Complete List of Recipes & Reflections

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Apple in My Pie (Milopita - Μηλόπιτα)

My Milopita fresh from the oven - Click Image to Enlarge

Apples are among the earliest fruits known to Europeans. The ancient Greeks have left us numerous references to the apple both in literary and philosophical sources. According to a couple of accounts, it was the god Dionysus who first introduced the apple to mortals. The apples from a town called Sidus, near the ancient city of Corinth were among the most prized of antiquity.

Today, Greek apple farming takes place largely in central and northern Greece, especially around the village of Zagora on the slopes of Mt. Pelion, and in the vicinity of the city of Kastoria in Macedonia. Some apple farming also takes place near Tripolis, a city in the central part of the Peloponnese. The apples of all three areas are registered as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) / Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) products of Greece by the European Union. “Apples Kastoria” (Μήλο Καστοριάς) are especially prized for their flavour. Greece produces nearly double the amount of apples per capita (33.4 kg.) than the United States (18.4 kg.)¹, so there are more than enough apples to go around and Greeks consume them liberally.

In my family, apples are enjoyed raw as well as cooked in various manners. Baked apples with a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon were my favourite fruit dish as a child. However, as I grew older –though perhaps not wiser– my tastes grew ever more sophisticated and I sought different variations on an already good thing. I bounced around for a while between American style apple pies and German apple strudels (Canada is a very multicultural place). But it was not until my cousin, Eleni, went to work at a bakery near her home in Athens (Greece) that I finally discovered what I still consider to be the ultimate apple pie; even though it is more like a tart than a pie, strictly speaking. A good part of my summer vacation in Greece that year was spent in the kitchen of my cousin’s home making this pie with her, so she gets all the credit. However, pie recipes were not all I picked up from Eleni that summer. Her parting gift to me at the airport was a two volume compendium of Greek Mythology that has seen good use over the intervening years. As a result, my cousin Eleni, this apple pie recipe, and Greek Mythology are all inextricably linked within my memory. So, in honour of my dear cousin, I present three ancient apple tales and a recipe involving three apples, to titillate the imagination and tantalize the palate...

Atalanta and Hippomenes, by: Guido Reni c.1612.

When it came time for the beautiful huntress Atalanta to marry -a prospect she did not relish- she was persuaded to accept as her husband the man who could best her in a footrace. (Atalanta’s fleetness of foot was legendary.) Her only condition for the contest was that anyone who took up the challenge and lost would be put to death. Despite these terrible terms, the beauty of the maiden was such that many suitors presented themselves for the challenge, but all of them were defeated by her in the race and summarily executed. Then one day, along came a clever fellow by the name of Hippomenes and he had a plan… Once the race was underway, he jumped into the lead and strategically dropped three golden apples at intervals behind him along the course, right in Atalanta’s path before she could overtake him. As she had never seen such striking baubles before, Atalanta paused long enough to pick each one up. This distraction proved enough to grant Hippomenes the victory. Moral of the story: Savvy individuals use beautiful ornaments to distract the attention of the object(s) of their affection(s) in order to get their way. [Grin.]

The Judgement of Paris, by Peter Paul Rubens, ca 1636

A veritable orchard of discord was sown by Priam’s son, Paris, who granted a golden apple to Aphrodite in the first beauty contest on record. Zeus had appointed Paris as the judge for a beauty pageant between three goddesses: Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera; and instructed him to choose the fairest by awarding the aforementioned apple. As a reward for his choosing her, Aphrodite promised Paris the most beautiful woman in the world (who also happened to be another man’s wife): Helen of Sparta. It was this event which ultimately launched a thousand ships to reduce the city of Troy. This is also the origin of the phrase “Apple of Discord” (μήλο της Έριδος) which is a euphemism that is used to refer to the root or crux of an argument or dispute. Moral of the story: It is generally not a good idea to make too public a declaration of your preference for one form of beauty over another. After all, who wants another Trojan War?!

Greek postage stamp commemorating the Athens Olympic Games of 1906 depicting Hercules (left) and Atlas (right).

As part of his Twelve Labours, the demi-god Hercules was charged by King Eurystheus with the task of stealing the golden apples that grew at the western edge of the world in the orchard of the goddess Hera; which was tended by the nymphs known as the Hesperides. The golden apples were guarded by a hundred-headed serpent named Ladon who never slept and lay with his body curled about the tree upon which they grew. The Titan known as Atlas was also stationed nearby, straining under the burden of the earth and sky which he bore upon his shoulders as eternal punishment for waging a war (known as the Titanomachy) against the twelve Olympian gods.

After a number of memorable adventures and a journey of a couple months, Hercules made it to the garden of the Hesperides and slew Ladon with an arrow. Whereupon, he enlisted the aid of Atlas to retrieve the golden apples for him, as he did not want to offend Hera directly by picking them himself. Atlas was only too happy to oblige, provided that Hercules agreed to shoulder the weight of the earth and sky in order to free him up for the caper. Hercules accepted the deal and took up the load while Atlas skipped off to pluck the golden apples. The deed accomplished, Atlas returned to smugly inform Hercules that he had decided to deliver the apples himself to King Eurystheus, leaving the hero to continue bearing his enormous encumbrance in the meantime. Suffice it to say, this development did not please Hercules who was already straining under the unaccustomed load of the Titan’s crushing burden. Begging Atlas’ assistance to rearrange the load on his shoulders and to cushion it with some padding, Hercules managed to fool him and slipped the giant load back onto the shoulders of the Titan. Whereupon, he picked up the apples along with his gear, bade Atlas adieu, and set off for the court of King Eurystheus to deliver the rare fruits. Moral of the story: Sam should not take it upon himself to write lengthy blog posts while his wife is packed and waiting for him to leave for a week’s much deserved vacation in Muskoka(!).

With that, I bid you all a wonderful summer vacation period. If you are traveling, be safe and beware of making deals with Titans who are bearing loads you do not want to end up holding yourself, or at least, not for very long…

Oh, and I almost forgot the recipe! Clever fellow that I am, I made this ornamental dessert as an offering for my wife’s birthday; it was an unforced labour of love in the interest of ongoing harmonious relations. [Grin.] Needless to say, my skill as a cook was likely one the reasons my wife even considered marrying me in the first place. Sigh… Oh well, we all have our burdens to bear! Isn’t that right, dear? When all is said and done, my wife is the apple in my pie. Happy Birthday Sweetie! (She hates it when I call her that.) LOL!


3 medium sized apples (I used the Granny Smith variety as they are tart as opposed to sweet, and excellent for baking.)
1 ½ cups (375 ml.) of self-rising flour (regular flour with 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder will do in a pinch)
2 eggs
1 cup (250 ml.) of white sugar
3/4 of a cup (125 ml.) of butter
13 cup (60 ml.) of milk
¼ cup (60 ml.) of brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml.) grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon (15 ml.) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml.) ground cinnamon

A pinch of salt


1. Peel and core the apples and slice them into sixteenths and set them aside in bowl of water with some lemon juice squeezed into it to keep the apple slices from browning.
2. Sift flour with salt (and the baking powder if required).
3. Using a mixer, cream a ½ cup (125 ml.) of the butter and the 1 cup (250 ml.) of white sugar until smooth.
4. While continually mixing, add the egg yolks one at a time alternating with a tablespoonful (15 ml.) of flour in between yolks to achieve a smooth and creamy consistency in the mix.
5. Add the rest of the flour in stages, alternately adding the milk in stages as well. Then add the vanilla extract and lemon rind and mix until the batter is smooth.
6. In a separate mixing bowl, whip the egg whites into stiff peaks and then using a spatula, carefully fold them into the batter.
7. Butter the sides of a pie baking dish and pour in the finished batter.
8. Arrange the apple slices in a perpendicular fashion overtop of the batter in a circular pattern to form an outer ring of apple slices (as pictured in the first photo above). Fill the center of the ring with any remaining slices.
9. Melt the remaining ¼ cup of butter along with the ¼ cup of brown sugar, mix in the cinnamon and pour the mixture over the apple slices in a circular fashion, making sure to distribute it evenly in a long even stream.
10. Place baking dish in an oven pre-heated to 350° F. (180° C.) and bake for approximately 60 minutes.

Let the Milopita stand to cool for at least a couple hours before serving.

Kali Orexi! (Bon Appetit)

Sam Sotiropoulos
Greek Gourmand™
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.


¹The Mediterranean Diet: Constituents and Health Promotion


Peter G said...

What a glorious milopita Sam! And thank you for the great history lesson as well...I always learn something when I visit. I'm sure this milopita will bring more than harmonious relations...LOL!

farida said...

This is a fun and quite an informative post:) I love your apple pie, it looks delicious are your apples are so perfectly arranged:) Nice dedication to your wife:)

Peter M said...

This was a wonderful read and funny you mentioned apples from Kastoria, as I met a farmer from there last year and business is good!

I'm waiting for my "komatarra" O milopita....

Lulu Barbarian said...

What an absolutely gorgeous milopita!

deb said...

This is beautiful and thanks for the history. Very interesting indeeed! Happy Sunday Sam!

Amy said...

Thanks you for the beautiful stories and the GREAT apple recipes. The pie looks delicious!

Lore said...

I'm getting the hang of this: so pita means pie, right?
I love that you can really see the apple slices' contour in the pie. Beautiful!
That Hippomenes guy played it clever :)

Lucy said...

OMG! a work of art! Just beautiful, and bet it tastes just as good! ;-)

the Aspirant Abecedarian said...

Fantastic! I am so glad I found your blog. Greek is a type of cuisine I have never explored. You give me courage to get out of my comfort zone! I will be coming back...

Liliana said...

What a beautiful pie - I mean milopita. I love apples and I can only eat them cooked so I definitely will be making this real soon.

Very interesting blog. I definitely will add your link to my blog.


Yannis said...

i'm totally going to try this Sam.
your blog simply rocks.
damn! :)


David Hall said...

Sam, superb pudding, I like the batter mix and never done that before. Will be on the menu as soon as our apples come out!


vonsachsen said...

I love this post!
First of all, I enjoyed - as always - reading the stories from Greek mythology, then, I liked the recipe and was quite relieved that I could actually use Granny Smith apples for the pie. When you talked about the Greek apples, I was starting to think that I have a good reason for a new holiday in Greece, even this year ;P
Also, I´m glad you have such a patient wife, so that we can enjoy lenghty posts of yours :D
I hope you have had a pleasant weekend.

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Peter G - Thanks for the compliments and yes the milopita was instrumental in many more ways than one... ;)

farida - I am glad you enjoyed the post and the dedication to my wife, thanks for taking the time to comment!

Peter - As the milopita didn't last very long, you will have to wait until the next time I make it (or you can make it yourself), though I did bring you back a trout from up north so perhaps that will do as a substitute in the meantime?

Lulu - Glad you thought so! My wife was pretty impressed as well. :)

Deb - you are most welcome! It was my pleasure, truly.

Amy - I only wish I could have passed pieces of it around through the web! lol Thanks for your compliment!

Lore - LOL! Yes, "pita" means pie, and boy, that clever Hippomenes was definitely worthy of emulation! ;)

Lucy - You would have won that bet! It tasted as good as it looked and nothing was left of it in a very short while! Thanks for dropping by and commenting. :)

the Aspirant Abecedarian - Great! There are so many wonderful traditional cuisines out there that it's often hard to pick and choose, but you will definitely enjoy trying Greek food!

Liliana - thanks for the comment and thanks for the link! I have reciprocated in kind and added your blog to my blogroll. I love the title! I have a cookbook addiction as well so I know exactly where you are coming from! :)

Yannis - great! let me know how it works out! Thank you for the encouragement!

David - I appreciate your kind words and look forward to hearing how the recipe worked out for you when your apples come in!

vonsachsen - Both you and I are glad that I have such a patient wife! lol Thanks for your comment and encouragement. I would love to hear how the recipe works out for you, so please keep me posted! As for needing an excuse to take a trip to Greece... I am sure you will be able to think of another one before long! :)

Dragon said...

Oh my, I think I'm going to like it here. :D My brother's wife is greek and her mother always makes such wonderful sweets. Maybe I can surprise her with this one. Thanks!

justfoodnow said...

This is the best article on apple pie that I have ever read.
You are so talented and reading the whole story, the legends, the gods, the .......

I will be be a constant visitor on your site and am so content to have found you.

You are talented, brilliant and I am sure, an amazing chef.

Congratulations from Cape Town, South Africa.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I found your site through foodgawker a few weeks ago. I only recently found the time to actually try to make this recipe. It was one of the more challenging baked goods that I've tried to make in recent memory but definately worth it in the end. I have one question for you. How do you store the leftovers? Do you refrigerate it or keep it at room temperature?

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Dragon - Welcome and enjoy yourself! I hope you do try the recipe and please do let me know how it works out for you.

justfoodnow - A simple "Thank You" hardly expresses my gratitude for your kind words. In fact, I am humbled and encouraged by your comment. Thank you for visiting and leaving such a comment! You made my day. :)

Anonymous - You can leave it out at room temperature for the first twenty-four hours, just make sure to cover it with a cake cover or some clingy plastic food wrap. After that, you really ought to refrigerate it to maintain its freshness for as long as possible, though refrigeration is not really necessary. I am glad to hear that you tried and liked this recipe! :-)

Martha said...

Sam...I need your help!I fell in love with your milopita photo and have tried the recipe but...I dont know what Ive done wrong. Im in Spain, so havent got cups and I converted all to grams. I converted 2 cups flour to 240g and 1cup sugar to 190g aprox. Do you know if these measurements are more or less ok or what they ought to be. Also I think it might be the mould size. I poured the dough into a 24cm mould...and ended up with a 10 cm high fluffy cake in which the apples sank to the bottom...Can you guide me a bit in the right direction cause I'd love to do it right!THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!

Amanda said...

Hi Sam! Thanks to your recommendation I have this in the oven right now and the house smells Heavenly :) However, I do have one question. In the ingredient list, butter is only listed as 1/2 cup. In the instructions, 1/2 cup of butter is creamed with the white sugar. Then later in the recipe it says to melt the "remaining 1/4 cup of butter" with the brown sugar. That would be a total of 3/4 cup I hope?? My question is basically regarding the batter. Is the batter supposed to have 1/2 cup of butter as indicate in the instructions, or should it have been 1/4 cup? I put in 1/2 cup (in the batter) and then used an additional 1/4 cup for the drizzle topping. Crossing my fingers that all is well!

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Hi Amanda! Yes, you're right. It's 3/4 cup of butter in total, with 1/2 being creamed w/the sugar and the 1/4 remaining is for melting w/the brown sugar! I will correct the list. Thanks for bringing this to my attention! Hope it turns out for you. Let us know!

Amanda said...

Ok made it again and was successful this time. Had to use a 9" springform, didn't have a deep dish pie plate. Would love to know how you kept all the glorious apples above the batter. My batter rose up over mine. I'll post it on my blog and link to you, then I'll stop back by and give you the link. Thanks again! Hopefully my Greek friend will enjoy it.

Nikos said...

Thank you so much for posting this recipe - apple pie is one of my most favourite things!

Demetra said...

So glad that I landed on this post (via Organically Cooked)! I grew up in Montana and didn't even notice an apple. Ever. In my 30s I lived in NY and my love for and fascination with apples began. When I first got to Greece, nine years ago, I didn't find prized apples and I was very disappointed. But recently I have finding the RIGHT APPLES and have renewed my love affair with apples! Even my kids, who already loved apples, have been astonished by the "upgrade." You know, the typical Greek experience: You just have to know!! All this just to say that it was a pleasure to fall onto this post--absolutely loved reading it, esp the mythological components woven into your thoughts and recipe. Been enjoying your column for several years now. THANK YOU!