A Harte Appetite: "Puttin' on the Ritz"

Oct 11, 2021

Recently the Ritz, the most famous hotel in the world, reopened its doors after a $450 million renovation.  Situated on Paris’ Place Vendôme, where dukes and princes used to live, the accommodation is no less palatial than any royal residence and those who are able to afford a room there (running as high as $25,000 a night) surely must feel like a king or a queen, which was the goal of the hotel’s founder, César Ritz.

Ernest Hemingway was a regular guest who even took some of the credit for the hotel’s liberation during World War II (starting in the bar which these days bears his name).  He once observed, “When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz.”  And no wonder that when in 1934 Nabisco introduced a new cracker brushed with coconut oil to make it look rich that it named it Ritz.

Just as the Ritz has become the most famous hotel in the world, the Ritz cracker has become arguably the most famous snack food in the world.  (Nonetheless, even though I’ve never stayed at the hotel, I feel fairly confident that the evening turndown service does not feature an eponymous cracker placed on your pillow.)

The Ritz cracker was a considerable improvement over previous crackers.  Not pale or square but golden and round the Ritz was the result of leaving out the leavening and adding more shortening to make a crisper, more buttery product.  Initially selling for just nineteen cents a box, it was an immediate sensation, with sales of five billion in just the first year.

Also causing a sensation was a recipe put on the back of the Ritz box for Mock Apple Pie.  Consisting primarily of the crackers soaked in a  lemony syrup, amazingly, it looks and tastes exactly like the real thing.  Talk about “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

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Ritzy Salted Caramel “Apple” Pie

This recipe adapted from Delish.com is an enhanced version of the classic Ritz mock apple pie featuring not only an abundance of Ritz crackers in the filling, but a topping of crushed crackers and a glaze of salty caramel on top. 

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
2 cups water
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
60 Ritz crackers, divided
5 teaspoons lemon juice
2 and ½ teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1 and 2/3 cups brown sugar, divided
9 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Combine water, granulated sugar, and cream of tartar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add 35 whole crackers and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Fill pastry shell with cracker mixture, and sprinkle with lemon juice and 2 teaspoons cinnamon.  Crush remaining 25 crackers and combine with 2/3 cup brown sugar, remaining ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and 5 tablespoons butter, melted.  Sprinkle over pie.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then cover edges of pie crust with foil, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake 18-20 minutes longer until filling has set.  Meanwhile combine cream, remaining 1 cup brown sugar, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter and boil for 8 minutes, stirring, until sauce coats a spoon.  Cool to room temperature, drizzle over baked pie and sprinkle with salt.