Monday, 19 April 2010

Momofuku Crack Pie

When Ellie from Almost Bourdain made this crack pie, I was transfixed. While I love apple pie and the odd meat pie, I'm not that big on pies. I think it may have something to do with my pastry issues, but I've always been more of a cake person. To me, cake > pie.

This pie, however, called to me. It said "bake me" on a level I've never head before. And it didn't have a pastry crust! When a pie like this calls to you, you can't ignore it. It was hard enough to wait until the weekend rolled around so I could try it for myself.

I have not had the best of luck with eggs lately. Perhaps the universe is telling me that I shouldn't be buying my eggs from the supermarket. So, separating eggs has been quite frustrating for me as I just cannot seem to get a clean separation no matter what I do. I've tried using the shell, cracking the shell on the edge of the bowl, cracking the shell on a flat surface, using an egg separator, using my hands, room temperature eggs, fridge cold eggs... you name it, I've tried it. And failed at it, might I add. This recipe calls for eight (yes, you heard right - 8!) egg yolks, so I was a little apprehensive about my egg situation. We visited the Brisbane markets the day before so I bought some lovely fresh free range eggs and crossed my fingers.

Of course, when the time came to make the filling, I was determined to finish the supermarket eggs and managed to break the yolk on 3 of the 6 remaining eggs. They are now sitting in the fridge waiting for me to find a use for them. I did consider baking something with them - I think the Planet Cake White Chocolate Mudcake uses three eggs - but right now I'm thinking about having scrambled eggs for breakfast tomorrow. I still had to get five more yolks from the new eggs and I ended up breaking one of those too, so I think my supermarket egg excuse may be a little flimsy.

I cannot recommend enough the sensible step of breaking/separating your egg into a different bowl before adding it to your previously separated yolks or whites. Even if you're not a klutz like me!

Anyway, egg dramas aside, this recipe is surprisingly easy to make. There are a lot of steps, but they are all quite straight forward. In the clip from the Martha Stewart Show, they don't even use a mixer. Firstly you make a tasty tasty biscuit dough and cook that in a large tin in the oven. The dough was dangerously tasty though as this recipe supposedly makes 2 10" pies and I was making 2 9" pies and I ran out of biscuit crumble. I felt quite guilty because the second pie only needed the smallest amount extra and if I hadn't left behind a small 2cm square to taste, I may have had enough to cover the base. Next time, no snacking.

Once the biscuit has cooled, you process it along with some butter and sugar and salt. I forgot to add the salt. I also used fridge cold butter, thinking that it would be like a scone or a pastry dough and it wouldn't matter, but I found that the butter was quite difficult to break up. I may have needed to process it a bit more. You then press the cookie crumbles into the pie tins and make a thin even layer along the bottom and sides. My layer was very thin. No snacking next time!

When that's all done, you move on to the filling. You mix together an alarming amount of sugar with some milk powder and salt with an alarming amount of melted butter and some vanilla, and then mix in your egg yolks. The mix was suprisingly thick and I was worried I had done something wrong, but I couldn't think what. Anyway, I spread the mix into my pie tins and started to bake.

My oven is terrible. It doesn't maintain heat and even when it does it's 20 degrees colder than you would think when you set the dial. The pies are supposed to cook for 15 minutes at 180 degrees C, then you reduce the temperature to 160 degrees C and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. After this, my pie filling was melted and runny - alarmingly so - so I put it back in the oven for a further 20 minutes.

Another rather concerning thing was that a large puddle of melted butter leaked out onto the baking tray I had (luckily) placed my pie tin on. I mopped it up twice during the cooking of the first pie and it was a significant amount of butter. I checked my measurements, and I had used the correct amount of butter. Was this because I didn't process my butter properly with the cookie crumbs? I didn't have massive lumps of butter left, but I was breaking up some smaller pieces with my fingers before I pressed the crumbs into the pie dish. The second pie I baked on a rack on the baking tray, so that it wasn't sitting in the pool of melted butter, but the second pie didn't melt as much as the first. I can't work out what went wrong there.

When I took the first pie out of the oven, I was convinced it was undercooked. I had butchered the first pie by poking into it with a spoon to see if the filling was cooked, so I took out a few spoonfuls for D and me to taste and then put the pie back in the oven for a bit longer. I double-checked the recipes online and it turns out that it wasn't undercooked and it's meant to be gooey and I am supposed to wait for it to cool down. Oops. I'll make sure I do that with the second pie.

The first pieces I cut for D and me did not look elegant at all. The cookie crumb was soggy and didn't hold together and the filling was gooey, it just looked like a brown mess on the plate. I was pretty upset with myself, because I didn't know what I had done wrong. Normally with my failures I know what caused the failure, but this time I just couldn't work it out. Then we tasted the pie. It was incredible. It was brown sugary sweet but not too sweet, it bordered on rich but just didn't quite make it there. After we ate the first piece D immediately asked for another. Then he had another. Then we both agreed to say that it wasn't too unhealthy, after all, there are oats in the cookie crust. Now the remains of the first pie are sitting on the bench, almost cool - we didn't even wait for the pie to cool first - and I'm trying to tell myself that I'm not hungry and I don't need to eat more pie, but my mind keeps going back to the terribly unattractive mess that I'm trying to call a pie on the counter.

The second pie browned slightly more than I wanted it to and although it didn't leak as much butter as the first pie, it was still a little greasy. It started soaking up my icing sugar while I was trying to take a photo of it. The second pie is destined to go to work tomorrow so that my colleagues can eat it and it won't be here to tempt D and me.

UPDATE: So I took the second pie to work, where it was kept in the fridge and served cold. When the pie is cold is doesn't retain any of its greasiness and it holds together in slices, which the first pie didn't do (not that it really had the chance too). A small group of four gathered in my office for the great pie unveiling, just perfect for a 3pm pick-me-up. When I opened the container the smell was incredible. It permeated my office and wafted out into the hallway. I was so excited when I could cut actual slices from it too. We were all quite curious, even me! The first pie was so completely different - yes, because I didn't let it cool - that I had no idea what to expect.

Let me tell you, this pie is amazing. This is everything that the hype tells you it will be. It was just divine, like a slice of pure caramel tasting, toffee textured goodness. Just make sure you let it cool first!

Momofuku Crack Pie
from Momofuku Milk Bar as posted on LA Times

Cookie for crust

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour

Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter

1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar

3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar

1 egg

Scant 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) rolled oats

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy.

Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated.

With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated.

Spread the mixture onto a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack. Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust.


Crumbled cookie for crust

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little of the mixture clumped between your fingers should hold together). Divide the crust between 2 (10-inch) pie tins. Press the crust into each shell to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides of the tins. Set the prepared crusts aside while you prepare the filling.


1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar

3/4 cup plus a scant 3 tablespoons (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon (3/4 ounce) milk powder

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

3/4 cup plus a scant 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 egg yolks

2 prepared crusts

Powdered sugar, garnish

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla.

Gently whisk in the egg yolks, being careful not to add too much air.

Divide the filling evenly between the 2 prepared pie shells.

Bake the pies, one at a time, for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes. Remove the pies and cool on a rack.

Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. The pies are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Each of 16 servings: 432 calories; 4 grams protein; 45 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 27 grams fat; 16 grams saturated fat; 187 mg. cholesterol; 36 grams sugar; 125 mg. sodium.


  1. Mmmm this pie looks good. I think I'll take your advice though and cook it when next I have a lot a people to cook for!

  2. Oh my god - i started hyperventilating just reading your post. I have been reading about Momofuku and crack pie a bit recently (funny how I keep stumbling over the same posts as you!!) and am hoping to visit one (or all!) of the momofukus when we are in New York later this year!! I have to try making this pie so I can compare it to the "real" thing!!!

  3. Haha I like your equasion cake > pie :p.

    Seems like this pie caused alot of trouble for you.. and I'm guessing the eggs didn't help either.

    I've been having a bit of trouble with any store bought eggs I buy anywhere other than Woolies Indooroopilly :S.

    Either way, still looks great!

  4. I buy fresh eggs from an egg farm place in Muller Road, Zillmere/Taigum. (Its like a little oasis of farm in the middle of the suburbs). It's at the Zillmere end of Muller Road, anyway. You drive in. They're really cheap too. I don't know if you're ever near there?

  5. Emily - you have to visit Momofuku when you're in New York, and then you have to tell me all about it!!

    Brisbane Baker - the funny thing was, that even though it caused a lot of trouble it was so worth it. It was amazing.

    Mandarine - unfortunately I don't think I've ever been out to Zillmere. I've started buying my eggs at the markets again, it makes such a difference.

  6. Oh no! My momofuku pie did the same thing in the oven, except I didn't have a tray collecting the sticky mess. Glad it all worked out in the end. Terribly addictive, isn't it? :)