Keep Your Fork, There's Pie...

Heading into March, I didn't really have much on my agenda, besides planning for Pi Day, on 3.14. Last year, I finally managed to make a real pie to celebrate the occasion, after years of good intentions, and I wanted repeat the feat this year. I looked through all the pies on my Pinterest board, narrowed down the options to a few serious contenders, and then proceeded to get really, really busy.

Between work, a deadline for the next edition of "Dining Due Diligence," and my attempts at maintaining some semblance of a social life, the time has practically flown by lately. I knew I was going to have to scale back my plans for Pi Day, and when I took a look around my kitchen last week, I knew just how to do it.

Sitting in my cookie jar were the leftover corn cookies I had baked from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, and Christina Tosi, in her modular approach to baking, had included instructions for turning the cookies into a crust for her cereal milk ice cream pie. Cereal milk is a Momofuku Milk Bar signature, and they turn it into a range of desserts from panna cotta, to popsicles, to ice cream, in addition to selling it by itself, either to drink on its own, or as a coffee additive. It's basically exactly what it sounds like: milk that has been infused with cereal, like what is left at the bottom of your breakfast bowl in the morning, with a bit of extra sugar added.

I was a little skeptical about the whole cereal milk concept, but thought it might be worth trying, due to its incredible popularity. When I described the concept to Justin, he was similarly cool on the topic, but I won him over when I told him that we'd have to buy Captain Crunch for the project, and that there would be leftovers for him to eat.

The modular nature of the recipe made it perfect for my time-crunched lifestyle of late: I was able to grind up the cookies for the crust, press it into a pan, and freeze it while the cookies were still fresh, and I outsourced the cereal milk production to Justin earlier this week. Basically, all it involved was crushing some Captain Crunch, pouring milk over it, steeping it for 20 minutes, and then straining it and adding sugar.

The "ice cream" base was the most complicated step, as it required making s custard, but it was allegedly designed to freeze well without first being churned, because the recipe dated back to a time in Tosi's career when her pastry kitchen was too small for an ice cream machine. Any streamlining that results in fewer dishes to wash is fine with me.

Ultimately, I was forced to question Tosi's wisdom in not churning the ice cream base. Though the cereal milk had a surprisingly pleasant taste, the texture of the ice cream was extremely icy and almost crunchy. I honestly can't imagine a professional chef serving that in a restaurant or a bakery. Plus, though the cereal milk was mild and surprisingly good given what it was, I felt like it needed something, like some berries or fruit spooned on top for garnish, because it was a little bland on its own.

The crust, however, was the highlight of the pie by far. It was truly excellent: sweet, corny, and with a nice hint of salt for balance. I suspect it would be great paired with a variety of other pie fillings, like a cream or custard pie, or something in the blueberry family. I'm definitely going to keep this crust in mind, not only as a potential use for leftover corn cookies, but also as a justification to bake a batch of the cookies in the first place.

It's kind of funny that cookies turned out to be the star of Pi Day, but I'm glad to have a new pie crust for my repertoire, and to have been able to delve further into the Momofuku Milk Bar book, even if the cereal milk ice cream filling was kind of a bust.

Corn Cookie Pie Crust
adapted from Christina Tosi

3 corn cookies
2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Put the corn cookies in the food processor and pulse it on and off until the cookies are crumbled into bright yellow sand.
2. In a bowl, knead the butter and ground cookie mixture by hand until it is moist enough to form a ball. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt an additional tablespoon of butter and knead it in. 
3. Using your fingers and the palms of your hands, press the corn cookie crust firmly a 9-inch pie plate. Make sure the bottom and the walls of the pie plate are evenly covered. Wrapped in plastic, the crust can be frozen for up to two weeks.

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