First it was cupcakes. Now here come the Crack Pies.
I knew it wasn’t going to be long in coming, that Manila’s home bakers would soon start making their own crack pies. I once read that fashion trends take about two to three years before they start trickling down from the runways onto the streets. I’d agree and say that the window for a dessert to gain critical mass is about the same.
The Crack™ Pie (yes, it’s a trademarked name), is famously attributed to Christina Tosi who shares her recipe, or at least an iteration of it in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. It’s a revamped clone of an old-fashioned dessert called a Chess Pie which hails from the southern United States. Lush in butter, sugar, and eggs, it’s bound together only by a little flour; think: pecan pie without the pecans. Christina’s riff utilizes cream, corn powder (or cornmeal) for crunch, and milk powder for that lip-smacking “Mmm, what’s in this thing?”
I myself have baked this pie a few times and, like any dessert worthy of such a provocative name, the recipe isn’t one of those instant, slam-bang successes. It takes a few tries to get it right and Tosi’s recipes are notoriously over-sweet.
Vanessa Ledesma is the first home baker in Manila who has brought her version of Crack Pie to the market, and you know what Marketing people say about “first mover advantage” and all that. Vanessa’s revived her home baking career after an extended hiatus during which she focused on her other professions as an architect and purveyor of Nu Skin products. Her new home business, now called The Red Hot Oven, got its much-needed jump start at the various food events earlier this year. Her Crack Pie was an unexpected, undeniable triumph, compelling her to focus on that. “We chose to start with the Crack Pie because of its novelty and popularity. Says she, “Not many bakers offer it, and most people have never even heard of it. Most importantly, it’s just so very delicious!”
As someone who displays culinary foresight, Vanessa offers not one but a few versions of her star product. There’s the Classic Crack Pie, the Peanut Butter Crack Pie, and the Pili Crack Pie (see end of post for prices). What grabs me from the get-go is the grit of the cornmeal and whole oats, they provide a meditative exercise in chew and pleasure. A silken stream of richness in butter and cream flows onto the tongue, imprinting notes of vanilla and an irresistible hit of saltiness. If this sounds too good to you already and you’re a peanut butter lover like me, then consider mania magnified with the Peanut Butter Crack Pie (photo above), which is my favorite. All of the taste sensations above plus the take-no-prisoners passion of a peanutty paste. While Vanessa recommends that Crack Pie is best eaten straight from the freezer, I try it and find that I prefer it at room temp or slightly warm.
My Crack Pie mantra: Want. Have. Share with no one.
Crack Pie is called such because a) you soar high on sugar which leads to the inevitable crash and burn and b) it’s addictive, maybe too much so. I can’t agree however, familiar as I am with the landscape of dessert addiction. This is just a remarkable on-trend sweet which Vanessa executes with deliberation and an eye for flavor balance.
While Crack Pie is shamelessly cheeky and awash in richness, Vanessa also offers two other pies that exhibit elegant restraint and are based on two long-time family favorites. There’s the Calamansi Pie, a wonderland of citrus tempered with a luxury of egg yolks and I assume, condensed milk. It’s thick and sweet and licks me back. You must appreciate the juxtapositions of sweet and sour otherwise you won’t like this dessert. Then there’s the Honey Pili Pie given the creative Filipino moniker, Piling-Pili Pie. Accenting a uniquely Filipino ingredient which Vanessa likes to create with, I think of this creation as a pecan pie but infinitely more subtle and less sweet. The interplay of whole and chunk pili nuts fashions a flurry of varying textural changes.
The Red Hot Oven
mobile : (Globe) 0917-8194700 / (Smart) 0918-9624700
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
FB page : The Red Hot Oven
pick-up : Magallanes Village, Makati (2 days’ notice)
1. Classic Crack Pie – P700 (9″ round); P750 (12 pcs. mini pies)
2. Pili Crack Pie – P750 (9″ round)
3. Peanut Butter Crack Pie – P750 (9″ round)
4. Calamansi Pie – price upon request
5. Piling-Pili Pie – price upon request