“Because you can’t stop eating it,” is why Momofuku Pastry Chef Christina Tosi named this dish Crack Pie, a riff on the classic southern Chess Pie. In her Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook, she tells the story of how she created the pie for “family meal” (the meal chefs prepare for their staff). It was the result of having few ingredients on hand, but everyone loved it and kept coming back to her for more until the pie was polished off.
|The crust comes from baking and then crumbling a giant oatmeal cookie.|
According to Tosi, Chess Pie was what cooks made when they didn’t have the ingredients to make anything more complex. Since it requires no seasonal ingredients, it’s perfect for winter.
Because Tosi’s work has been such an inspiration for my dessert-making this year, I wanted to try one last recipe from her as my entry in this year’s winter office dessert contest (you’ll recall for our summer contest I entered this Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting).
I made the pie from the recipe that appeared in Bon Appetit, which is slightly modified from Tosi’s recipe in the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook, most notably because it lacks corn powder, the ground freeze-dried corn that is an essential ingredient in the Corn Cookies. This is a very rich pie, but the oatmeal cookie crust gives it some body so it’s not just sickly sweet but really quite pleasant. I made some minor modifications, one of out necessity, as I forget to stock up on light brown sugar, so I substituted equal parts dark brown sugar and white sugar (light brown sugar is the same thing as dark brown sugar, just with less molasses). I also reduced the butter and brown sugar just a tad.
|The surface appearance might be another reason for calling this "crack" pie.|
Since I decided to make two pies (one for the office party and one for Chris and me to enjoy at home), I experimented a bit just to see if it made any difference. Although I whipped the filling with the stand mixer for both pies, I whipped one batch quite a bit longer, so much so that the filling was thick enough that it needed to spread in the crust with a spatula (the filling for the other pie leveled off by itself after pouring). After baking, this didn’t make a noticeable difference in texture except that the pie with the overwhipped filling had more of a “crust” on the top part of the filling, but there wasn’t a difference in taste.
Adapted from Crack Pie, Bon Appetit
Oatmeal cookie crust:
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tbsp. (packed) light brown sugar
2 tbsp. white sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. (generous) salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tbsp. nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tbsp. heavy whipping cream (This is a little shy of half a cup)
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Make the cookie crust. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush lightly with vegetable oil. Combine 6 tbsp. butter, 4 tbsp. brown sugar and 2 tbsp. sugar and beat on medium-high to high with a stand or hand mixer until light and fluffy, scraping down the side of the bowl with a spatula as needed, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and beat on medium-high until pale and fluffy (this is where I experimented, beating one mixture about 2 minutes and the other about 5, which made it noticeably thicker). Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and beat on low to combine, about 1 minute. Transfer dough to the prepared baking sheet and spread evenly with a spatula until the cookie is about 9 x 13 inches. Bake until golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool baking sheet about 5 minutes then transfer cookie to rack to cool completely.
3. Put cookie in a large bowl and crumble with your hands. Add the 2 tbsp. of butter and rub the mixture with your fingertips until the butter is evenly mixed in and the mixture starts to stick together. Transfer the oat cookie crumbles to a pie plate and use your fingers to press it evenly onto the bottom and side of the plate.
4. While the cookie bakes, make the filling. Whisk (or whip, if using a stand mixer) sugars, milk powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and blend in. Then blend in the cream, then the egg yolks and vanilla. Whisk until well blended. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F, the reduce the oven temperature to 325 F and bake another 20 minutes until the filling is lightly browned and set around the edges but still jiggly in the center if the pie dish is gently shaken. Cool pie for 2 hours on rack, then refrigerate overnight to chill. Serve cold. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.