I’m so excited! Tomorrow my favourite varmint, Punxsutawney Phil, will be stepping out of his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob and letting everyone know if there will be 6 more weeks of winter or if perhaps Spring is one the way. Groundhog Day is nigh! The chances that he will see his shadow tomorrow in Pennsylvania, thus heralding the arrival of Spring, are not favourable. There is a big snow event happening up in that neck of the woods today and tomorrow. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what he has to say. Phil has been correct in his prognostications for the past two winters!
Phil & all the folks up in Punxsutawney aren’t the only folks celebrating now. February 1st, which falls half way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, also marks the festivals of Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day and Candlemas, all of which are associated with fertility, fire, purification and weather divination. Quite an auspicious time of year! I’m very happy to be marking an event today as well. February 1st just happens to be the 4th year anniversary of the my cooking blog! Yup… Four years ago today I posted my first recipe. It was for Cream Tea Scones with Currants.
I had been blogging for a little while at that point, but not about food. I originally started this blog as a way to get information out to folks who were planning to travel to Ireland to attend our wedding. I found out that I actually liked to blog and then it eventually morphed into the more food centric version that you see today. It was difficult to choose which recipe I wanted to share with you for this anniversary edition, but I ultimately decided that it just had to be Crack Pie. Maybe because I must be on crack to continue trying to publish 2 times a week and for 17 days straight St. Patrick’s Day blogapolooza starting March 1st… But also because Crack Pie is definitely one of those special occasion kind of desserts.
So I imagine you might be wondering, possibly with some trepidation, what is Crack Pie? Crack is definitely one of those words that just jumps out at you when you come across it huh? I remember one such occasion back when I was in college in Ireland. I hadn’t been there very long and was hanging out with some new-found friends in a local pub. One fellow was trying to convince me to come along with him to a house party nearby. When I hesitated a bit, he said “Ah come on, you should. They’ll be great crack there.” Uhhhh…excuse me?!! Well that is what I heard anyway. I soon learned (but not soon enough to attend said party) that I had misheard him. What he actually said was not “crack” but “craic” Irish for good times or fun, but unfortunately pronounced exactly the same way…. Kind of changes your whole imagery of the party huh? But wait, back to that pie….really? You haven’t heard of Crack Pie?!!
Come on! That particular confection has a cult following! Crack Pie, invented by Chef Christina Tosi, is one of the top-selling treats at the famous Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC. And when I say top-selling, just listen to this. a whole pie sells for $44. They sell 60 -90 Crack Pies every day or two! Hmmm…sounds like quite a few folks have developed a bit of a habit. Yup….if you like sweet…no wait a second….SWEET desserts, this rich, salty/sweet pie is insanely addictive! And I’m sure at this point you just want me to tell you what it is. Well, you can read the list of ingredients below, but that doesn’t really help and describing the taste is difficult. In consistency, it is like a Chess Pie or like a pecan pie, without the pecans, but the flavour is unique. The crust is made from crumbled oatmeal cookie
and the filling is gooey, buttery, bliss that tastes somewhat reminiscent of that Corn Pop cereal you used to eat as a kid. Remember this stuff?!!
This is due to a secret, well not so secret, ingredient. Strangely adaptations of the recipe often leave it out. But more on this later.
Now the version of Crack Pie that I have here is from Christina Tosi herself. I felt it was important to make it as closely as I could to the real deal Crack Pie. I will say this does present a couple of challenges. The first is that her recipe, unlike some other versions which have been adapted, is for two pies. That meant I did indeed make two of those babies. I didn’t try to half the recipe and you shouldn’t either. Part of what makes Crack Pie Crack Pie is that it spends some quality time in the freezer. Chef Tosi claims that it is essential to achieve the correct consistency. So I put both pies in the freezer and after we gobbled one down, it was great knowing that I had another just waiting for the perfect occasion to emerge. Another thing that Tosi’s Crack Pies have in them, that is missing from most of the clone recipes I found is the elusive corn powder.
Corn powder is made from taking freeze-dried corn and simply grinding it up into a powder in your food processor. It not only acts as a binder but it also gives the pie its unique Corn Pop – like taste. Corn starch and corn flour are not good substitutes if you are trying for authentic. You can buy Corn Powder from the Momofuku Milk Bar or you can find freeze-dried corn at the ever so handy Amazon. I have an Amazon Prime membership and freeze-dried corn was delivered to my door on a Sunday, which I think is pretty dang amazing! So plan ahead if you want to make an authentic Crack Pie. And believe me….you do. Following the recipe, or should I say recipes, because like all Chef Tosi creations there is a recipe, within a recipe, within a recipe to master before you reach your final goal. But Oh…it is so worth it. One bite of that salty/sweet nirvana known as Crack Pie (hah! one bite….I should say “once you’ve come up for air” cause you will not stop at one bite…) and you’ll be convinced. So go ahead and make this legendary confection. Your sweet tooth (or teeth) as the case may be, will thank you – once they get over that initial sugar ache!
- 1 recipe oat cookie
- 15 g (1 tbs tightly packed) light brown sugar
- 1 g (1/4 tsp) salt
- 55 g (4 tbs) butter, melted, or as needed
- 1 recipe crack pie® filling
- confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Pre heat the oven to 350°F.
Put the oat cookie, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse it on and off until the cookie is broken down into a wet sand. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can fake it till you make it and crumble the oat cookie diligently with your hands.)
Transfer the crumbs to a bowl, add the butter, and knead the butter and ground cookie mixture until moist enough to form into a ball. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt an additional 14 to 25 g (1 to 1½ tablespoons) butter and knead it in.
Divide the oat crust evenly between 2 (9-inch) pie tins. Using your fingers and the palms of your hands, press the oat cookie crust firmly into each pie tin, making sure the bottom and sides of the tin are evenly covered. Use the pie shells immediately, or wrap well in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Put both pie shells on a sheet pan. divide the crack pie® filling evenly between the crusts; the filling should fill them three-quarters of the way full. Bake for 15 minutes only. The pies should be golden brown on top but will still be very jiggly. (I baked mine for about 20 minutes here)
Open the oven door and reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Depending on your oven, it may take 5 minutes or longer for the oven to cool to the new temperature. Keep the pies in the oven during this process. When the oven reaches 325°F, close the door and bake the pies for 5 minutes longer. The pies should still be jiggly in the bull’s-eye center but not around the outer edges. If the filling is still too jiggly, leave the pies in the oven for an additional
5 minutes or so. (I don’t know what was up with my oven, or perhaps it was because I was using 9 inch pie tins rather than 10 inch ones, but I had to bake my pies about 30 more minutes before it was even remotely set. Don’t despair if this happens to you. Have patience. Some how I managed and my Crack Pies were fantastic! And finally, remember that the very center of the pie will still look jiggly when you take it out of the oven. You’ll be afraid that it isn’t done, but it is. Remember to over-cooketh a Crack Pie is a sin!)
Gently take the pan of crack pies® out of the oven and transfer to a rack to cool to room temperature. (You can speed up the cooling process by carefully transferring the pies to the fridge or freezer if you’re in a hurry.) Then freeze your pies for at least 3 hours, or overnight, to condense the filling for a dense final product—freezing is the signature technique and result of a perfectly executed crack pie®.
If not serving the pies right away, wrap well in plastic wrap. In the fridge, they will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they will keep for 1 month. Transfer the pie(s) from the freezer to the refrigerator to defrost a minimum of 1 hour before you’re ready to get in there.
Serve your crack pie® cold! Decorate your pie(s) with confectioners’ sugar, either passing it through a fine sieve or dispatching pinches with your fingers.
- 115 g (8 tbs) butter, at room temperature
- 75 g (1/3 cup tightly packed) light brown sugar
- 40 g (3 tbs) granulated sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 80 g (1/2 cup) flour
- 120 g (1 1/2 cups) old-fashioned rolled oats
- 0.5 g (1/8 tsp) baking powder
- 0.25 g (pinch) baking soda
- 2 g (1/2 tsp) kosher salt
- pam or other nonstick cooking spray (optional)
Heat the oven to 350°F.
Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. On low speed, add the egg yolk and increase the speed to medium high and beat for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sugar granules fully dissolve and the mixture is a pale white.
On low speed, add the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. mix for a minute, until your dough comes together and any remnants of dry ingredients have been incorporated. The dough will be a slightly fluffy, fatty mixture in comparison to your average cookie dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Pam-spray a quarter sheet pan and line with parchment, or just line the pan with a silpat. Plop the cookie dough in the center of the pan and, with a spatula, spread it out until it is 1/4 inch thick. The dough won’t end up covering the entire pan; this is ok.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until it resembles an oatmeal cookie-caramelized on top and puffed slightly but set firmly. Cool completely before using. wrapped well in plastic, the oat cookie will keep fresh in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Crack Pie® Filling
You must use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment to make this filling. It only takes a minute, but it makes all the difference in the homogenization and smooth, silky final product. I repeat: a hand whisk and a bowl or a granny hand mixer will not produce the same results. Also, keep the mixer on low speed through the entire mixing process. If you try to mix the filling on higher speed, you will incorporate too much air and your pie will not be dense and gooey-the essence of crack pie®.
This recipe makes the filling for two Crack Pies.
- 300 g (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
- 180 g (3/4 cup tightly packed) light brown sugar
- 20 g (1/4 cup) milk powder
- 24 g (1/4 cup) corn powder
- 6 g (1 1/2 tsp) kosher salt
- 225 g (16 tbs) butter, melted
- 160 g (3/4 cup) heavy cream
- 2 g (1/2 tsp) vanilla extract
- 8 egg yolks**
Combine the sugar, brown sugar, milk powder, corn powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until evenly blended.
Add the melted butter and paddle for 2 to 3 minutes until all the dry ingredients are moist.
Add the heavy cream and vanilla and continue mixing on low for 2 to 3 minutes until any white streaks from the cream have completely disappeared into the mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
Add the egg yolks, paddling them into the mixture just to combine; be careful not to aerate the mixture, but be certain the mixture is glossy and homogenous. mix on low speed until it is.
Use the filling right away, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
**note: It will be the death of your wildly dense pie filling if there is any bit of egg white in the mixture. I believe the easiest, and best, way to separate an egg is to do so in your hands. You may also use the two half-shells to separate the eggs, but the cracked shells can tear the yolk open, and you may not totally separate all the white. If you do this by hand,you can feel when you get every last bit of white away from the yolk. Remember to wash your hands under warm soapy water for 30 seconds or more before and after you handle raw eggs!
Crack Pie® brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)