Bon Appétit (September 2010)
We're back from amazing week on the Outer Banks with friends. Hurricane Earl blew over and we had a full week of near-perfect weather.
Most of our time was spent on the beach, getting some much needed sun and rest. But we also did a fair amount of reading. We both read The Help (which we can't recommend strongly enough) and Clay read One Day (which he loved so, so much). We also read five months of the New Yorker, a chore made infinitely easier by so many of the articles being old news.
And we ate a lot of delicious-but-terrible-for-you food (hello, Pringles), and cooked a fair amount. We made summer vegetable lasagna with squash and eggplant from our CSA we carted down to the beach (yes, we've become the sort of people who haul their produce to the beach). We fried chicken one night, using Clay's mom's recipe. We baked some cookies (which we'll post about soon). And yes, we had our fair share of Porch Crawlers.
And -- perhaps most excitingly -- we made Crack Pie, based on the recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar.
Whenever we find ourselves in major cities, we practically plan our days around what and where we'll eat. And we have had the good fortune to eat at quite a few great restaurants when we travel.
But we count Momofuku Milk Bar, in New York City, as one of our favorite food experiences of the past few years. We mentioned that we had visited the restaurant -- a rambunctuous, order-at-the-counter affair -- when we wrote about Compost Cookies with Cereal Milk Panna Cotta. When we visited Milk Bar, we just had cookies and flavored milk and they were swoon-worthy. Perhaps the best cookies we've ever had.
But the restaurant is also known for their big, messy pies and cakes, and the September Bon Appétit features a few of them, including Crack Pie.
We've heard and read a lot about Crack Pie over the last year or so. Southern friends who have visited the restaurant have compared it to Chess Pie -- a staple of our childhoods. Chess Pie, for those unfamiliar, is a creamy mixture of eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla, baked in a pie shell. It's a sweet, dense custard.
So we decided to find out for ourselves by making the Crack Pie.
It turns out there are pluses and minuses to cooking at the beach. The plus is that you have a lot of time, so making a recipe like this that requires 15 hours (40 minutes of prep plus baking, cooling and chilling time) doesn't seem like that big of a deal.
But cooking at the beach also presents challenges. Equipment is limited; you're cooking in a new-to-you oven; and it can be hard to find everything you need, in terms of both ingredients and tools.
Our ingredient challenges started at the Food Lion in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. Everything was in supply except for "nonfat dry milk powder." The pie calls for a tablespoon of it, but the only dry milk powder available was a huge box for $20 -- enough milk powder to make a thousand crack pies. So we skipped it and bought coffee creamer instead. We figured it was a safe substitution, and so little of it in a pie wouldn't make or break the taste (we were right).
Making the pie itself is a cinch if you've got the time. The crust is a thin oatmeal cookie that you bake and then crumble with butter and brown sugar (delicious!). The filling is a tooth-achingly sweet combo of sugars, butter, egg yolks, vanilla and heavy whipping cream.
Once the filling is poured into the crust and placed in the oven, the pie bakes for 50 minutes. But this is where we ran into a slight challenge. Our beach house oven runs notoriously hot. Over the three years we've visited, we've burned ample biscuits and cookies. But there isn't an oven thermometer to be found, so we decided to cook it at 350 degrees, as instructed, and just keep an eye on it. Twenty minutes later, the top of our pie was as brown as we wanted, so we pulled it out of the oven, shorting the cooking time by 30 minutes.
We then let the pie cool and then transferred it to the refrigerator, where it sat for nearly 48 hours. We would have eaten it sooner, but we had cookies to eat.
When it came time to eat the pie, we sliced into it to find it runnier than we expected (likely due to the shorter cooking time) but phenomenally delicious. Rather than like a Chess Pie, we found the Crack Pie filling to be more akin to a creme brulee: rich, buttery caramel goodness. It's all heightened by the oatmeal cookie crust, which is truly phenomenal.
If you love sweets, welcome to heaven. If you don't have much of a sweet tooth, we recommend that you just eat a small piece.
The Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is reportedly coming out this fall. We can't wait to get our hands on a copy. And now that it's post-beach season, we can have alllllll the desserts we want!
• 10 to 12 servings
• PREP: 40 minutes
• TOTAL: 15 hours
Oat Cookie Crust
• Nonstick vegetable oil spray
• 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
• 5 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 large egg
• 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
• 1/2 cup all purpose flour
• 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
• 6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
• 4 large egg yolks
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Preparation: Oat Cookie Crust
• Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.
• Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.
• Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.
• Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.