Chiffon Pie (1939)

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Thu Aug 2 03:34:28 UTC 2001

   OED's "chiffon pie" entry seems similar to John Mariani's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN FOOD & DRINK and Jean Anderson's AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK.  All state the earliest cite as a 1929 Beverly Hills cookbook, but the inventor is not identified.
   From the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, 15 May 1939, pg. 8, col. 6:

_Its Inventor Tells How to Make a Chiffon Pie_
_Reveals Secrets of Crust_
   _and Filling and Offers 6_
   _Recipes for Home Bakers_

By Clementine Paddleford

   It was a red-headed, modest boy named Monroe Boston Strause, of Los Angeles, who originated America's chiffon pies back in 1921.  It was purely a crazy idea at that time, yet today chiffon pie is known to people in every walk of life and is the most talked of and highly published of all pies.  Monroe Boston Strause is now America's No. 1 pie doctor, retained as a consultant by forty-eight bakeries in every part of the United States.
   He travels by air, dropping into client plants for observation--tasting, testing and demonstrating periodically.  The "pie doctor" also supplies 108 bakeries with consultations by mail.  Pie ailments are his specialties.  He lectures, too, before groups of housewives and at schools of home economics, revealing baker's secrets practical for home use.  He writes regular columns for four trade publications and has just published a book called "Pie Marches On."
   OVERDOES--His spectacular pie career amuses and amazes this friendly young man in his late thirties.  He was the son of a farmer, reared on a California sugar beet ranch.  He had no knack or interest then for cooking, but he had a good appetite.  The dish he liked best was served at a neighbor's table on the next farm.  This neighbor family from Texas liked hot cornstarch pudding over hot biscuits.  Monroe couldn't get enough of it until one day he got too much.  That overeating proved a trifle which changed his destiny.
   PIE TINKERER--At sixteen, with a little money saved, Monroe went into a partnership with his uncle Mike, a Los Angeles baker.  It wasn't much of a bakery--not yet!  Cream pies were the stock in trade--butterscotch, chocolate, banana cream.  Monroe hated the very looks of these pies, for they reminded him of cornstarch pudding and they tasted much the same.
   Every spare moment the lad tinkered with pie fillings, set on their improvement.  One day he got hold of a cookbook with a recipe for French cream, typical of the filling French chefs used in eclairs.  Not a new idea, but new commercially.  In this the egg whites were beaten, then a boiled sugar syrup added as for meringues and the cornstarch filling folded in.  Monroe tried using the recipe for pie, by adding more egg whites, but the hot syrup toughened them.  Next he beat up the whites and left the sugar out.  A light spongy filling this time, but soft.  By increasing the egg whites to four times the number used in the original French cream formula, a light filling resulted that stood up like a soldier on parade.
   "Like chiffon," Monroe's mother said, surveying his creation--and that became its name.  In a pie shell the chiffon filling was peaked high.  The baker rounded it off dome fashion, making a pie high in the middle, a change in pie design.
   CRUMB CRUST--His mother was called into consultation again.  The (Col. 7--ed.) crust seemed thick for such a dainty substance.  She suggested graham cracker crumbs for a pastry shell.  Crumb crusts were then unknown.  The first crumb mixture had too much shortening.  It could not be rolled.  When baked, it stuck to the pan.  He had better luck next time, when he added corn syrup to the crumb and butter combination--about one tablespoon to a pie.  He worked the mixture into a dough, then patted it over the pan, covering only the bottom, a pip shell without sides.  Onto this, baked and cooled, the chiffon filling was poured then whipped cream added over all.
   Here was something brand new in pie technique, a sideless pie shell, of crumbs, a filling firm yet light as air, standing high in the middle and low at the sides.  Proud of his masterpiece, he packed it up to show the chef of a leading Los Angeles restaurant.
   WONDER PIE--The chef had French hysterics with excitement.  It was a "tarte merveilleuse"--if only two flavors could be put in layers on one crust!  Why not combine a chiffon French eggnog with chocolate chiffon?  The chocolate made the bottom layer, the golden eggnog the next, whipped cream in a deep drift the top.  One more touch the Frenchman demanded--curls of shaved chocolate over the cream.
   BLACK BOTTOM--Now for a name.  Cutting the pie revealed a black bottom, the new dance of the season.  Thus it was that blackbottom pie took Los Angeles by storm.  The chef ordered the creation as a novelty to sell at 35 cents a slice.  Within three weeks forty pies were served a day.  Within three years Monroe boasted the second largest pie business on the west coast.
   DOCTOR'S ADVICE--Yet the (Col. 8--ed.) pie doctor didn't charge a cent for the two hours we took of his time borrowing advice and fool-proof chiffon pie recipes for readers of this column.  He did deliver a scolding.  Women pie bakers do one thing that makes him wild: They let the chiffon pie's filling cool before folding in the whipped egg whites.  "Dead wrong!" he says.  "Have the whites ready to go into the filling the minute it comes from the flame.  Then the heat cooks the eggs, imprisoning the air, and a fluffy texture results."  For perfect chiffons follow the doctor's prescription.  We borrowed six recipes he calls best from a collection of a hundred chiffons he has taught hotel chefs to make.  Read each prescription three times, he advises, in giving these recipes.  Lemon chiffon pie, he tells us, is the best all-year seller, but fresh strawberry pie leads in its season.  He gives a recipe that may be used for each berry as it comes into season.  The chiffoning of !
pineapple is comparatively simpl
e, as his pie needs no refrigeration.  In this the hot, cooked pineapple, coming in contact with the egg whites, gelatinizes the whites sufficiently to keep the filling firm.  Crushed pineapple must be used; chunky pieces do not stay in suspension.  Today's leaflet gives a recipe for orange chiffon, for cherry chiffon, and the Strause way with the graham cracker crust which was a distinctive part of the original chiffon pie.  Although other shells now are being used for chiffons, the Pie Doctor still prefers the graham cracker one.  The only reason it isn't used more is that both professional pie men and home bakers have unhappy results because they have no proper recipe.  The famous Strause recipe appearing in print the first time in his new book is given in today's leaflet "Pie King's Chiffons."

(WHERE ARE ALL THESE NYHT HOME INSTITUTE LEAFLETS??...A photo accompanies the article--ed.)

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