Millionaire pie has been a staple at Furr’s, a Southwestern chain of cafeterias, since 1946. The pie is so named because it’s rich (from eggs and cream), it’s gold (from lots of crushed pineapple), and it’s supposed to taste “like a million bucks.” The original recipe tops a no-cook filling (raw eggs, confectioner’s sugar, and butter) with sweetened whipped cream studded with nuts and bits of pineapple. Most modern recipes avoid the raw eggs by filling a graham-cracker pie crust with a mixture of cream cheese, whipped topping (such as Cool Whip), canned pineapple, and nuts.
Element of Distress
These pies did not taste like a million bucks: They were more like pasty, cloyingly sweet frosting. Even worse, we hated the soggy nuts and fibrous pineapple dispersed throughout the otherwise creamy filling.
Line of attack
This pie would live up to its name with a sweetly balanced, smooth, fluffy filling free from distracting chunks.
You know how it’s just easier to demolish a building and start anew instead of tinkering on a shoddy foundation? This was it exactly: The original was so distractingly bad, we started from ground zero. Our first thought was to create a pineapple chiffon filling from scratch: starting with a homemade pudding, replacing the dairy with pineapple juice, folding in homemade whipped cream at the end, and pouring the mixture into a simple homemade graham cracker crust. However, the pineapple flavor was too subtle. To get the intense, complex pineapple flavor we were after, nothing worked better than cooking down a can of crushed pineapple until it was lightly browned and incredibly fragrant. We could then process the cooked pineapple into a smooth texture.
This filling tasted great, but it was too loose and wasn’t slicing well. We tried adding more cornstarch to the filling to stabilize it, but that made the mixture too slippery. Plain gelatin firmed up the filling perfectly, and when we switched to pineapple-flavored gelatin we finally had a sliceable filling with plenty of pineapple punch.
And what about the nuts that were originally mixed in the filling? Where was the finishing detail to our chunk-free zone? We eliminated those soggy nuts in the filling by instead incorporating the nuts (ground) into the crust. Curious if there was a better world of flavor than mere graham crackers could afford us, we tried alternatives like animal crackers and shortbread—but nothing bested pecan sandies, which added another layer of sweet, rich pecan flavor to the crust.
With a triumphant recipe that befits its rich history, here’s a pie that really tastes like a million bucks.