Provisions: Over the Moon
A browse through the sundries and notions shops at the Nashville airport reveals a confection that is scrumptiously celestial. Tennessee is the home of the famously beloved MoonPie and the treat has been in production at the Chattanooga Bakery since 1917. The story of its creation comes from an encounter with a traveling salesman from the bakery and a coal miner who, when asked what he’d like to snack on replied: a graham cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate pie “as big as the moon!”. The MoonPie has become an iconic Southern snack tradition for four generations, and was even the inspiration for Big Bill Lister’s 1950s hit “RC Cola and a MoonPie”.
By the 1970s, MoonPie became downright exotic, expanding into taste sensations like banana, orange, and vanilla. A DOUBLEDECKER version also entered the orbit! Today, who could resist the heavenly appeal of newly minted MoonPie flavors, like salted caramel, coconut or peanut butter crunch?
There’s even an Annual MoonPie Festival! Held every year on the third Saturday in June in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, the event includes a rollicking, frolicking parade, live music, clogging competitions, a seemingly counter-intuitive 10-miler run, the cutting of the world’s largest MoonPie, and the finale: the coronation of the Festival King and Queen.
For those do-it-yourselfers out in the galaxy, making your own MoonPies isn’t rocket science. Here’s a fun recipe for a mini version of the treat.
Mini Moon Pies
12 TBS butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 TBS cornstarch
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 TBS confectioners' gelatin
2 TBS cold water
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Equipment: 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
To Make the Dough: In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until soft and smooth. Add the sugar and continue mixing until well blended. Add the vanilla and mix until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, stir together the cocoa powder, cornstarch and flour. With the mixer running at low speed, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and blend just until combined. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours or overnight.
On a floured work surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thick, or as thin as you can possibly get it. Use flour-dipped cookie cutters to cut out 1 1/2 inch diameter circles and place them on an ungreased sheet pan, leaving 1-inch between the cookies. You can re-roll the scraps. To make them look more like store bought, prick the disks with a fork a little. Bake until crisp, 12 to 14 minutes, and then let cool on the pan
To Make the Marshmallows: Combine the 1/4 cup water, the corn syrup, and the sugar in a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer. Bring to a boil and cook to "soft-ball" stage, or about 235 degrees F.
Meanwhile, in a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Sprinkle the gelatin over the 2 tablespoons water and let dissolve. When the syrup reaches 235 degrees F, remove it from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix. Pour the syrup into the whipped egg whites. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe a "kiss" of marshmallow onto half of the cookies, and top with the rest to make sandwiches. Let the pies set at room temperature for 2 hours.
To make the Chocolate Coating: Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-filled cookies into the hot chocolate. Lift out with a fork and let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Place on the cookie sheet and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.
Yields 6 dozen MoonPies.
Chef Mary Howley is the culinary consultant to the RCS Hospitality Group and a former Executive Chef of her own catering company, several country clubs, and fine dining restaurants. She studied throughout Europe and honed her skills on the East Coast working with a myriad of culinary styles. She had the honor to serve as research and development chef for Food Unlimited, and held the position of Pastry Chef in two James Beard Dinner Events.