It all began innocently enough. I asked my friend Susan, who was down visiting for the weekend, to pick something for me to cook her from the long list of recipes I'd bookmarked to try. She sat there listening patiently, unexpressive, maybe even a little bored, as I reeled off about six or seven things before her eyes widened and she sat up a little straighter in her chair. "That one." I looked back at my list for clarification. "Crack pie?"
Where to start? Maybe with a warning. Do NOT make this pie unless you have six or seven people coming over to eat it. Maybe eight. Because once you start, I'm not kidding, you will not stop. You will not be able to eat without examining the sticky beauty of every forkful and quietly mouthing "oh my god". You will not be able to put said forkful in your mouth without reaching for another. You will not be able to rest until... It. Is. All. Gone.
This genius recipe comes from Christina Tosi, the maverick baker behind Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. She makes ice-cream from cereal milk, cake from candy bars and gives as much careful consideration to the naming of her creations as she does their development. When I was there, a couple of years ago, I sampled one of her compost cookies - a crazy composite of oats, potato chips, chocolate, butterscotch, pretzels and coffee, that defies description... in the best possible way. Tosi clearly specialises in highly-addictive sweets that are near impossible to pin down in taste. The best Susan and I could come up with for the crack pie was that it was like a cross between an Anzac biscuit and the coveted corner piece in a tray of caramel slice - chewy, gooey, caramelised, and... dangerous.
Given my proclivity for sweet stuff, it's kind of amazing it took me so long to make this. The reason was the recipe called for just one tablespoon of non-fat milk powder and my local supermarket only sold the stuff in 1 kilo packets. I sent Susan back to Brisbane with a ziplock bag filled with white powder which looks suspicious enough without having to explain to an airport security screener it's for crack pie. Six pies worth to be exact. Obviously, I still have quite a bit left. To say the least. So if you want some, come on by, I'll be your dealer.
Adapted from a recipe by Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar
This pie crust is not the traditional pastry kind, but the pressed biscuit (cookie) crust often used in cheesecake. The twist is that you make the biscuit yourself. This adds a bit to the prep time but the plus is that this pie is even better the next day, so is perfect to make in advance. Provided, of course, you can handle looking at it sitting there in the fridge.
Oat cookie crust
Non-stick vegetable oil spray
9 tablespoons butter, room temperature, divided
5 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats (rolled oats)
1/2 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonfat (skim) dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 oz) butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
powdered (icing) sugar, for dusting
For oat cookie crust
Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line a baking sheet 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 til 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 sheet; press out evenly to edges of pan or as far as it will go without spreading too thinly - basically, so it ressembles one giant cookie. Bake til light golden on top, 17-18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.
Using hands, crumble oat mixture into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips til 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 centre of oven and preheat to 350 deg F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk to combine. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk together. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325 deg F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but centre still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer (cover with foil if you think the crust is in danger of burning). Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight.
Can be made two days ahead. Cover, keep chilled.
Dust with powdered sugar to serve in wedges or distribute forks and just let everyone dig in.