Our tour guide on the “Jewel of the Desert” luxury train said we were in for a treat today – apple pie, Namibian apple pie! So up and early we left our comfy cabins, boarded a bus and set off across the Namib Desert.
We’d been driving for hours on dry, hard, bumpy, and deeply rutted dirt roads. Massive swirls of dust clouds followed our van as we sped down the road. It was mid morning and the sun had been up for hours, and it was hot. A desert colored in muted browns and light grays stretched for miles on both sides of the road, with an occasional rocky array jutting out of the flat ground. It seemed our journey would never end. We were thirsty and hungry, and in the middle of this seemingly empty desert.
A few hours after nto the journey our guide pointed to a small cluster of structures in the distance. “That’s Solitaire” she said, our destination. A true oasis for travelers, it has a gas station, post office, general store, and small overnight lodge. And a bakery?
Located between the massive sand dunes of Sossusvlei and the coast at Walvis Bay, our destination was in the middle of Namibia. Our reason for this adventure, a visit to the world- famous “Moose” Macgregor Desert Bakery for apple pie. A bakery you in Namibia for what is traditionally known as America’s favorite dessert? Yep!
This place had character. Strategically placed corroding and deteriorating vintage American cars were strategically placed around the compound - as if they were part of a desert story movie set. Originally built in 1848 by a Mr. van Collier, it was to be used as a sheep farm. Legend has it that his wife named the town because there were diamonds in the area and the location fit the name (nothing out there!).
But what about the bakery you ask?
More than 20+ years ago a Scottish adventurer moved to the town and opened the bakery. A man bigger than life in all aspects, Percy Cross “Moose” McGregor, was a wonderful baker and started selling a variety of bakery items including a German apple pie (Apfeistrudel), made from an old family recipe. His pie and warm, friendly attitude soon became the reason thousands of people – local and worldwide came to Solitaire. We stopped to taste his pie ourselves and were not disappointed. In fact, Mr. McGregor was right there behind the long wooden counter supervising his staff and talking to people. Next to the counter was a room where you could sit and eat, and people watch.
After consuming a piece of apple pie and a piece of cheesecake – all delicious I must say – we continued our exploration of the compound and did some shopping in the general store and purchased a nice cool bottle of water to take with us when we left for a climb of the stunning red sand dunes.
I like to cook and even published a cookbook last year (Granny Regina’s Favorite International Cookbook – Amazon). In gathering recipes for a follow-up book, I remembered “Moose”, the Namib Desert and his unique apple pie. I started looking for a way to get his recipe. Because I have cooked with locals from all over the world and tried everything put in front of me, I believe it’s not just the food but the connection and joy of sharing food that makes it taste even better. Cooking and eating is a form of communication. I felt a connection to “Moose” when I was in his bakery in the middle of nowhere and wanted to introduce his story and apple pie recipe. When I reached out to his bakery I learned that this interesting, friendly and unique individual passed away in January of this year. He touched so many lives not only with his baking skill but with his openness and presence. He is and will be missed. The “Moose” McGregor Desert Bakery will go on and I encouraged anyone going to Namibia to stop by , eat a piece of pies and tip a fork in memory to “Moose.”
Unable to get his recipe – still a family secret - I found one that seems similar to what I ate at his bakery, and I hope you will try it. Listed below is a German Apple (Apfeistrudel) Pie recipe.
Streusel Crumb Topped Apple Pie
Total Time: 55minutes
Prep Time:1 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell, frozen, preferably a name brand
3 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2-cup butter, softened
• Preheat oven at 375 degrees with a cookie sheet on the center rack. Mix peeled and sliced apples in a large bowl with sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour.
• Pour apple mixture into frozen piecrust.
• Make the streusel crumb topping by mixing together with a fork in a medium bowl the flour, cinnamon, and light brown sugar. Then mix in the softened butter with a fork, stirring and blending until the mixture resembles crumbs.
• Top the pie with the crumb topping, place on the cookie sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 40 - 45 minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown and the filling bubbles.
• Remove from oven, cool 30 minutes. ( The pie I had in Namibia did have ice cream or but you could serve the pie when it’s warm with ice cream and caramel ice cream topping)