The best caramel pie recipe is a little old fashioned and a little new fangled.
This caramel crunch cream pie is definitely a special occasion pie. It takes a lot of whisking to make it happen but if you think of it as your pre-Thanksgiving upper body workout then maybe it won’t seem so bad. Some people run a turkey trot to warm up for a day of eating, I make pie. Seems a bit counterproductive, but that’s how I roll.
I’ve been working on variations of this pie for years. The flavors are insane, and I’m on a mission to get it just right. This version was really good the day I made it, and the day after, but by the 3rd day it got a bit watery. Be warned.
This year I put the caramel-y, crispy rice layer on the bottom of the pie. After a few days it will absorb moisture from the pudding and won’t be so crispy anymore, but the day of, it gives this smooth pie an awesome, and surprising crunch. I think maybe next year I’ll try to make the entire crust out of rice krispies.
I realize this all seems like random chatter, but this is truly a glimpse into my creative process. Ideas are constantly popping into my head. Often when I execute them they’re delicious, but not exactly what I was going for, so I revise and try again. And again. It doesn’t frustrate me if things aren’t perfect, as I said, usually they’re delicious anyway, it just motivates me to continue creating until my vision is realized. For me, this is fun!
There is nothing more satisfying to me than creative problem solving.
I realize that not everyone is enthralled by cooking like I am, but I’m willing to bet that there is something in your life that excites you, and brings you a sense of satisfaction like this does for me. The Hubs likes to build furniture. Val loves to run. What is it that brings you joy? The greatest thing you can do for yourself is discover what that is, and then set aside time, even just ten minutes, each day to work on it. You owe it to yourself.
- 1 baked 9 inch pie crust
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups puffed rice cereal
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue topping)
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 4 egg whites
- In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the sugar, water and corn syrup to a boil over moderately high heat. Lower the heat to moderate and simmer undisturbed until a deep-amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the caramel from the heat and stir in the salt and rice cereal.
- Press crispy rice firmly into the bottom of the pre-baked pie crust.
- In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, gently swirling the pan until the sugar dissolves. Cook over moderate heat, undisturbed, until a deep-amber caramel forms, about 8 minutes.
- Remove from the heat. Carefully add 1 cup of the milk. The caramel will kind up clump up. Cook over low heat, whisking gently, until mixture comes together and becomes smooth, about 5 minutes.
- In a small glass bowl, combine ¼ cup of the milk with the vanilla; sprinkle the gelatin on top and let stand until softened.
- In a large glass measuring cup, whisk the remaining 2¾ cups milk with the cornstarch and kosher salt. Pour this milk mixture into the caramel and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Return the mixture to a boil and cook until thickened once again. Whisk in the gelatin mixture.
- Spread the pudding evenly over the crispy rice layer and press a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface. Chill until fully set 1-4 hours.
- In a small bowl combine sugar and cornstarch.
- In a deep bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer on high speed (use whisk attachment if available) until very foamy and no liquid whites remain in bottom of bowl. Continue to beat at high speed and gradually add the sugar-starch mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. Then beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.
- Top chilled pie with meringue and toast with a kitchen torch or place under the broiler until browned, about 5 minutes.
- Serve immediately.