- Photo: Elizabeth Strandberg
The folks at South on Main owe their success to many things—things which are glaringly obvious to anyone who’s visited them at some point in the relatively short time that they’ve been open. Exceptional food with fresh ingredients, carefully planned and meticulously decorated interior, superlative service, and a strong social media presence are just a few of the reasons they’re on pretty much everyone’s list of best eats in Little Rock at this point.
But one man in particular is responsible for ensuring that each diner finishes their meal with a sweet smile on their face. His name is Matt Lowman and he’s the pastry chef as South on Main.
Matt likes to create, what he calls, “fat kid food.” It’s the kind of food that people recognize from childhood, desserts that evoke certain memories or emotions. His desserts change regularly, but you can always count on a variation on some simple, nostalgic food. You’ll find Lowman’s upgraded versions of classic candy bars (Butterfinger, Snickers), pies, layered dessert jars, cookies, and (thankfully) he’s one of the first and only people doing upscale doughnuts. A recent visit there found us wolfing down a plateful of cinnamon-sugar pecan fritters that were seriously addictive. We all left smiling, I assure you.
We also recently sampled Lowman’s chocolate cream pie, another impressive rendition of a classic dessert. Pies are plentiful in Arkansas, but they’re also in high demand. Matt was kind enough to share with us his recipe—so now you can shamelessly devour six slices of this pie in the comfort of your own home, without having to endure the judgment of innocent onlookers at a restaurant.
Chocolate Cream Pie
Pastry chef at South on Main
Crust: “This crust is a traditional Pate Sablee, but I like to think of it as an amazing cookie crust.”
Pate Sablee: one 8-9 inch crust
Butter — 6 oz
Powdered Sugar — 3 oz
Vanilla Extract (or Bourbon) — 1 tsp
Whole Eggs — 2 ea.
All Purpose Flour — 9 oz
“This dough is also made like a cookie; beat the butter and sugar together until its light and creamy, then add the vanilla. One by one, beat the eggs into the butter. Then slowly add the flour while mixing, and mix just until all the flour has been mixed in. Then wrap the dough in plastic and place in the refrigerator until the dough is cold and has become hard. Once the dough is chilled, roll it out into your desired pie pan and chill one more time. Bake the crust at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes until the crust is completely cooked. If you use pie weights while baking, remove them around the 8-minute mark so the bottom can cook evenly. Let the crust completely cool before adding the filling.”
Dark Chocolate Pastry Cream a.k.a Puddin’
Filling for one 8-9 inch pie (plus a little extra)
Milk — 32 oz
Sugar — 4 oz
Egg yolks — 4 ea.
Whole eggs — 2 ea.
Cornstarch — 2.5 oz
Sugar — 4 oz
Butter — 2 oz
Chocolate Liquor — (to taste)
Dark Chocolate Chips — 8oz
Salt — pinch
“With this filling, you first bring the milk and first amount of sugar (4 oz) to a boil. While that is heating up, whisk together the eggs, cornstarch and second amount of sugar (also 4 oz) until it’s light and fluffy. Once the milk comes to a boil use a ladle to slowly mix half the milk into the egg mixture (also known as tempering.) Return the other half of the milk to the heat and bring it back to a boil, then carefully pour the tempered egg mixture into the boiling milk while whisking the whole time. The mixture will now start to thicken. Make sure to constantly stir, and then take it off the heat once it gets to pudding consistency. Pour the cooked pudding into a heatproof bowl and mix in the butter, chocolate, liquor, and salt, letting the heat melt the butter and chocolate throughout. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming and place in the fridge until completely cooled.
Once the piecrust and chocolate filling are both cool, fill the crust with the pudding. After that, you could go traditional and top it with a meringue, but I prefer to top it with a great whip cream. Just whip together 2 cups heavy whipping cream with ½ cup of powdered sugar and a little vanilla extract until it’s stiff and fluffy. Enjoy!”