Pi(e) Day is here again, my friends! I look forward to this day every year, and then usually have some mild form of blogger panic attack when figuring out what to make to celebrate the occasion. Should it be fruity? Chocolate? Creamy and light or dense and rich? Whatever it is, it needs to be awesome. After mulling over a variety of ideas, I finally had my eureka moment when I considered the possibility of a layered salted chocolate and caramel filling combined with a malted pretzel crust. Oh yeah, I’m onto something.

This is definitely one of those times when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which were already pretty fantastic to start with. Made as a pie, this is an outrageously decadent dessert. To be honest, when I make this again I will try making either in a square pan and cutting into bars, or in a tart pan (probably rectangular) and slicing into thin rectangles for ease of serving and of eating. The filling is just a touch sticky to easily eat with a fork, and I eventually just picked it up and enjoyed sans utensils.

Another important thing to note is that this pretzel crust is super crumbly and makes for a messy dessert. I like it this way and think it adds to the charm overall. The texture is on point and I don’t want to mess with a good thing. However, if you wanted a more fine crumb to this and a more intact crust overall, you could surely grind the pretzels to a finer finish in your food processor and have something more akin to a graham cracker crust. If you try this, I would love to know how it turns out and if you needed to add more melted butter to keep the crust together!

A final note – I dedicate this and all of my Pi(e) Day posts to my extremely awesome high school calculus teacher Mr. Strawn. I will never forget the perfection of his homemade chalkboard compass, giant size protractor, his excellent handwriting, and above all of that, his unparalleled (wink*) talent and passion for teaching. Thanks Andy!

  • Prep about 30 minutes
  • Cook about 30 minutes
  • Yield 1 9-inch pie

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 2 cups (200 grams) mini pretzels
  • ¼ cup (53 grams) light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. (25 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (17 grams) non-fat dry milk powder
  • 1 tbsp. (9 grams) malt powder
  • 9-10 tbsp. (127-141 grams) butter, divided

For the caramel: 

  • 1½ cups (297 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup (74 grams) water
  • 6 tbsp. (85 grams) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup (76 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal

For the ganache:

  • 6 oz. (170 grams) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or discs (60-70% cacao)
  • ¾ cup (170 grams) heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp. (42 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Flaky sea salt such as Maldon, for finishing

Directions

  • 01

    To make the crust, first make the pretzel crunch. Preheat the oven to 275˚ F. Crush the pretzels into small bits. (This time I used the food processor and pulsed until I reached the desired texture. Sometimes I put them in a pie plate and crush with a heavy drinking glass. You could also place in a bag and use a rolling pin, but it is a waste of a bag!) Add in the sugars, milk powder and malt powder. Melt 7 tablespoons of the butter, stir in and toss until evenly combined and the mixture begins to clump. Spread the clusters on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

  • 02

    Once the pretzel crunch has cooled completely, melt the remaining butter and toss 2 tablespoons with the entire batch of pretzel crunch. Press the mixture into the sides of a 9-inch pie plate in an even layer. (If the mixture isn’t sticking together, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and then shape the crust.) Transfer to the freezer to chill.

  • 03

    To make the caramel layer, combine the sugar, cream of tartar, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring with a spatula until the sugar is dissolved. Let cook, swirling the mixture in the pan occasionally but not stirring, until the caramel becomes a medium-deep amber color. (Watch carefully and avoid distractions – this perfect color moment comes and goes in a flash!) Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter one piece at a time until smooth, being careful as the mixture will sputter. Very gradually whisk in the cream and then whisk in the salt. Let cool until just warm, then pour into the chilled pretzel crust. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill until you are ready to add the ganache layer.

  • 04

    To make the ganache, combine the chocolate, cream, and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water so that the bowl is not touching the water. Stir until the ganache is smooth and shiny. Let cool until the ganache is thick enough to hold an indentation from a spoon. (You can use the refrigerator or freezer to speed this process, checking every 5-10 minutes and stirring to even out the temperature. Waiting for ganache to cool is the worst.) Once the ganache reaches the desired consistency, remove the pie plate from the refrigerator and pile the ganache into the center over the caramel layer. Use the back of a spoon to spread the ganache to the edges of the pie, with a swirling motion. Chill once more until the ganache is set, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with flaky salt to finish. Let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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