There’s only one woman who can get away with a dish like crack pie: Momofuku wunderkind Christina Tosi. Owner and head pastry chef at Momofuku Milk Bar, Tosi likes to take people by surprise, serving up desserts like liquid cheesecake and deep-fried apple pie soft serve. Her dishes tend to elicit childhood memories of Corn Pops and cookie dough, pb & j’s and saltines, but in unfamiliar ways. She’s the real-life Willy Wonka, and I believe one day soon, she will turn someone into a giant blueberry and send them floating down Bedford Avenue.
Tosi was trained at the French Culinary Institute and worked at Bouley and WD-50 before stepping foot in David Chang’s Momofuku to work as an office lackey. After Mr. Chang tried her home-baked goods he convinced her to start making desserts for his restaurants, and the rest is history. Now, Tosi is in charge of a staff of Oompa-Loompas working out of a large warehouse in Williamsburg; besides creating the desserts for Momofuku Ko, Ssam Bar, and Noodle Bar, Tosi runs two Milk Bars, one in the East Village and one in the ‘Burg.
In addition to the infamously addictive crack pie, Tosi is perhaps most celebrated for her “cereal milk,” a flavor that appears in soft-serve ice-cream form, as well as straight milk form, made by soaking Special K, Kix, and other old favorites in milk. Subtle genius. I paid a visit to the East Village storefront last week for the strangely wonderful birthday cake truffles, corn cookies, and yes, crack pie, below.
Last fall, Clarkson Potter published the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, revealing the secrets behind the candy factory. It’s like finding a golden ticket in a Wonka bar: all her best recipes are there for all to read, and replicate if you’re so adventurous. And that’s just what I did today for my dear friend Elizabeth’s birthday. EZ mentioned recently she’d never had Tosi’s crack pie, and when it was described as being reminiscent of that southern classic, chess pie, she seemed eager to try it.
Making this dish was less arduous than I anticipated. There was no cereal-soaking involved, no potato chips or grape jelly stuffed into batter. Just lots of butter and sugar and egg yolks whisked together, the cornerstone ingredients of Tosi’s empire. (If you get a moment check out the article in the current issue of Edible Manhattan, which talks about Tosi and her relationship with former dairy supplier, Milk Thistle Farm, which sadly went out of business last month.) The pie itself is a smooth, custard-like concoction of brown sugar, cream, butter, eggs, and vanilla, baked in an oat-cookie crust. Not a bad way to bite into one’s birthday.
Happy birthday Elizabeth! One of the things I miss most about Phaidon is getting to work next to you every day.
Adapted from Christina Tosi
Oat Cookie Crust
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
9 tbsp (1 stick plus 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temp, divided
5 1/2 tbsp (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp oats (not instant)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp (generous) salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tbsp nonfat dry milk powder (*or 3 tbsp nonfat evap milk)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Prepare the oat cookie crust
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 tbsp butter, 4 tbsp brown sugar, and 3 tbsp sugar in medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, beat until 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 pan, and press out evenly to the edges of the pan if possible. Bake until light golden on top, 17 or 18 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool completely.
Using hands, crumble the oat cookie into a large bowl; add 3 tbsp butter and 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to a 9-inch diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly into the bottom and sides of the dish. Place pie dish on a flat baking sheet in case of spillage.
Prepare the filling
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. (If it’s too darn hard/expensive to buy the powder, you can substitute for 3 tbsp evap milk in the next step.) Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, egg yolks, and vanilla, and whisk until well blended. (If you’re going to use evap milk instant of powder, use 3 tbsp here, and only 3 1/2 tbsp of the heavy cream.) Pour filling into crust. Bake for 30 minutes (filling may bubble). Reduce oven temp to 325 F. Continue to bake pie until filling starts to brown in spots and sets on the edges but center is still a little wobbly when gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. Sift powdered sugar lightly over top and serve cold!