This is so good. You are going to read the list of ingredients and think I’ve flipped my lid. But it is honestly one of the most delicious and…don’t laugh…elegant desserts. This is Cracker Pie. It is my mother’s recipe and she has been making it since we were small kids (please see the notes at the end for the full provenance of the recipe). It takes next to no effort to put together and cooks quickly. I have made it in pie form, tart form and dropped onto a cookie sheet for cookies. Because it is essentially a meringue, when you make cookies, the result is a light, airy macaroon-ish treat (I really wanted to say macaroon-ey there).
I have two important disclaimers here. The pie, as pictured is completely below my mother’s standards. As she makes it, it is a pie that truly highlights the pecans. She leaves the pecans in large chopped pieces. The pecans are the centerpiece when she makes it. I, having a five- and a seven-year-old, made every possible effort to hide the pecans or the kids wouldn’t have touched it with a ten foot pole. I did this by whizzing up the pecans in my food processor until the largest pieces were smaller than a pea. And since I had the contraption dirty already, I then whirred up the crackers, too. Leave them recognizable. You aren’t trying to make crumbs out of them. You could also put the crackers in a re-sealable bag and break them up with your hands.
Finally, my mother has never stooped so low as to defile the dessert with chocolate chips. But, we love it that way, as well as without. Try either or both. If you are not having to disguise the pecans for small people, I think it would be lovely with a decorated pecan top. Someday.
Preparation: (8 to 10 servings)
2. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
3. Beat egg whites until stiff. Add the baking powder and sugar gradually while beating. The egg whites will magically take on a thick and sticky consistency.
4. Fold in the cracker crumbs and pecans.
5. Bake in a buttered 9″ pie plate for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
A note on separating eggs: When I separate eggs, I use three bowls. I crack the egg and carefully move yolk back and forth between the two shell halves while the white drops into one of the small bowls below. When I have made sure that no yolk has made it into the whites, I will then (and only then) transfer that one white to the big, impeccably clean bowl in which I am going to whip the whites. One bit of yolk will kill the ability of egg whites to whip up the way they need to. So, one bowl for whipping, one small bowl for breaking and transferring, and a small bowl for yolks. This may seem like a bit much, but nothing is more aggravating than having the last yolk break on you and having to start all over.
A note on whipped cream and Pecans: I made my whipped cream with a few spoonfuls of vanilla sugar and it was divine. Also, I am routinely disappointed by grocery store pecans. Often they are puny and ugly. They are always expensive. So I buy my pecans from a spot in Wichita Falls called The Pecan Shed. They send me a giant bag of Pawnees that I keep in the refrigerator for months. I use them for baking and salads and in pancakes. If you have trouble finding good pecans, try The Pecan Shed. I have been very happy with their products and service.Lily was reading to me and waiting as patiently as she was able for the cracker pie to come out of the oven. While I’m thinking about it, this is a sticky recipe. So, if you do make it into cookies, try a spritz of Pam non-stick spray on parchment or just be prepared to use your spatula very carefully as you remove it from your silicone baking sheet with a spatula. I didn’t have any break, but I had to be careful.
I am happy to report that my mom did some sleuthing with her pal, Martha, and they figured out where this recipe came from to my mom. And it turns out I had the name on the original card all along…Christi White. My mom thinks the card dates to 1962 0r 1963. I’d love to know where Christie got the recipe or if she invented it!
Post Post Script: (added April 2013)
Turns out that Christi White is Christi Dotter. It also turns out that she got the recipe from her friend Robin, who used to make it with a lemon curd layer. In a charming chain of emails between old friends who determined to get to the bottom of all this, Robin responded to Christi as follows:
“In the spring of 1967, my having moved to W.F. in ’66, Josephine Stayton had a luncheon for six women including Dorothy and me. Every single thing she served was perfection – and how I appreciate that, especially now, because she should have been long past the time in life of feeling compelled to cook fancy party food. She was probably near our age. She made simple syrup with mint, lemon and orange for our iced tea. It was heavenly. She had Helen Corbitt’s shrimp and rice casserole, homemade rolls and for dessert – cracker torte. I got all of her recipes and have used them consistently since.
A year or two after that luncheon, our best friends from my childhood home, asked to ‘stop’ by our home on Hursh as they drove back to Missouri from their winter in Phoenix. They were to arrive at 7 p.m. (I can’t remember asking them where they were sleeping.) I’m sure they were ready for a strong scotch and water, but that never crossed my mind. Instead, wanting to impress them with my fancy baking, I served them cracker torte and coffee. As I handed the dessert plate to Jeannette, she said, “Oh, Lona’s Elegant Dessert.” “What?” I asked. She replied, “Yes, Lona Kineberger is known for this dessert.” Lona was my grandmother’s best friend and known as an excellent cook, but I was crushed that the ONLY dessert I could make at that point was already famous in Butler, Missouri. I called my grandmother the next day and she said, “Oh, yes, honey, Lona makes it, but mine is better. I have a surprise ingredient.” She then proceeded to tell me about the lemon curd layer in between the meringue and the whipped cream.”
Through a little more sleuthing in my generational level, it turned out that Robin just so happens to be Robin Frazier. Robin Frazier is the mother of Kara Locke. Kara Locke is one of my sister-in-law, Amy’s, oldest dearest pals…who happens to be married to a guy with whom my husband went to college. Small, itty, tiny, amazing world, wouldn’t you agree? Food and connections and memories…these are the ties that bind. I love the stories that inevitably come with old, handwritten note-cards.