For all of the controversy over the diversity of the chefs and bakers that Netflix’s internationally-successful food documentary series, Chef’s Table, provoked, nobody with a subscription or an interest in food can doubt its influence. Or pure enjoyment factor, for that matter, as beautifully shot footage captures the essence of an obsessive search for culinary perfection. Pure enjoyment factor, perhaps beyond conventional notions of perfection, is what appeared to drive Christina Tosi, the New York-based pastry chef, who got her moment in the spotlight during Season Four.
There were two bakery products from Tosi’s Milk Bar chain of US bakeries and ice cream parlours that shone brighter than the others as the, apparently unlikely, entrepreneur (a lot of things happened to Tosi by accident, but then you can certainly make your own luck) presented her creations. One was her naked, sugary and colourful breakfast cereal-rich birthday cake and the other was the ominously named Crack Pie.
What is Crack Pie? The story goes that Tosi, after a late shift, threw a whole cupboard full of ingredients into a pie dish and set it off baking, not knowing what would happen. Such modesty should fool nobody as the dish, which eventually made its way to the staff meal table at David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant, features just the right amount of everything – including a whole lot of butter and sugar – to earn its name. It’s called Crack Pie as it’s so addictive and was part of the drive behind her and Chang’s decision to make Milk Bar happen. If you’re familiar with Danish toffee sweets (is Daim the only brand?) then think of that in open pie form and you’re almost there.
A properly made Crack Pie could perhaps only come from one of those US/Canada-based bakeries, but for anyone too far away without a plane ticket, the only option is to try it out for yourself. Here’s a recipe for one Crack Pie, making the biscuit base from scratch and adding in the irresistible toffee filling, all of which will be gone in minutes.
For one pie dish of approximately 10” / 25cm. The recipe can take approx 5 hours or overnight for best results.
- Servings: 8
- 60g butter
- 35g light brown sugar
- 20g white sugar
- 1 small egg yolk
- 40g strong white flour
- 60g porridge oats
- Pinch of baking powder
- Pinch of bicarbonate of soda
- Pinch of salt
- 150g white sugar
- 90g light brown sugar
- 10g milk powder
- 1tsp salt
- 115g melted butter
- 90g double cream
- 0.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 egg yolks
- 10g light brown sugar
- 25g melted butter
- Icing sugar
- 1The first step is to make a giant oat cookie, which will then be crushed for the base. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F and cream together the first listed quantities of butter and sugar, using a mixer or by hand, until pale. Add the egg yolk to the airy mix and continue to beat until no sugar granules remain and you have a pale white mixture.
- 2Add in all of the ingredients up to and including the salt, forming a biscuit dough and spread it over a greased/lined baking tray to a thinness of around 5mm, baking for around 15 – 20 minutes or until it has visibly caramelised and risen a little. Leave it to one side to cool to room temperature.
- 3Next move onto the filling by throwing the sugars, milk powder and salt into a bowl and mix together before bringing in the butter, combining until it forms a moist mixture. It’s important that this is done slowly to ensure the right texture of the pie! Next in is the cream and the vanilla extract, slowly mixing and adding the egg yolks, finally. The mix is ready when it is all combined and has a smooth shine. Don’t leave any clinging to the side of the bowl, which would be a waste.
- 4Go back to your cooled cookie and crumble it, either using a food processor or smashing it up in a strong plastic bag with a rolling pin. It should be sandy when done and ready to be mixed with the melted butter and sugar. It’s OK to add more butter if needed to form a moist mixture that can form a ball. Once that’s achieved, press it into the bottom and up the sides of your pie dish.
- 5Fill your shell to three-quarters full (it will expand!) with the Crack Pie mixture either on the shelf of your oven or carefully on your work surface and transfer it to the oven. Bake it for 15 minutes, leaving the filling quite wobbly.
- 6Reduce the oven to 170°C / 325°F, ensuring that the oven quickly releases heat by keeping the door open until it is at that temperature, for the final five minutes of the bake. Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool before placing in the freezer overnight, or for at least three hours.
- 7Defrost the Crack Pie fully, sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy.