Miniature Momofuku Crack Pies

Miniature Momofuku Crack Pies by Dishy Goodness

Last year, I had the good fortune to visit New York on a business trip. Having heard about the Momofuku empire well before then, I knew that I HAD to stop at Momofuku Milk Bar (and Ssäm Bar beforehand) to sample the famous Crack Pie. The pie features a salty-sweet oatmeal cookie crust with a chewy, rich and buttery filling. It was a rapturous experience, and I savored each bite of the buttery, caramelly dessert to the very last morsel.

That trip was over 18 months ago, and I finally got around to making this revelation in my own kitchen. The impetus was my office holiday party, which included a dessert bake-off with a prize! I thought that Crack Pie would be a strong contender, so I decided to enter the contest with a dessert I'd never before attempted. I generally like to test out recipes before serving them to the public, but I had a sneaking suspicion that this was one recipe that would not fail me.

Oatmeal cookie crust being pressed into a Wilton non-stick mini-muffin pan.

I used the recipe that Christina Tosi shared with the Los Angeles Times. Rather than make two pies, I thought it would be more convenient and festive to make them into bite-sized miniatures.

I used a Wilton non-stick mini-muffin pan and pressed the oatmeal cookie crust into each well. This is the most time-consuming part of the recipe for making the tiny pies. I recommend making sure that you do not press the crust all the way up to the top of the well to make pies easier to remove afterwards. The pie will expand as it bakes, pushing the crust up and out.

The filling for half of 1 Crack Pie can fill 24 mini-pies
To make a pan of 24 mini-pies in this type of pan, you only need to make enough filling for 1/2 a pie (i.e., 1/4 the amount of the LA Times recipe). However, you do need to make the full crust recipe (which makes enough for two pies). The reason is because you are using much more crust for these individual desserts than you would for one entire pie. One tip: if you like salty-sweet as much as I do, be sure to taste the cookie crumb mixture to adjust for the right level of saltiness before pressing into the pan.

Crack Pies collapse as they cool down.
Understandably, the baking time needs to be reduced for these little cuties. If everything goes well, the pies will bubble up and look like they are breathing organisms. When you take the pies out of the oven, the filling will start to collapse almost immediately. The photo to the left (above) shows them on their way down, and the photo to the right shows what they look like after they've cooled. I was a little concerned initially because, frankly, I didn't think they looked that appealing. But I worried for nothing; they were amazing!

Gently rotate the pie in the pan before removing. To add a finishing touch, dust with confectioner's sugar.

After they cooled down, I used a thin offset spatula to carefully lift the edge of each pie. I made sure first that the pies were able to "rotate" inside the well before trying to lift them from the edges. This takes a little practice and patience, but what doesn't make it out in one piece goes to the chef! :)

A light dusting of confectioner's sugar added a wintry holiday feel, and into the fridge they went for two nights. They held up very well until the holiday party, and the sugar didn't melt away either! These are great make-ahead individual dessert treats for any and all occasions.

One final note: I highly recommend measuring the ingredients by weight as a professional baker would do. (I love my OXO Good Grips 11 lb. Food Scale!) If you don't have a scale, the recipe below offers standard measurements.

And, in case you were wondering, my miniature Crack Pies won the bake-off!

Servings: Makes 24 mini-pies
Note: Adapted from Momofuku Crack Pie recipe, 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 or 4 ounces) 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

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

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

3. 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.

4. Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated.

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

6. 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 or 2 ounces) 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). Adjust salt, if necessary. Divide the crust among the 24 wells. 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.

3/8 cup (2.625 ounces) sugar
3/16 cup plus a scant 3/4 tablespoon (1.75 ounces) light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/12 cup plus 1/4 teaspoon (3/16 ounce) milk powder
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) butter, melted
3/16 cup plus a scant 1/2 tablespoon (1.5625 ounces) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste)
2 egg yolks
Prepared crusts
Powdered sugar, garnish

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. 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.

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

4. Fill the mini-pie shells to 2/3rds full.

5. Bake the pies for 9-10 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 4-5 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they do not burn. Remove the pies and cool on a rack.

6. After the pies have cooled on the rack, gently rotate each one inside its well to make sure they are not stuck to the pan. Rotate all of them before trying to remove the pies with a thin metal spatula or similar tool. Another option: you could also carefully stick a fork into the top of the pie, angling the fork towards the outer edge of the pie to remove them from the pan.

7. Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. If you need to stack the pies for storage, do so after they've completely chilled and use parchment paper to separate them. The pies are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Special thanks to Mr. DG for taking photos while my hands were otherwise occupied.


Rendang Curry Beef Stew

Rendang Curry Beef Stew
It's really starting to feel like autumn, or perhaps even winter, now in Southern California. For us in SoCal, this means that temps are in the 50s to 60s with occasional bouts of rain. Like most of you, chilly weather makes me want to indulge in soul-soothing comfort food.

As luck would have it, I was sent two jars of sauce by WORLDFOODS to review: a curry sauce and a stir-fry sauce. WORLDFOODS makes ready-to-use Asian sauces, dips, marinades, dressings, and more, with natural ingredients and no preservatives. And they are planning to expand their offerings to include the flavors of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, France, Germany and Italy! Mr. DG appreciates that they are gluten free, as well. I was impressed by the lack of artificial ingredients and flavorings in their products, and I was excited to try their products.

WORLDFOODS Malaysian Rendang Curry Cooking Sauce; Angus chuck roast, carrots and onions
I decided to use the Malaysian Rendang Curry Cooking Sauce to make a beef stew in my sadly neglected Fagor Rapida pressure cooker. I really should use my pressure cooker more often! Such a great timesaver for making soups, stocks, stews, braises and more. It's also great for steaming veggies or even seafood! Combine this with a ready-made sauce, and you have a great option for time-saving weeknight meals.

Before and after browning beef in pressure cooker with onions
This recipe is very flexible, and if you don't have a pressure cooker, you can make the stew in a Dutch oven. You would just need to simmer the beef for a longer amount of time until it was tender.

My pressure cooker goes right on the stovetop, and I can brown ingredients first, all in the same pot. I used an Angus chuck roast from Mitsuwa Marketplace. I was looking for boneless short ribs, as recommended in a recipe for Beef Rendang from RasaMalaysia, but no such luck. I sliced the chuck into large chunks. I diced a large onion, crushed 5 to 6 cloves of garlic and cut two carrots and one russet potato into similarly sized pieces.

Lightly brown the carrots and potatoes until par-cooked.
I browned the beef, onions and garlic in some oil, then removed them to a bowl. I browned the potatoes and carrots next until they were par-cooked. You can tell the potatoes are partially cooked if the center is opaque and the outer edges are translucent. I removed these from the pressure cooker and set them aside.

Add in 6 big spoonfuls of the Rendang curry sauce and about 1/4th can of coconut milk
After returning the beef/onion mixture to the cooker, I added six tablespoons of the curry sauce and approximately 1/4th can of coconut milk. Be sure you shake the can before opening. I forgot this important step, and the milk dribbled out in clumps. Stir through to combine.

Add enough liquid to just cover the beef.

I added some water (about 2/3rds cup) to bring the liquid level high enough to just cover the beef. After that, I put on the lid and brought it up to pressure over high heat. A little yellow button pops up on my Fagor when pressure is reached, and it is from this point that you start timing the cooking process. Turn the heat down low enough to maintain a steady stream of steam from the cooker. I suggest cooking the beef for 35 minutes, or until the meat is really tender.

Tender chunks of beef with carrots and potatoes in a Rendang curry sauce.
Release the pressure on the beef, then add in the potatoes and carrots and cook until your desired tenderness. I overdid it with the cooking, having added the vegetables to cook with the beef under pressure, and it turned them too soft. The potato starch did add thickness to the sauce, so if you like a thicker texture, then add the potatoes at the last 10-15 minutes of pressure cooking. The photo above shows how I would have *liked* the stew to turn out, with still solid chunks of potato, but as I stirred the sauce, many of the potatoes disintegrated. At this point, you'll want to season to taste. I used some Maggi sauce, soy sauce and kosher salt. I added some more curry sauce and coconut milk as well.

I've never had rendang before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I do know that it's usually cooked for hours until the liquid is almost completely gone, but since I was in the mood for comfort food, I wanted it more saucy to mix with the rice. The flavor was subtle and slightly sweet—perhaps from the tamarind?—and was a bit milder than I expected. To add some zestiness, I squeezed fresh lime juice over the curry, which I served over rice. The lime juice gave it a lift with the acidity.

I do think the ready-made sauce is a great alternative to making the sauce from scratch for those times when you want to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible. There are many spices and unique ingredients that go into Asian dishes that it can be daunting to attempt even when you have lots of time to cook. What is also appealing about WORLDFOODS products is that there are no strange ingredients or chemicals such as the kind you might find in lower-quality ready-made sauces.

Please feel free to leave me your suggestions and comments if you've made rendang before or used WORLDFOODS products. I look forward to hearing from you!

Serves 4 -6

1.5 lbs Angus chuck roast, cut into 1” cubes
5-6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, cut into medium chunks
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into medium chunks
½ jar WORLDFOODS Malaysian Rendang Curry Cooking Sauce
¼ - ½ can coconut milk
Worcestershire sauce
Maggi sauce
Soy sauce
Kosher salt to taste
Canola oil

Optional: lime wedges

  1. Heat approximately 2 tablespoons of canola oil in pressure cooker over medium-high heat.
  2. Brown beef, then add onions and sauté until softened.
  3. Add garlic and sauté for about 1 minute.
  4. Remove beef/onion/garlic mixture to separate bowl. Retain any juices with mixture.
  5. In pressure cooker, heat another 1-2 tablespoons of canola oil.
  6. Add potatoes and carrots and sauté until parcooked.
  7. Remove potatoes and carrots to another bowl.
  8. Return beef/onion/garlic mixture to pressure cooker, along with any accumulated liquid.
  9. Add 6 tablespoons of curry sauce, about ¼ can of coconut milk and mix through. (Add as much or as little as you like of the coconut milk).
  10. Make sure there is enough liquid to just cover the beef. If not enough, add water.
  11. Bring to a simmer, then put on pressure cooker lid and lock.
  12. Turn heat to high to bring contents up to pressure. When pressure is reached, turn heat to medium-low and start timing from this point.
  13. Cook beef for approximately 35 minutes.
  14. Carefully release steam from pressure cooker and check tenderness of beef.
  15. If beef is tender, add potatoes and carrots and combine.
  16. Add more curry sauce and coconut milk, if desired.
  17. Simmer without lid until vegetables are al dente, or to your liking. Or you could place the pressure cooker lid back on, bring it up to pressure over high heat, then cook for 3 minutes. Cook longer if you want your potatoes to soften and thicken the stew.
  18. Season to taste with Worcestershire sauce, Maggi sauce, salt and pepper.
  19. Serve over white rice with lime wedges.


Doya Doya - Authentic Osaka-Style Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki served sizzling hot on a cast-iron skillet at Doya Doya.
Ever since moving to the South Bay, I've discovered a wealth of Japanese regional cuisine that is a departure from the ubiquitous California roll or chicken teriyaki offerings found in less culinarily diverse communities. To name a few, I have been delighted to enjoy tonkotsu ramen at Ramen Yamadaya, the tokusen toroniku at Santouka, the homemade tofu and udon at Oumi Sasaya and now, authentic Osaka-style okonomiyaki at Doya Doya.

Doya Doya is the new eatery I mentioned in my Beach City Baked Donuts post. The chef uses cage-free eggs for his baked donuts and in the homemade batter for the savory Japanese pancake. He shuns preservatives and seeks to offer high-quality ingredients in his comforting menu at both establishments.

Doya Doya storefront and place setting
Located in a strip mall at Artesia Boulevard and Van Ness in Torrance near Gardena, the restaurant can be a little hard to find. Look for the black-and-white signage with large Japanese characters and "Doya Doya" in red. It's closer to the Van Ness side. The four times I visited Doya Doya, they accepted cash only, so be prepared if that is still the case.

Doya Doya's shrimp in garlic butter sauce. YUM!
Doya Doya offers a nice array of appetizers that will whet your appetite. Mr. DG and I especially loved the shrimp in garlic butter. What is not to love about this dish?! Succulent, perfectly cooked shrimp in a savory sauce that will make you want to pick up the dish and lick it clean. Don't forget to add a squeeze of lemon juice for a little acid to cut through the buttery yumminess.

Cheese crisps; Ms. DG drinking cold green tea.
We also tried the crispy cheese chips, which included six airy, crunchy sticks to one order (most of which were eaten here before I remembered to take a photo!). The cheese crisps were accented with different flavors including seaweed and curry. For us, the cheese crisps were decent but were outdone by the garlicky shrimp and my new favorite, chorizo over lightly crisped potatoes.

Chorizo over potatoes; patience sign at Doya Doya
Oh, divine chorizo! This appetizer reminded me of a bolognese-type sauce over lightly browned chunks of potato. There is a deep, long-cooked flavor to the chorizo topping, as if it'd been simmered for hours. Also, I'm a sucker for potatoes in almost any iteration, so this was a total win for me.

The chef cooking okonomiyaki with Berkshire pork
As the sign says, "Please be patient" for your okonomiyaki order. It's made fresh and it'll arrive searingly hot on a cast-iron griddle. I ordered the okonomiyaki with thin, bacon-like slices of Berkshire pork wrapped around the thick pancake. The pork melds into the crispy outer layer of the pancake, which envelops a fluffy, moist interior of cabbage and what appeared to me to be small shreds of pickled ginger. A thick, caramel-colored okonomi sauce is spread across the top of the pancake and served to you. Please resist the urge to touch the griddle, it is HOT!

The finished okonomiyaki with Berkshire pork
Being novices to this culinary creation, Mr. DG and I were probably a bit too conservative with our additional toppings of Kewpie mayonnaise, whispery-thin bonito flakes and ao-nori seaweed powder the first time. The bonito flakes are particularly fun to add because the radiant heat makes the bonito wave and dance as if they were alive.

Okonomiyaki toppings: bonito flakes, ao-nori powder & Kewpie mayonnaise

We were more generous with the mayo and toppings on subsequent visits. The okonomiyaki at Doya Doya is made for you by an expert chef. My first experience with this tasty omelette/pancake/frittata-like dish was at Gaja, where you can make it yourself, or have the waiter do it for you. For me, I'd rather have the chef do the heavy lifting. There is a novelty of some sort to cooking your own food in certain situations, but I'd rather choose a professional when it comes to Osakan okonomiyaki.

Doya Doya's okonomiyaki with Kewpie mayo, ao-nori (seaweed) powder and bonito flakes
Should okonomiyaki not be quite your thing, Doya Doya also serves a heaping portion of yakisoba. We ordered ours with egg, and a thin egg pancake covered the noodles and were topped with sauce and some ao-nori powder, I believe.

Doya Doya yakisoba being wrapped with a thin egg pancake

The yakisoba arrived like a sunny gift of deliciousness. A bright pink tangle of pickled ginger was presented on the side of the noodles. This may be a surprise, but I used to avoid ginger at all costs. If I bit into a slice or ate a shred, I would make a face and try to get rid of it as soon as possible. The pungency and texture were quite unappetizing. In the last year and a half, I have become a huge fan of ginger in fresh and pickled forms. I guess you really do get wiser with age. :)

Doya Doya's yakisoba with egg is served.

Another delicious flavoring I used to avoid was black sesame. For a gal born and raised in Los Angeles on Neapolitan ice cream and fruit-flavored treats, black sesame seemed to be an odd choice for a dessert or pastry. Once again, I've wised up and now thoroughly enjoy black sesame, especially in ice cream. And Doya Doya's black sesame ice cream is very good. A great way to end a meal of comforting Osakan cuisine.

The perfect ending at Doya Doya: black sesame ice cream

2140 Artesia Blvd., Suite N
Torrance, CA 9050
(310) 324-2048

TU-SAT: 11:30 am - 2 pm
TU-SAT: 6 pm - 9:30 pm
SUN: 12 pm - 4 pm
Call before you go to confirm hours.


Easy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese adapted from Alton Brown
If you need a last-minute dish to bring to a barbecue or holiday get-together, here's a simple but really delicious side that will please everyone.

I have made this recipe  more than a few times, and I tried it once as a gluten-free dish by using Ancient Harvest Quinoa Elbow Pasta. I haven't been diagnosed as being allergic to gluten, but Mr. DG seems to feel better without it in his diet, so I gave the quinoa macaroni a try. The texture is pretty close to wheat-based pasta when eaten fresh, but upon reheating, the macaroni became a little unpleasant to chew. It was a bit off-putting for me.

The recipe is by Alton Brown, and every time I've made this, I've gotten rave reviews. If your macaroni isn't completely devoured in the first sitting, then reheat gently on the next go around. If you reheat it too vigorously, the sauce loses its creamy texture. I think the eggs in the sauce curdle if you aren't careful. The most time-consuming part of the recipe is grating the cheese. Other than that, everything is a snap!

One last tip is to use good quality, extra-sharp cheddar for this dish. And, please, grate your own cheese by hand or food processor. Don't use pre-grated cheese!

I recommend doubling the recipe.

Gather your ingredients first. Don't skimp on the hot sauce, in fact, add more than you think you'll need. I like using white pepper instead of black because you don't get dark flecks in the dish. I also like the different heat from the white pepper versus black.

Eggs and mustard powder for Mac 'n' Cheese

One tip I read online said to mix the powdered mustard into the eggs first until well incorporated before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Egg mixture for Mac 'n' Cheese

Combine well until there are no lumps in the mixture. Set aside until ready to use.

Stir butter into cooked macaroni

Cook the macaroni until al dente, drain and return the pasta to the pot. Melt the butter into the pasta.

Add grated cheddar cheese to macaroni and egg mixture

Pour in the egg mixture, then add grated cheese to macaroni. Stir until the sauce is smooth and creamy.

Stir slowly until cheese has melted into macaroni

Heat through gently, being careful not to overcook the sauce.

Enjoy the mac 'n' cheese and the many compliments you'll receive!

Here is the recipe adapted from Alton Brown.

Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese 

Prep Time:10 min
Cook Time: 25 min

Level: Easy
Serves: 6 to 8 servings (if you eat like a bird)

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
15 dashes hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
White pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
8 - 10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

By the way, this would be a great side to serve along with Mexican "Grilled" Corn!

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

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