Christina Tosi writes in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook that her favorite, favorite, favorite pie that they make at Momofuku Milk Bar is the Blondie Pie finished with Pumpkin Ganache. With an endorsement like that, this pie was high on my to-do list, but the degree of difficulty was much higher than with previous recipes. Graham Crust was easy – I had made it before with Brownie Pie, Carrot Layer Cake, Compost Cookies, and Graham Ice Cream. The challenge was two of the Mother Recipes in the book: Nut Brittle and Ganache.
Cashew Nut Brittle requires only two ingredients: sugar and cashews. The sugar is made into a dry caramel, the nuts are folded in, then the brittle hardens, and finally the brittle is broken into chunks with a rolling pin. Sounds pretty easy, but caramels are often tricky to make and a lot can go wrong. Initially, I made the caramel in a “non-stick” pot. However, the heat of the caramel melted away the non-stick coating from the bottom of the pot, which got incorporated as little black streaks in the brittle that I had to throw out. I tried again with a stainless steel pot, which worked much better. The brittle hardens right away on a Silpat but lifts away easily after hardening, because nothing can stick to a Silpat! Cleaning up the pot with stuck-on caramel required boiling some water in the pot to dissolve the caramel and using a knife to chip away the hardened caramel from the edges of the pot.
Half of the brittle is folded into the Blondie Pie Filling, which is white chocolate, butter, flour, salt, sugar, and egg yolks. The filling is put into a Graham Crust-lined pie plate and baked for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the other half of the cashew brittle is mixed with a little grapeseed oil and blended to make a powdery, crunchy praline that tops the pie.
The Pumpkin Ganache is a mix of butter, white chocolate, glucose, and heavy cream. Then pumpkin puree, cinammon, and salt are mixed in. The recipe calls for using a hand blender to mix the different components at each step, but I did not have one. I tried to use a stand mixer and ended up with a mess of different liquids and solids that had not fully bonded together. I saved it by pulsing the final mixture in a regular blender that yielded the smooth, glossy ganache described in the book. Whew!
The final pie is really good. The crunchy bits of Cashew Brittle in the Blondie Pie filling and the Cashew Praline on top make the pie decadently sweet, and the cinnamon-spiced Pumpkin Ganache elevates the pie even further. One can definitely taste and see why this is Chef Tosi’s favorite.