A buttermilk bourbon pie with almonds inspired by Pierce Brown’s Morning Star.
When it comes to Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy (which he just announced he’ll be extending!) I’m apt to drop literally everything else I’m reading in favor of his cinematic space battles. But, at the same time, I want to savor every bloodydamn second of this book. You may remember my last Red Rising pie (with its bright colors and weird combination of icebox and blowtorch) was a pretty general, color-coded ode to the overall premise of the series. When I got my hands on a copy of the new Morning Star (which debuted at #1 on the NYT bestseller list last week!) I wondered what the inspiration was going to be this time around. I didn’t have to wait long: sack up, y’all, and get ready for a Howler pie.
I don’t know how to do this without giving away a whole swath of the plot in books one and two… but I’m going to try to build on my previous summary from the last pie (click the link above) and keep specifics to a minimum.
Darrow and his band of closest compatriots have fully joined the Sons of Ares, waging war on two fronts: against Darrow’s psychotic former classmate from the institute, the Jackal, for control of Mars and against the Sovereign on Luna to overturn the color system. Sevro, Darrow’s closest and craziest (in a lovable way) friend, is at the heart of the movement and the group of golds he rallied around him at the institute have become a multi-color elite task force at the heart of Ares’s army. The Howlers.
Notes from the Piebrary:
I think I forgot just how much I love Sevro’s crass sense of humor and colorful expressions of rage, but I also get the sense that Brown wrote him with an especially gleeful and adolescent sense of abandon this time around. Needless to say, I’m diggin’ on it. Sevro’s instability serves a dual purpose: alternately giving the book these shining moments of levity and really twisted humor, while also creating a wildly chaotic sense of tension. For all his jokes and violence, Sevro’s been through a whole hell of a lot. Underneath that crusty (sometimes literally) exterior he’s got a squishy, broken, insecure core. More is at stake for Sevro in this book: he’s taken on more responsibilities and leadership and you can tell from the minute he returns that it’s only a matter of time before something cracks.
Parsing this Pie:
That said, I definitely drew my inspiration for this pie from one of the more hilarious scenes of the book. The Howlers’ initiation ritual. Oh my god. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet because it is so bloodydamn good. It comes pretty early on, but just know that it involves creepy-crawlies, booze, lots of bodily fluids, and nudity. I promise it is much funnier and less horrifying than I just made it sound… but it’s also super gross in a “I’m so glad I never joined a fraternity” kind of way. As soon as I read this scene, I knew what the pie was going to be.
I made a buttermilk and bourbon chess custard. Which is to say, I made a straight fuckin’ whiskey pie. (I took a few pointers from the Maker’s Mark website, but I have never read a more confusing recipe in my whole damn life.) Hope you like booze. have a booze pie. And, I dunno, let’s striate the top with bloody red food coloring (for the #aesthetic) add some buggy-lookin’ halved almonds to the top. The result is a sickly-sweet, boozy, frothing bloody mess. On the one hand, I’m a little turned off by this vile lookin’ thing, but on the other I kind of want to go face down in it and just get wrecked.
So… mission accomplished, yes?
-1 cup flour
-1/3 cup butter
-3-4 tbs water
-1 1/2 cups sugar
-1 1/2 tbs cornmeal
-1 1/2 tbs flour
-1/2 cup buttermilk
-1/2 cup melted butter
-1 egg yolk
-1 tsp vanilla
-1/2 tsp cider vinegar
-5 shots of whiskey
-1/3 cup of halved almonds
-red food coloring
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
First things first, take two shots of whiskey for yourself because baking is always more fun when you’re sloshed. Or, if you’re a lightweight, share that second shot with a friend and then it will be half as drunk, but doubly fun.
Okay, down to business.
For the crust, cut the butter and water into the flour and use your hands to bring it together into a cohesive but shaggy ball. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface and line your pie tin. You are not going to blind bake this bad boy, so just stick him in the fridge to chill.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cornmeal, and flour. You’re going to combine all the wet stuff in a bigger bowl.* Whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, cider vinegar, and the remaining three of the shots of whiskey together and then slowly add the dry components, whisking all the time.
Pour the filling into the waiting crust. Drop a few points of red food coloring in the creamy colored custard and use a toothpick to drag the dye back and forth, marbling the surface. (I got a little slap happy with the dye and it all turned pink when baked, but feel free to experiment.) I peeled the almonds where the skin was loose and flaking off, but left it where I could for that dark-shelled insect look. Sprinkle the halved almonds on top of all that gorgeous marbling you just did and pop that mess in the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the custard is just set and jiggles slightly in the middle when you shake it.
Allow to cool and then refrigerate for at least three hours, but preferably overnight. Enjoy with a group of friends. No plates, just utensils, like animals. Fight each other for the next bite; a fork is a deadly weapon if you’re creative enough.
*I feel like for a Sevro-inspired Howler pie I should make a really gross joke about bigger being better and, I dunno, something about wet stuff? Ugh, I’m going to need to work so hard to get the teenage boy out of my brain after this.