Friday, July 8, 2016

Ivy's Impossible Pie

Another badly named baking science experiment!

As I said back when I made my vinegar pie and my ship's biscuits, some of the recipes I've got on the docket for A Peek into the Pantry I'm not trying out because I expect them to taste delicious or already know I love. No, some are more culinary and historical science experiments, where I go in knowing things might either be a total disaster, or at least taste like one. After all, there have to be some dishes that have fallen out of favor with the American public for a reason, right?

Take impossible pie. This confusingly named dish first came on people's radar in the late 60's, and blossomed onto the culinary scene in the 70's, meaning it's definitely something Ivy and Julie would have run into, or at least heard of. I stumbled upon it while looking through the Food Timeline, one of the best resources on the internet for food history and historical recipes, and was immediately intrigued by this unusual sounding recipe. Not only did it sound like a really interesting experiment, but the fact that coconut was a primary ingredient made me think hey, this might turn out to be my new favorite pie!

Impossible pie is, frankly, badly named. Maybe not as badly as vinegar pie because that does genuinely just sound horrible, but when you hear impossible pie, you kind of assume the pie is, well, impossible. To make, that is.

In fact, the exact opposite is true. It's actually a one bowl pie recipe, where all the ingredients get mixed together with a whisk, dumped in a pie pan and baked in the oven. Not impossible sounding at all, right? The pie gets its name because when you mix the ingredients together and bake it in the oven, the "baking mix" - so, Bisquick - settles at the bottom of the pan, making a sort of crust for the pie without you needing to lift a finger or touch your pastry cutter. The whole thing takes maybe ten minutes to throw together, and then after it's done baking, you're basically ready to serve it.

This makes it the ultimate convenience food, a trend that was still extremely popular in the 70's, even when parts of the population were getting more and more interested in health food and natural ingredients. Don't you just love what a contradiction the 70's are?

No one knows who the first person to discover this, but people think it might have started in the south because southerners have long loved coconut pies and cakes. Like the peanut blossom and Watergate cake, once big name companies like General Mills found out about it, they decided to start publishing their own recipes that conveniently used their own products as ingredients, and the trend went around the country. Records show they were super popular by the 70's. Although coconut free versions exist, the coconut is so clearly linked to the origins of this dish that it's sometimes gone by names like impossible coconut pie, or coconut mystery pie.

To make the pie using the original Bisquick recipe, all you need is to take 3 eggs, 1 3/4 cups milk, 1/4 cup of melted butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, 1 cup of flaked or shredded coconut, 3/4 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup of Bisquick mix, put them in a bowl and whisk them together until everything is fully combined.

You then pour your mixture into a greased 9 inch pie pan and cook it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 or 50 minutes. Basically, you're waiting for the top to look golden brown. A knife stuck into the middle of the pie should come out clean when it's fully baked, too!

My pie had kind of uneven coloring over the top, but the center seemed cooked, so I decided we were good to go!

I wasn't going to have people around to actually eat this pie until a day later, so I stuck it in the fridge and left it overnight. It came along to one of our favorite local restaurants as part of a birthday celebration for my grandma, as the restaurant doesn't mind if you bring your own food in addition to their offerings.

I'm going to be straight with you guys: this pie was pretty disgusting. I am really not a fan of eggy flavor in anything that isn't scrambled eggs or maybe a quiche, and that's exactly what this tasted like: a sweet coconut quiche, AKA disgusting. It was also super soggy and just had a weird texture. I couldn't eat more than two bites before saying you know what, I think I'm done. I would say out of everything I've made on the blog and been able to safely consume (thus excluding my attempt at a lemon chiffon pie), this probably is neck and neck with my pumpkin pudding from Felicity's Cookbook as my least favorite thing I've made.

That being said, the Bisquick did make a sort of rubbery, wet crust on the bottom of the pie, so that was pretty cool!

I'm not sure what went wrong here. Some of the articles and other blog posts I read about this dish made it sound like the result would be pretty tasty and could be eaten hot or cold, so I assumed making it in advance and putting it in the fridge until we were ready to eat it would be okay. I'm not sure if this made it extra soggy, or if I just had too high expectations or what, but the texture was gummy, wet and unpleasant. And it tasted like sugary eggs! With coconut! Never again guys, I'm telling you.

It was actually pretty funny seeing people's reactions to the flavor and texture, and while I appreciated them trying to spare my feelings, I got a chuckle out of the few who tried to insist it wasn't bad too. My grandfather said he liked it, but as we've said before, he's never met a pie he didn't like, so maybe he's telling the truth, but one of my cousins kept trying to reassure me that it wasn't terrible, it just wasn't the best thing I'd ever made. Again, I appreciated it, but it's cool to be honest with me about how bad something is when I'm struggling to choke it down too!

So this pie does make its own crust, but it's a coconut quiche, and thus inedible. Interestingly enough, I did find out that this recipe did become popular as a base for quiches! My mom said she's made similar "impossible" pies before with savory ingredients like ham and spinach for a stress free quiche, and history shows us that is what this pie evolved into. There are many recipes from the late 70's and throughout the 80's for savory impossible pies using sausage, beef, vegetables, you name it. There's even one that's supposed to imitate a Rueben sandwich, right down to the sauerkraut!

I'm not sure when I'll feel brave enough to give those a try after this was such a gross catastrophe, but it's still cool to know it's an option to explore should American Girl ever introduce an 80's character! And I think I'm not alone in saying that I'm cool with leaving impossible pie in the 70's where it belongs.

I'm going to stick to coconut cake for my fix.


  1. One of the Miss Fisher books by Kerry Greenwood talks about Impossible Pie. I think it's "Dead Man's Chest," the 18th book in the series.

  2. It's too bad it didn't turn out, but at least if it was a failure it was an interesting one! The fact that the crust did work (or sort of work) is just confirming for me that Bisquick is a miracle product that can do anything, at least when it comes to baking.

    1. It really is, that part was definitely pretty cool. And I do think the recipe would work okay with a savory combination, so... good work, Bisquick!

  3. *From Julie's doll mom, Sharry:*

    Well, I'm the same age as Julie and Ivy, (you posted this on my 50th birthday), and I've never heard of this. I'm sorry it didn't turn out like you hoped.

    1. There's lots of documentation saying it was super popular! You can check out the Food Timeline for more info. :)

  4. Coconut Quiche--ewwww. I am with Sharry on this, I grew up in this era and I don't recall ever hearing of it either! Interesting about the crust though.

    1. Very interesting, especially since my mom was familiar with it! It sounds like Bisquick didn't limit the recipe distribution by region either, so I'm not sure why you two would have missed it. :|a