A few weeks ago I attended a food journalism conference where editors told the assembled writers, “No more grandmother stories.” Everybody has a grandmother. No one wants to hear about her anymore.
The timing couldn’t have been stranger. Just that morning, while wandering around Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, I came across something that I hadn’t seen or thought about in years, something that reminded me of my paternal grandmother, whom I also hadn’t seen in years and about whom I’ve never written. A relic from early childhood, they were strips of pie crust dusted in cinnamon sugar.
At the Market they were called “cinnamon sugar pie fries.” When I was a little kid, they were ‘scraps of leftover pie dough that Nana had decorated with cinnamon sugar and baked.’ Now I think of them as cinnamon pie crust sticks.
Unlike many food writers, I don’t have charming stories of baking with my grandmothers or mother. By the time that I was old enough to whisk eggs or roll out dough, my maternal grandmother was gone and my paternal grandmother had eased out of her role as family cook and baker. As I’ve mentioned before, my mother equated time spent in the kitchen with a prison sentence; you grudgingly did your time and didn’t talk much about it. Needless to say, we didn’t bake together.
I do, however, have that memory of standing in my grandmother’s small, warm kitchen, munching on roughly cut pieces of pie crust decorated with cinnamon and sugar. As a six-year-old, I found few foods as exotic as those sweet yet spicy, flaky yet crunchy, irregularly shaped treats.
Although I don’t bake pies very often, when I do, I save those scraps just as my grandmother used to do and turn them into cinnamon pie crust sticks. While you don’t need a recipe to make them, I will offer one below. Please feel free to fiddle with proportions so that you get the sweetness or spiciness that you crave. Likewise, if you don’t bake pies but still want to try these little sweets, pick up some frozen pie dough. It’ll be almost as good as Nana used to make.
CINNAMON PIE CRUST STICKS
Keeping in mind that not everyone makes her own pie dough, I’ve written this for frozen pie crust fans.
Makes approximately 4 dozen cinnamon pie crust sticks
2 9-inch frozen pie crusts, removed from the pie tins and defrosted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Place one of the frozen pie crusts on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough into strips approximately 2-inches long and 1/2-inch wide. Place the strips an inch apart on the baking sheet.
Stir together the sugar and ground cinnamon and sprinkle the combo over each strip of dough. Bake for 10 minutes, until slightly puffed and golden around the edges. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the sticks to cool slightly on the pan before moving them to wire cooling racks.
As the first batch is cooling, repeat the above steps with the second pie crust. Cool completely on wire racks and then store in airtight containers.