How to Crush Life With a Cap'n Crunch Pumpkin Pie
In 1620, decorated military strategist Captain Horatio Magellan Crunch piloted his cartoon ship full of refugees across the Atlantic in search of a new life. With the help of Native Americans, he learned how to take a staple crop, maize, and distill it into its sweetest, crunchiest essence. On the eve of the first name-brand cereal harvest, Cap'n Crunch celebrated with a grand feast, convincing generations of parents that his relatively nutrient-free invention was appropriate to feed to children for breakfast. And that's the story of Thanksgiving.
Fine, not really, but it's still about as accurate as the story we were taught in school.
Regardless of the history, it's still a great reason to eat pie. But here's the thing, only 90% of pie is good. Not like 90% of all pies are good, but, literally, 90% of each pie by volume is good. The filling is cool, but almost all pie crust is completely useless.
When I was a kid, I didn't know that pie crust was edible. I thought you were supposed to suck out the filling and throw the tasteless exterior away. To this day, no one has proven me wrong. That's why your obligatorily delicious pumpkin pie this year should be made with something that is actually good -- Cap'n Crunch. For history. For America. For… pie crust that doesn't suck.
To make the pie, you must start by making the all-important Cap'n Crunch flour. That sounds way more elegant than "dump a whole box of children's cereal into a blender and click the go button." But whatever, man. The good thing is, you can use any excess Cap'n Crunch flour to thicken soups and stews later in the week. It tastes gross but that's not the point.
That Cap'n Crunch magic dust then gets drowned in butter, which combines with the sugar in the cereal to act as a binder. It's going to be way too buttery, and way too salty, which is what you're going for. This is not the time for subtlety. It will all become one balanced and harmonious flavor explosion when it mixes with the pie filling.
The pumpkin filling itself is pretty standard. (I probably lifted it from an old Paula Deen episode but, whatever, the recipe has been working for me for years.) I add in some ground cardamom and additional Cap'n Crunch dust just to tie all the flavors together. The bitter, lemony fragrance of cardamom really works to temper the sweetness of the Cap'n. Maybe, I don't know. It makes the pumpkin taste like Froot Loops though, and that's cool.
Finally comes the pile of meringue. There's no particular reason that there's a meringue on this pie, except for that it's the anti-crust (as in it's really, really good), and you should be putting it on every single pie that you make. Also, meringues look super impressive, like you did some weird science-y shit in the kitchen, and impressing people is what Thanksgiving is really about. Also maybe Pilgrims. And Native Americans. And the enduring legacy of a British cartoon naval captain who dared to dream. Amen. Now let's go make a pie.
Pumpkin Meringue Pie with Cap'n Crunch Crust
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Yield: Serves 8
Stand mixer (optional)
9-inch pie pan
10.1-ounce box Cap'n Crunch
8 tablespoons melted salted butter
15-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin puree
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 whole eggs
6 egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup white sugar
1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Dump the entire 10.1-ounce box of Cap'n Crunch into a food processor. Let it run on high for 30 seconds until the cereal turns into a fine powder. (If you don't have a food processor, put the cereal in a large bag and beat it with a blunt object until it turns to dust.)
2) Measure out 2 cups of the crushed cereal and reserve the rest for the filling and decorating. Put the cereal in a large mixing bowl with your melted butter. Mix with a spoon until it looks like wet sand. Spray a 9-inch pie pan down with nonstick spray then press the butter and cereal mixture evenly around the bottom of the pan and all the way up the sides. Place the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes.
To make the filling:
1) In a large mixing bowl, combine your pumpkin puree, condensed milk, eggs, cinnamon, cardamom, and an additional 2 tablespoons of Cap'n Crunch dust. Then stir until it's combined and smooth.
2) Take the crust out of the freezer, pour in your pie filling mixture, and spread to make sure it's level and flush against the sides of the crust. Throw it in the oven for about 35-45 minutes (insert a toothpick into the middle at 35 minutes, and if it doesn't come out clean, bake for an additional 10 minutes), then remove from the oven.
To make the meringue:
1) Crank the oven up to 425 degrees. Put your egg whites and cream of tartar in a stand mixer with a balloon whisk attached, then let run on high until the whites begin to stiffen into firm peaks, about 1 minute. Keep the mixer going and gradually add in your sugar, ¼ cup at a time, until the mixture looks like old-timey shaving cream, about 3 minutes.
2) Scoop all the meringue on top of the pie and use a spoonula (or a regular spoon if you aren't cool enough to own something called a spoonula) to spread the mixture in a slightly irregular dome shape.
3) Sprinkle an additional 2 tablespoons of Cap'n Crunch dust on top for extra color and Cap'n-y greatness. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 until the meringue browns, then remove, let rest for at least half an hour, slice, and go to town like the Pilgrims would have wanted you to, or something.
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