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Crack pie is a sweet treat whose creation is generally attributed to Christina Tosi, a chef at David Chang’s Momofuku Milk Bar restaurant in New York City. She claims she invented the pie at another local restaurant, WD-50, as part of an experiment in pie making. The name is supposedly based on its addictive quality, like the popular street narcotic, and not on its ingredients or appearance.
The pie zoomed to popularity in December of 2009 when CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper announced on the syndicated American talk show Live with Regis and Kelly that he had become hooked on crack pie and enjoyed it while watching one of his favorite science fiction television shows. He said he did not know its ingredients, just that it was very sweet and addictive. He also revealed the name of the restaurant from which it came, which was also where it was baked.
Although Cooper’s rave review is largely attributed to the pie’s success, internationally acclaimed chef and author Martha Stewart had featured the pie on her television cooking show almost a year earlier. The show featured a history of the Momofuku Milk Bar restaurant and Chang and Tosi made the pie on the show. Stewart later recreated the dessert on her show and broadcast step-by-step instructions for viewers so they could duplicate it at home.
In the same year, New York Magazine named crack pie the best pie of the year. The alleged original recipe was published in newspapers and magazine worldwide and many versions of it were scattered all over the Internet. Reviews of home bakers’ attempts to recreate the confection were mixed, although most reported disappointing results in both appearance and taste.
Reports that crack pie was just another version of a very old Southern pie called chess pie quickly spread. The ingredients in the filling for chess pie are very similar: brown sugar, white sugar, corn flour, eggs and butter. What appears to make crack pie unique is the oatmeal cookie base that is placed atop the unbaked crust in the bottom of the pie pan before the filling is added. Since the only discernible crack in the pie may sometimes be found on the pie’s caramelized surface when it cools, the name is still widely thought to refer to its fans’ obsession with it.