Sugar that’s thickened and baked until molten
Pretzels and graham crackers, dolloped with cream
Caramel and chocolate, pairing supreme
(Apologies to Rogers, Hammerstein, and Julie Andrews)
Rather than belabor the point with five more stanzas about a pie that’s one of my new favorite things, I’ll just say that this dessert stole the show last month at Thanksgiving. Actions spoke louder than words; while carrying the lineup of pies and tarts to the buffet, I heard the usual chorus from the living room of how everyone was too full to even think about something sweet. But surveying the scene after the smoke had cleared and plates were scraped clean, not even a sliver of this pie—nay, just a misshapen lump of crust and whipped cream—remained.
A simpler version of the pie in Food & Wine caught my eye with a plain old graham cracker crust, a layer of homemade dulce de leche, and a whopping topping of whipped cream. Never being one to leave well enough alone, I snuck a bunch of salty pretzels into the crust and subbed out half the whipped cream for a chocolate pudding layer. And bumped up the amount of sea salt, because of my salt tooth.
Am I also crazy for thinking a milk chocolate mousse layer topped with vanilla-tinged marshmallow fluff also might be a scene-stealer? Or is that just the sugar talking?
For those of you who feared making dulce de leche at home because you thought boiling sealed cans of condensed milk was the only way to go? There’s a less anxiety-inducing method. (I won’t even try the boil-a-can way myself.) Just crack open those cans and slow-roast the contents in a water bath to make a milky, intense caramel without the threat of lava-like explosions.
Caramel, Chocolate, and Pretzel Pie
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Makes one 9-inch pie or 8 mini pies or tarts
- 3 oz. graham crackers
- 3 oz. thin pretzels
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon flaky sea salt like Maldon
- 1 recipe chocolate pudding base
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350˚.
Whir the graham crackers and pretzels together in a food processor until they’re pulverized into crumbs. Transfer to a large bowl.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add to the crumbs. Stir well and press the crust into a pie dish or 8 small pie or tart pans.
Bake for 10 minutes or until the crust is just turning golden brown. Cool to room temperature.
Make the salted caramel:
Preheat the oven to 425˚ and bring a kettle of water to a boil.
Pour the two cans of condensed milk into a heatproof 8- or 9-inch square glass casserole dish and sprinkle the sea salt on top. Cover with foil and place into a heatproof 9-by 13-inch casserole dish. Pour hot water from the kettle into the larger dish until it reaches halfway up the sides of the foil-covered dish.
Bake for 2 hours, stirring the condensed milk every 30 minutes and adding more water to keep it halfway up the sides of the pan. The condensed milk will get lumpy, chunky, and sometimes a little fluffy as it cooks; just keep to the stirring schedule and it will smooth out in the end.
Make the pudding layer as the caramel cooks and refrigerate.
Pour the caramel into the cooled crust and top with the cooled pudding. Refrigerate overnight.
Before serving, whip the cream and powdered sugar together with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and top the pie in fluffy peaks.