How can you hate a recipe and love the end result at the same time? When it’s the legendary Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie at home. Both the book and online versions of it are the epitome of commercial kitchen recipes being adapted badly for home cooks, full of preciousness about ingredients and equipment and lacking the correct amounts because they’ve simply divided a wholesale amount by an arbitrary number of servings.
This is one of my greatest pet peeves as someone who has a written a few recipes in their time. Do not assume that commercial and home kitchens are equivalents. Pay a recipe tester to check the amounts and the cooking times and please God, stop giving me amounts that feed 8 or 16 people. It racks up the cost of the whole thing, encourages either food waste or overeating and is increasingly obselete in a society where a lot of people live alone.
All these things irritated me utterly about the Crack Pie recipe and yet it was still so good that I cannot stop thinking about the two slices I have in the freezer. I honestly woke up on Monday morning and it was the first thought in my head. That name has a point trust me. I’m not a big dessert person and I loved this with its mix of salty-sweet buttery brilliance.
It’s a trademarked recipe so I haven’t reproduced it here (see the link above) but I’m going to give you my home cook opinions about how it bakes at home so you can follow the recipe to pie heaven without the pitfalls I had.
For the cookie base:
This was incredibly easy. British readers will know this type of cookie as being very similar to the classic HobNobs with a crumbly oaty base and slightly salty hint. I honestly can’t fault this bit of the recipe and the one bit I rolled up into balls and sqaushed with a fork into a individual cookie worked perfectly if you wanted to make it on its own.
The issue was that apparently this amount of cookie crumb makes the base for two 10 inch tart tins. Believe me when I tell you it does not. The filling here is a delicate beast that needs a good sturdy base like a foundation garment or girdle under that slinky dress. You need to pack that tin good and full and this amount only filled one.
It also took almost 200g melted butter to turn the crumbs into a workable base while the recipes said 55g (which is basically an American stick of butter which is is equivalent to cutting a block of butter into four long ways and I suspect there was a miscommunication about blocks and sticks here when the recipe was converted from American to metric measures.) Basic life rule applies: more butter makes it better.
For the filling:
This probably does fill two 10 inch tart tins which is an annoyance when you’ve only one got one base. I got round that by filling ramekins about 2/3 thirds full and baking the mixture on its own without the buttery biscuit base. When it cooled I put them inside freezer bags and stored them in the freezer to keep the texture right and mean I have a ridiculous good gluten and wheat free dessert handy for people.
I also noticed absolutely no difference at all when I beat the melted butter and sugar together with an electric hand whisk compared to what I imagine a stand mixer would do because after 4 minutes of beating (timed to soft boiling an egg) my mixture looked exactly the same colour and texture as when I started. All that happened was my arm hurt as the mixer feels heavier the slower you beat and I was grumpy.
And speaking of eggs, it is faintly ridiculous that you need 8 egg yolks for the filling.* if you are better at maths and baking, feel free to attempt to scale the filling amounts down by a third and you shouldn’t have so much spare filling. I’d already separated all the yolks when I realised which was was Alanis Morrisette levels of irony since I am usually terrible at prepping in advance.
But the low slow mixing definitely did something here because the filling was the most silky golden caramel colour by the end that I couldn’t help but lick the bowl clean after I’d filled the tart tin. Eating raw eggs is my idea of a wild weekend these days though…
Baking and serving:
I found that I needed to give the pie almost 30 minutes to get cooked round the edges but still jiggly in the middle and even then the jiggle was basically being as near as damn it liquid while the base was starting to burn. Next time I make it I’d cook it on 170C the whole time but for 40 minutes to get round this.
Take it out of the oven very very carefully. That filling is so barely set it’s like a live animal that might pounce. Cool it well on a wire rack and prep a nice flat space in your freezer including a baking tray to set it on. The pie is frozen to create the fudgy squishy chewy texture that takes this from pie to perfection and helps set the cooled filling completely.
I froze mine overnight and the filling shifted very slightly due to a slight angle on my baking tray but it still looked photo ready. I then defrosted it for 3 hours as the recipe suggested a minimum of an hour for 3 hours freezing and having never eaten the original I wasn’t sure if this would radically alter the density of the filling. It did mean when I served it the filling was a lake of butter and cream that was delicious tasting but missed the point of the texture.
My advice would be freeze for 3 hours and then take it out of the tart tin ( I used a push base one) and then freeze until needed. Take out about an hour before needed and serve in slices. I didn’t bother with the icing sugar because it seemed a bad idea to sprinkle anything on my molten pie at that point. I put the now slightly defiled pie back in the freezer until my friend went home and then sliced it up to share and the frozen for 4 hours texture was just right for slicing and eating.
And eating you will do. I cannot tell you how good this Crack pie is. I can see why people ask for slices of it to be carefully carried home in hand luggage from weekends in New York. It’s taken up most of the space in my brain I usually use for anxiety and made me stand in front of the freezer saying ‘just a bite’ every single time I’ve been in the kitchen. I’m clearly going to dream about it at some point. Thank god there weren’t two of them in the end or this could get dangerous…
*And I have plans for those egg whites. If it works I’ll tell you about it. If it doesn’t let us never speak of it again.