Fuck crack pie.
Although I shouldn’t have been surprised, Christina Tosi’s recipe is one of the most time-consuming, odd ingredient-demanding culinary enterprises I’ve embarked upon lately.
Probably the most frustrating thing about it is that I knew it would be like this before I began. All you have to do is read the recipe, which is, in fact, three recipes nested within one.
David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook is exactly the same — filled with recipes that involve making at least two or three other things and that send you to several different stores to obtain all of the different ingredients before you can even start making it. I once made kimchi soup (first I made my own kimchi two weeks before) which involved visits to the Korean market across the river, Belmont Butchery, and the regular old grocery store. It then took two days — and my family said it was “fine.” Same with Chang’s fried chicken; they liked it okay, but they liked regular fried chicken much better, they said.
I knew this starting out. But I was dying to try Milkbar’s crack pie.
More after the jump. Lots more.
This is what the corn looks like after you pulverize it in the blender. It smells pretty good.
So, I made it anyway. Here's the breakdown:
Recipe #1: First you make an enormous oatmeal cookie and you have to remember to let your butter come to room temperature (baking 101). I accidentally bought steel cut oats, and although the recipe calls for rolled oats, I ended up using McCann’s instant oatmeal (it’s a lot heartier than regular instant oatmeal and was conveniently in the cupboard), and it seemed to work just fine.
Recipe #2: Once that’s cooled (I went to the grocery story while it was cooling because I didn’t realize that the eggs I’d need later had been decimated when my daughter made cupcakes prior), you pulverize it in the food processor, mix it with melted butter (and even more sugar and salt) and press it into pie pans in the same way you do a graham cracker crust.
May I mention that the recipe calls for two 10-inch pans and that I’d never even heard of a pie pan that size, nor seen a recipe that needed one? And that I have four 9-inch Pyrex pie pans, plus two metal ones and a very fancy 9-inch stoneware pie pan? I absolutely refused to buy the disposable aluminum ones she wanted me to. I REFUSED. It’s an insane request. Plus, both pies fit perfectly into the 9-inch pans. WTF Christina?
Then you make the pie filling. Eight egg yolks — not a problem. Even milk powder — I could deal. It was the freeze-dried corn that me scream (in my car with the windows rolled up) in the Whole Foods parking lot. Tosi makes finding it seem like a breeze. Whole Foods carries it in tubs! Just Tomatoes brand produces it, too! Order it from Amazon!
I didn’t want to order it because I wanted to make the pies that day. I drove to Ellwood Thompson. They don’t carry Just Tomatoes anymore. I didn’t see it at Kroger (no surprise). So, I decided to suck it up, battle the traffic and drive the 25+ minutes to Whole Foods THAT DID NOT, IN FACT, HAVE IT. $200 later (might as well pick up a few things while I was there), I went home and got on Amazon. This meant I’d have to wait until the following weekend. Jesus Christ.
I also paid $20 (shipping jacked up the price considerably) for what seemed like a relatively small amount. However, you really don’t use that much (just a 1/4 of a cup after you pulverize it to a powder) and therefore, you have plenty to make a bunch of crack pies in the future. Because we're all going to do that, right?
The rest of the process (the next weekend) went smoothly, although there was some ridiculous opening and closing of the oven door hampered by the fact that I don't have an oven thermometer (I don't even want to get into this, although, FYI, an instant read thermometer is useless). Please. There are better ways to do this.
However, I neglected to fully comprehend (or read) the last part of the recipe. It informed me that the next step was absolutely crucial to achieve the proper crack-pie texture: once cool, I had to put my pies in the freezer for three hours or overnight and THEN thaw it before I could eat it.
I HAD TO WAIT YET ANOTHER DAY TO EAT THE FRICKIN’ THING.
And it was . . . it was WONDERFUL. Damn it. Your teeth will ache and you'll almost go into a sugar coma while you eat it, but it really is great. But the crazy-good part comes afterward. You start to wonder if it was quite as good as you remember (or possibly even better?). You start to think that this is what sweetened condensed milk would taste like if it were transformed into pie form (did you ever take licks of condensed milk as a child? I'm very sorry for you if you didn't), and like sweetened condensed milk, you always need a little more, no matter how rich it is and how potentially bad you might feel later.
As Tosi explains, it's a very hard pie to leave alone. You will return again and again to the fridge to eat just a sliver more. Just one tiny, sticky piece more.
Will I make it again? Why are you even asking me that? DO YOU NOT KNOW ME AT ALL?
Here’s a link to the recipe. There a few significant differences in this one from the one printed in the cookbook, and I don’t mind revealing them here because there really are a lot of versions of this recipe floating around out there, all of them by Tosi. Who knows? Maybe a few more iterations will roll out in the future.
For the oatmeal cookie, use one stick of butter, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of white sugar, 1 ½ cup of rolled oats, and just a pinch of baking soda.
For the crust: use ½ stick of melted butter, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, no white sugar and ¼ teaspoon of salt.
For the filling: Use 1 ½ cups of white sugar, ¾ cups of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk powder, 1¼ teaspoons of kosher salt, ¾ of a cup of heavy cream, the 8 egg yolks, and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. PLUS, the crucial 1/4 cup of pulverized freeze-dried corn.
Now, the Epicurious recipe is, in fact, just for one pie and the cookbook recipe is for two. However, there are so many crucial differences, I sense regret and complaints.
For cookbooks, chefs usually work with a professional to write and replicate their recipes. Especially when it comes to baking, a chef will make large quantities, and it’s tricky to reduce it down for the home chef. The professional the chef partnered with will test and retest the recipes, making changes until the result finally tastes like the product available in the restaurant. Magazine recipes come straight from the chef and there isn’t a lot of time for them to undergo that kind of rigor. As long as the recipe works and tastes good, in it goes. I don’t have a problem with that and neither should you. We magazine editors are strapped for time and we have very little help to test recipes (at my magazine, that would be just me). We can always use volunteers.