Our café kitchen has been testing, developing, and tasting new items for our dessert menu. We are intent on staying true to foods that reflect our roots, incorporating traditional Southern elements into decadent dishes.
Moon pies are treats that fit the criteria of being both definitively Southern and decadent. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing one, a moon pie is a sandwich cookie consisting of two layers of a soft graham cookie, a marshmallow filling, and a flavored coating, typically chocolate.
The first Moon Pies were made by the Chattanooga Bakery in 1917 and were based upon requests from hungry coal miners. When a Chattanooga Bakery salesman visited a company store that catered to coal miners, the miners told him they wanted something solid and filling, because they often didn’t get time for a full lunch. When the salesman asked them how big the snack should be, a miner framed his hands around the moon hanging in the sky and said, “About that big.”
Around the same time, Chattanooga Bakery workers were starting the practice of dipping graham cookies into marshmallow and drying them on the windowsill to harden. Company bakers tried several adaptations of this idea and eventually added a second cookie to make a sandwich, then dipped the concoction in chocolate. The result is the Moon Pie almost any Southerner recognizes today. During the 1930s the combination of a Moon Pie and an RC Cola became known colloquially as the “working man’s lunch,” because the two items were cheap, easy to find, and easy to pack as a lunch.
Since the 1970s, the city of Mobile, Alabama, has been associated with the Moon Pie. The city famously tosses the cookie sandwiches from their Mardi Gras parade floats each year. Since 2008, Mobile has also celebrated each New Year’s Eve by lighting up the city’s sky with a 600 pound electric Moon Pie at the stroke of midnight. And each year, the city of Bell Buckle, Tennessee, celebrates the RC Cola and Moon Pie festival. Today, Moon Pies are still baked at the original Chattanooga Bakery and are loved throughout the South.
Alabama Chanin has developed our own take on the traditional Moon Pie: miniature versions of the original 4-inch round cookies. All ingredients are made in house and the final product is topped with a decadent semi-sweet chocolate ganache, then sprinkled with a few flakes of sea salt.
MINIATURE MOON PIES
Yields: 100 1 1/2-inch rounds
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a mixing bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients and whisk to break up the brown sugar. Add in the butter pieces and cut in using a pastry blender, until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey, whole milk, and vanilla extract to combine. Pour into the flour mixture and, using your hands, press together to make a slightly sticky dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more, until chilled completely.
When ready to roll out, flour your surface generously and cut dough in half. Roll out into a 1/8 inch thickness and punch out rounds using a 1 1/2-inch cookie or biscuit cutter. Repeat this process with the remaining dough. Lay the rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to bake.
Bake at 300 degrees for 4 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.
Yields: 1 quart
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cups honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners sugar for dusting
Combine the water, sugar, honey, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the sugar dissolves and the syrup reaches 238 degrees. In the meantime, bloom the gelatin in 1/3 cup cold water and let soften. Squeeze dry and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the vanilla extract. With the whisk attachment, beat hot syrup into the gelatin mixture on low speed. Gradually increase the speed to high and beat the mixture until soft, pillowy, and warm to touch.
Assembling the Sandwiches
Fill a piping bag with the warm marshmallow and pipe 1-inch circles onto the bottom surface of 1/2 of the graham circles. Top with the remaining halves to make a sandwich. Place on a cooling rack and sit aside until the filling firms up.
Chocolate Ganache Topping
Yields: 1 1/2 pints
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Whisk the heavy cream and honey together in a saucepan and heat over a low flame until steam begins to rise from the surface. Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate chips in a bowl, and using a rubber spatula, stir to combine until all the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth and shiny.
Coating the Sandwiches
Using a tablespoon measure, coat each sandwich round with ganache, starting from the center and moving towards the sides of the sandwiched cookies, until it drips down and fully coats the top of the cookie. Let cool for five minutes and top with a pinch of flaked sea salt. Leave your moon pies to set completely in a cool place, about 10 minutes.
P.S.: We also found a delicious version of the Moon Pie featured this month in Garden and Gun Magazine. It seems as though this is the month of the Moon Pie.