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Food and Wine Best Pastry Chef winner Stella Parks recreates and re-imagines childhood favorites into sophisticated modern desserts.

BraveTart: Oatmeal Creme Pies

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[Photographs: Sarah Jane Sanders]

Oatmeal Creme Pies have mastered consistency in every sense of the word. It starts with the unparalleled consistency of both the cookies and the so-called creme. Together they are yielding yet substantial and neither squishy nor firm. Their flavor and texture remain consistent from edge to edge, from box to box, from decade to decade.

We can't get that kind of magic at home by gluing together any ol' oatmeal cookies with marshmallow fluff anymore than we can produce Chanel No. 5 by tinkering around with rubbing alcohol and flower petals. Recreating a confection so unlike other cookies that they bear the name "pie" demands careful study.

In Oatmeal Creme Pies, Little Debbie orchestrates a symphony of industrial delight. They create a beauty that comes from within: the creme. I can best characterize the filling of an Oatmeal Creme Pie by what it doesn't do, rather than what it does. It doesn't quite reach the edges of the cookie. It doesn't squish out the sides at first bite. It doesn't have a marshmallowy stretch. It doesn't amount to much more than a thin smear. It doesn't move or allow the cookies to twist apart. It doesn't compare to any other creme filling on the market. It doesn't have an "a" because we all know damn well that's not cream in there.

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Meanwhile, the cookies have all the comforting familiarity of an oatmeal cookie but in their most stylized form. There is a uniform thickness, or rather thinness, from edge to edge. Delightful, impossible thinness. No bulge in the middle, no tapering at the edges. The cookies' moistness verges on wet in the most delightful way, despite the grossness of those descriptors.

They have the flavor of stale gingerbread, the aroma of a spice cabinet on mute, and a hint of molasses and vanilla. It's a taste at once both dark with a chocolaty depth yet brightened by a vaguely fruity acidity. Such subtle nuance! Such glorious depth!

I couldn't make these kinds of flavor notes up. Don't believe me? Sprinkle a little salt on your next Oatmeal Creme Pie and stand back as a world of flavor reveals itself to you. Check out the label's ingredient list for yourself, if you must. Mixed in among the Sorbitan Monostearate and Malic Acid you'll find cocoa, dried apples, raisins, milk, and molasses awash in an ocean of sugar and corn syrup (both high fructose and standard issue).

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Your psyche picks up on those nuances, the hints of Old World flavor—though the extreme sugar content prevents most from sussing out those diverse flavors on any sort of conscious level. But as illustrated by another famous oat-based snack, the Fruity Oaty Bar, one should never underestimate the impact of subconscious delivery.

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Oatmeal Creme Pies »

About the Author: Stella Parks suffers from an unhealthy obsession with recreating the mass produced snacks of her childhood, but ironically is employed by a Frenchman to make the high brow desserts of his childhood. She blogs that dichotomy at bravetart.com and can be followed on Twitter at @thebravetart.

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