(Not) Apple Pie

What’s happening?

What you'll need‘Mock apple pie’ is said to have been made by the American pioneers, who lacked fresh fruit on their travels. Although there is no fruit in the recipe, to the unsuspecting tongue there is the distinct taste of apples.
Your tongue and nose both contain a number of nerve receptors that respond to the presence of certain chemicals. Contrary to what you might have heard about your tongue being divided up into different areas, buds all over your tongue are capable of detecting different tastes. Volatile chemicals evaporate and move into your nasal cavity, triggering smells that also contribute to a food’s unique flavour. The combination of these factors is responsible for giving the things you eat their characteristic odours and tastes.
It’s possible to trick your tastebuds by using the right combination of foods. Some chemicals, such as certain salts or sugars, will help mask the effects of bitter or sour flavours. This way, it’s possible to highlight the tastes you want while hiding those you don’t want. On their own, none of the chemicals in your fake apple pie’s ingredients tasted like apples. Together, however, they overlapped to create an artificial taste that was comparable to the real deal.


If you were to think about salty foods, chances are you’d think of potato chips or perhaps a mature cheddar. Yet a number of foods you might not have ever considered to contain lots of sodium chloride – or table salt – could indeed contain your daily recommended dose of sodium in a single serving.
Many breakfast cereals are loaded with salt. The reason is simple – this simple chemical covers some flavours while enhancing others. Food manufacturers can get away with using low quality ingredients (not to mention less of them) to flavour their product if it’s sprinkled heavily with salt. In the right proportions you’ll hardly notice, however if you have too much of it, your sodium levels can go up. Which might not be a good thing for your health.

Warning: This activity requires baking in a hot oven and cooking on a stove. Younger scientists should get an adult to help.

You will need

  • Short crust pastry dough
  • Butter
  • 35 Ritz biscuits
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Cream of tartar
  • Lemon juice and rind (zest)
  • Ground cinnamon
  • An egg
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Saucepan
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife
  • Pie dish (approximately 20cm across)
  • Oven

What to do

  1. Preheat your oven to 220oC.
  2. Smear butter around the inside of your pie dish before lining the inside of the dish with about ½ cm of flattened pastry dough.
  3. Coarsely crumble the biscuits and spread them across the pastry.
  4. Combine 1¾ cup of water, 2 cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar in a saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat before letting simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Once the syrup has cooled, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  6. Pour the mixture over the crumbled biscuits.
  7. Add a layer of pastry dough for a lid to the pie, pinching in the edges for the crust. Cut slots into the dough (to prevent steam from building up).
  8. Wipe egg white over the pastry dough and sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon.
  9. Bake in your oven for 30 minutes.
  10. On serving, ask your guest to guess what ingredients you used in your ‘(Not) Apple Pie’.
    What you'll need
    You’ll need these ingredients.
    Boiling the sugar
    Simmer the sugar and cream of tartar.
    the pie shell
    Soak the crackers with the syrup.
    piece of pie
    Not apple pie!