon cake :) ...have not tried a chiffon pie though.

  7. You could have linked to my strawberry chiffon pie. And you should make it. Easy-peasy. Use a graham cracker crust, and no baking is involved. And it's even kinda low calorie!

  8. I'm so glad you liked it Gloria. Lemons have so much to offer and I love exploring with them...

    Which one are you going to try yummy? I'd love to see it.

    Chiffon pies have gone out of favor once again, Rita. I'm sure it's because of the salmonella scare from years ago. I do hope you share one of your favorites with us. Come back and leave the link...

    Me too, Chaya I remember them well and wouldn't mind a teeny slice about now.

    Lemon is nice in chiffon, Channon but most any fruit proves delightfully blissful.

    Chiffon Pie is an essence in itself, tigerfish. Perhaps, there is an Asian version. I think I saw a recipe somewhere.

    And YOU should have left the link Marjie. You have easy-peasy Strawberry Chiffon Pie over there and you didn't share???

  9. Oh, rats! I missed it! I can see I'm going to have to check your blog first thing in the morning in order to direct what I make later in the day. I'd hate to miss a good pie holiday again!

  10. Wonderful post which is very well written and presented. I ahve been blogging from quite a while but perhaps today found out your BEST BLOG on the blogosphere Lousie... ! Loved the genesis of cake given by you with elaborate facts and data. Hence forth i'm following your every post. thanks for stopping by my space too...cheers !

  11. Wow wee! What a post. You've got me craving pie. Lemon chiffon, just in time to bring on spring. And then I saw that grasshopper pie . . .mmm, one of my other favorites. I can't believe you wrote how you and yeast don't mix - me either! That's why I don't write about baking. But I'll smush, crush, stomp on cookie crumbs anytime!

  12. I think the nicest thing about chiffon pies is it cuts the strength of the original...as in lemon or key lime. Makes it lower in calories and not as sweet.
    As for the cakes, an orange chiffon is a dream. A&P used to have them in their bakery, but not for years. Last year right about this time, I posted a super recipe my mother used to make with an orange chiffon cake.
    Love your crusts, Louise!

  13. New goal: PB chiffon pie with sugar cookie crust.

  14. I've never made a chiffon pie before but I think it's time I tried.

  15. belated happy lemon chiffon pie day - corn syrup and chiffon pies are thin on the ground where I come from but I am intrigued by the science about sugar in cookies and I love crumb crusts, could dive into that grasshopper pie which looks splendid!

  16. Don't worry, Pattie. I have tons of other days to celebrate. I need to get working on my calendar so you and others have easier access to delicious days:)

    Oh Sonia I'm blushing:) Your words are too kind and greatly appreciated. Thanks for the follow!!!

    Now that you mention it, Lin Ann both pies do welcome Spring. Now if it would just get here!!! I have yeastaphobia, big time!!! I guess we'll just stay in the smush, crush, and stomp baking category!!!

    I think I remember that recipe Barbara. As a matter of fact, I may have an A&P leaflet around here somewhere with a chiffon recipe of some kind. I'll check...someday:)

    You go for it, Duckie. Please share...

    You will be delighted, Pam. Chiffon Pie is indescribably delicious!!!

    Dive away, Johanna! Save a piece for Sylvia:)

  17. The Grasshopper pie kinda looks like a chocolate mousse cake for some reason. It looks delicious, too.

  18. I totally agree, Jamie. And, it is scrumptious for sure!!!


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise