“Best possum I’ve ever eaten” … “Only possum I’ve ever eaten”
That’s what I told the counter employee after my wife Molly and I discovered possum pie at the divine Honey Pies shop in Little Rock, Arkansas. An immediate disclaimer: There’s no actual possum in the pie.
This particular delicacy actually includes a nut crust, a cream cheese layer, a slathering of rich chocolate pudding and a topping of slightly browned meringue. It’s a dessert very similar to a layer dessert my mom has made for years in a 13-by-9 pan.
Some people call this particular dessert combination “Sex in a Pan” or “50 Shades of Sex in a Pan.” I think we’ll stick to Possum Pie. It still delivers an appropriate shock factor, while also paying tribute to its Arkansas roots.
Like all our recipes, there are many options for personalizing Possum Pie. You can change the crust, opting for a different nut selection. You can pick a different pudding. You can choose a whipped topping instead of meringue. Each layer’s contents are up to you, and that’s what’s beautiful about making pie. You can truly always make it your own!
Here’s how we made our own Possum Pie, a how-to guide divided by layer.
What you need: 8 tablespoons cubed butter (one stick cut into pieces), 1 cup all-purpose flour, ¾ cup finely chopped nuts (pecans are the common choice, but we used the walnuts we had on hand and added about a tablespoon of brown sugar to help cut the typical bitterness of the particular nut.)
What you do: Combine the ingredients well and then press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of your pie plate. Then bake the crust on around 350 degrees for around 10 minutes, until it just starts to brown a tad. Then set the crust aside to cool. We find that a cooling rack, the kind you might often use for cookies, works well to speed up that process.
THE CREAM LAYER
What you need: one 8-ounce package of cream cheese at room temperature, 2 tablespoons heavy cream, ¾ cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
What you do: Whip the cream cheese and heavy cream together. We used our electric stand mixer. Then incorporate the sugar. Don’t overmix because a thicker texture will set better in your pie. When your crust is cooled, you’ll evenly spread this cream cheese layer onto the crust.
THE PUDDING LAYER
What you need: 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour, 2 egg yolks, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 cups milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla
What you do: Combine all of your ingredients into a nonstick pot (or in a double boiler) on medium heat on your stovetop burner. Cook until a pudding “consists,” an old-fashioned way of saying “it starts to thicken.” Spread the pudding over your cream cheese layer of the pie.
#FoodieScore Pro Tip: Many recipes call for an instant chocolate and fudge pudding combination here. We love this homemade pudding that we make from a family recipe called Banny’s Famous Chocolate Pie.
THE MERINGUE TOPPING
If you’re familiar with meringue and have your own method, substitute that here. If not, here’s a method we learned from a piece by cook and writer Sheri Castle in North Carolina-focused Our State Magazine.
What you need: 3 large egg whites, 6 heaping tablespoons of sugar (2 for each egg white), 1 ½ teaspoons of lemon juice (½ teaspoon for each egg white)…You can use an eighth of a teaspoon of cream of tartar for each egg white if you have some available. We don’t keep it on hand, but we usually have lemon juice.
What you do: Go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add your egg whites and the lemon juice (or cream of tartar) to the metal bowl of an electric stand mixer. You can mix by hand or with a hand mixer, but you’ll have more tiring work ahead of you. Whatever you do, don’t use a plastic bowl for this process. It just won’t work. And whatever you do, don’t allow any egg yolk in your bowl. It just won’t work. Start the mixer on a slow speed. After a few minutes when the egg whites look frothy with tiny bubbles, turn it to a medium-high speed. You’ll note the eggs begin to look whiter. Start adding the sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Keep mixing. After a bit, stop the mixer and lift the beater. If you see a stiff peak that stands up by itself and remains upright, you’re done. If not, return the beater and keep mixing at a medium-high speed. You can overmix, but you want those solid peaks. When you have them, turn off your mixer and spoon the bowl of egg white mixture onto the center of your chocolate pudding pie layer.
Take a rubber spatula and spread it evenly to the very edges of your pie plate. Don’t worry about spreading it too far because you want it to overlap the edges. It’s likely your meringue will shrink during baking, so you want to take it too far so it shrinks to a perfect point.
Place your pie in the top third of your oven. Bake it for about 5 minutes at 425 degrees. You just want your egg whites to be fully cooked. And you want a slight browning on the top. If you’re not quite there, bake for up to 3 more minutes. Don’t overdo it or you’ll end up with blackened meringue. And I advise you to not broil the meringue, as I’ve known so many Southern cooks to do historically. For bakers like me, that’s just a dangerous opportunity to burn it. And meringue will burn quickly!
As Sheri Castle warns in her Our State piece, a humid Southern summer day will wreak havoc on your meringue efforts. Opt for whipped cream on those days. You can even use the homemade whipped cream portion (ignore the coffee part) of this latte recipe in our archive. Just increase the amount you make. If you have extra, make lattes later!
Did you make this Possum Pie or have you made something similar that you enjoy? Let us know how it turned out! Comment on this post at foodiescore.blog or send us a quick email to share what you think.