Sweet Musings with a Bitterly Sharp Wit

The Life of Pie


Not all brilliant ideas start out that way. Anyone that’s spent a decent amount of time tinkering with recipes can attest to that, often chalking up more failures than successes despite any amount of experience at the stove. Case in point: This stubborn crusted wonder known fondly as a Caramel Corn Pie, which should have graced the pages of Easy as Vegan Pie.

Conceptually sound yet more temperamental than a 5-year old crashing from a sugar high, it was my problem child of the bunch. After sending it through the ringer with over a half-dozen different trials, completely revamping the base and rendering it unrecognizable from the original approach, sweet relief seemed to be in sight. Handing over the results to my unsuspecting recipe testers, I stood back with a smug sense of pride, awaiting the flood of enthusiastic feedback sure to return in no time.

Needless to say, that was not the case. Still baking unevenly, working in fits and starts, there was no rhyme nor reason to why it would work for some but flop spectacularly for others. Endless last minute tweaks caused it to miss the final deadline for joining the other perfect pies in the book, but finally, a gem I’ve been saving up to celebrate Pi Day (3.14!) the right way, its time has finally come.

For all the love that popcorn wins as a stand-alone snack, you’d think that more treats would seek to share in its reflected glory, utilizing the humble kernel for all that it’s worth. It strikes me as a huge failure of creativity that there aren’t more attempts at popcorn cupcakes, popcorn cookies, or popcorn pies. Luckily, with a bit of custard and caramel, this is a problem we can fix. Notes of burnt sugar compliment a buttery undertone, accented with a good pinch of salt. If you’re craving popcorn, it might be a wise idea to think inside the crust.

Caramel Corn Pie

1 Unbaked Classic Crust (page 36 of Easy as Vegan Pie)

Crunchy Caramel Corn Topping:

4 Cups Freshly Popped Popcorn* (From about 1/4 Cup Kernels)
1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
2 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine
1 Tablespoon Light Agave Nectar
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/8 Teaspoon Baking Soda

Caramel Corn Custard:

4 Cups Freshly Popped Popcorn* (From about 1/4 Cup Kernels)
2 1/4 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
1/3 Cup Cornstarch
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Whole Flaxseeds, Ground
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted

*To pop your corn, place the popcorn kernels in a medium-size brown paper bag (if you’re not sure if it’s big enough, err on the side of caution and pop the corn in two separate batches). Use scotch or masking tape to seal the bag shut, and put it in the microwave. Use the “popcorn” setting if possible, or set the timer for 3 ½ minutes at full power. When the popping slows to about once every 5 seconds, remove the bag, and open it very carefully, making sure your hands and face are out of the way- The steam can be quite painful! Sift out any unpopped kernels.

The caramel corn topping takes a bit longer to bake than the pie itself, so your best bet is to prepare it in advance. Preheat your oven to 225 degrees and line a jellyroll pan with a piece of parchment paper or a silpat.

Place the first four cups of popped corn in a large bowl near the stove. In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, combine the brown sugar, non-dairy margarine, agave, and salt, stir well and bring to a boil. Cook at a vigorous bubble while stirring continuously for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda. It will foam and bubble angrily, but don’t just stand around and watch it- Make haste and pour the mixture all over the popcorn. Toss to coat each and every kernel, and spread the syrupy corn out in an even layer on your prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. It will become perfectly crisp once cool, so despite the tempting aroma, resist the urge to take a bite until it reaches room temperature.

Once the topping is baked and out of the oven, increase the temperature to 325 degrees.

Bring together the custard filling by combining the second measure of popped corn and non-dairy milk in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and turn off the heat. Let sit for 1 hour for the corn to soften and infuse into the liquid.

Transfer the popcorn milk to your blender or food processor and thoroughly puree. Give it at least 5 full minutes at high speed to break down the kernels as much as possible, and longer if necessary. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing to get all the liquid out. Discard the solids.

Pour the popcorn milk back into the medium saucepan, and vigorously whisk in all the remaining ingredients for the filling. When perfectly smooth, turn on the heat to medium, and bring to a boil while stirring continuously, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent the mixture from burning. Once the mixture has thickened to the point that the bottom of the pan remains visible when you stir, without the filling immediately flowing back over the surface, turn off the heat and quickly transfer it to your unbaked pie shell.

Bake until custard is set and browned on top, about 45 – 50 minutes. The center should still be a bit jiggly when tapped, much like a cheesecake. Let cool completely and top with a generous mound of the crunchy caramel corn topping before serving at room temperature.

Makes 8 – 12 Servings

Printable Recipe


Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

22 thoughts on “The Life of Pie

  1. > it’s time has finally come

    “its” is possessive and takes no apostrophe.

    I have no relationship to The Oatmeal but you might find this helpful:


  2. It is slightly odd that we do not have more popcorn based recipes. That is so true! Having said that, this looks delicious and can’t wait to try ita,


  3. That looks so good – love the popcorn!


  4. Hannah, now I feel like a schmuck. Thanks for replying and please delete my comments. I went off the deep end after reading a bunch of semi-literate comments on other blogs and one silly apostrophe seemed to be the last straw!

    I love Bitter Sweet — your recipes, writing, and photos — and have been following for years.

    Welcome home.


    • Don’t worry, blatant grammar abuse can set me off, too. Better to be corrected while the post is still young and before those mistakes are widely read, so I really don’t mind your comment! Quite frankly, I’m just happy anyone reads closely enough to spot those errors anyway. Hope you’ll keep following for many more years to come. :)


  5. That’s some obnoxious grammar trolling. If you love bittersweet as you claim then you know that the writer is intelligent and educated and does not need unsolicited grammar advice or to be taught a middle school English lesson. Everyone makes mistakes and typos. Get a life.


  6. This is one amazing invention. I would have just been happy with the caramel popcorn but your incorporated all these flavours through the crust and the pie too. I love the texture combo. What a fun post!


  7. Your creativity never ceases to amaze me Hannah! I love this pie, so much deliciousness.


  8. You are so creative,dear Hannah!

    Popcorn is not eaten often here in Belgium, only in the cinema! This pie looks so alternative, tasty & fabulous even! I am so going to try it out! Yes! :) xxx


  9. This is such an interesting idea! I would love the texture and flavor of popcorn in pie.


  10. Now to just figure out how to sneak that into a movie theatre… :-)


  11. I love this… so creative…so delicious!! I can’t wait to share this recipe with my daughter.. we were just discussing popcorn tonight, and then I check my email…and look what I find! Wonderful post! :-)


  12. What a gorgeous pie…crunchy caramel…caramel corn custard…I would love to be that 5-year-old crashing from a sugar high and eat this right away!


  13. I’m glad you finally conquered this beast of a pie! Such a beauty and I love the concept.


  14. Judging on its super model status, I’d say it was worth the patience. I adore your creativity, Hannah!


  15. Popcorn for crunch , it’s a new idea for me ,thanks for sharing .


  16. I admire your dedication! It looks like the payoff was worth it, this pie looks absolutely dreamy!


  17. popcorn and pie is such a crazy idea yet at the same time it sounds so great I can’t believe I have never seen it before! This looks awesome!


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