Friday, December 3, 2010

Frango Mint Ice Cream Pie at Marshall Field & Co.

For many years after moving to NYC, I made an annual pilgrimage home to Chicagoland for the Christmas holidays.  Part of the ritual was a stop at Marshall Field & Co. in Chicago to get frozen Frango Mint® Pie, no matter how hard that might be to fit into my schedule.  

The store was gorgeous (it is no longer Marshall Fields but now has been gobbled up by the Macy’s empire) on State Street with a stories-high atrium topped by a glorious Tiffany Favrile glass  mosaic ceiling composed of 1,600,000 pieces of glass – one of the largest of its kind built in 1907 (watch a video of it HERE ).

I always loved having my first slice in the Walnut Room restaurant – the first tea room in a department store… just for lady shoppers so they could stay and shop all day without having to rush home for lunch… brilliant idea, yes?  At Christmas time there was a giant Christmas tree in the center of the room instead of the usual fountain.

Back in the days before homeland security, you could bring the pie on the plane, wrapped in a dry ice box and ready to pop into your freezer when you got home (as you tried not to eat the whole thing in one sitting… not easy to do).  Did I mention I had often eaten 2 whole pies already during my stay?                             

It had been years since I had one and I searched far and wide for a recipe, finally locating one that was quietly put out by the store (before it was absorbed by Macy’s) and it is close to my memory of it.  I can’t find it online anymore. The biggest change I made was the topping. The recipe said hazelnut praline but I always remember it tasted like the inside of a Heath Bar… so that is what I made -- with almonds.  It is fast, easy and just revoltingly good (it was gobbled up in no time with one guest eating 3rds!). 

The Walnut Room opened in 1907… I have no idea how far back the Frango Mint Pie goes, but the Frederick and Nelson Company in Seattle trademarked the name “Frango Mint” in 1918. That company was bought out by Marshall Field who started making their own, slightly different version in their flagship store in 1929 on the 13th floor (and did so until 1999 when they moved off-site).  Get the ball rolling by ordering the famous green box of their chocolates that are now organic!  The pictures I’ve seen of the pie today are missing the toffee topping… big mistake.  The topping is magnificent.  If you can't get the mints, you could use milk chocolate with mint added... but the original is the best way to go and not terribly expensive.

Frango Mint Pie


½ c butter
½ c sugar
2 T water
1/8 t salt
¼ cup sliced almonds

Heat the butter, sugar, salt and water to 300º.  Add the almonds and stir.  Pour out on a cookie sheet and cool.  Break up and pulse in a food processor till it looks like course crumbs.


1 ½ cups graham crackers crumbs (about 18 crackers)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup sugar


1/3 cup of sugar (the original called for ½ a cup… your choice)

1½ teaspoons of cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 cup milk

8 Frango® Mint Chocolates (about 3 ounces) finely chopped
1 egg, room temperature

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. Combine the cracker crumbs, butter and sugar in a food processor and process until well blended. Transfer to the prepared pie pan and press the mixture evenly and firmly to the bottom and side of the pan. Bake for about 8 minutes, until the crust is beginning to brown. Transfer to a wire rack and allow it to cool completely in the pan.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add ¼ cup of the milk and whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add the chocolates and the remaining milk and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg until lightly beaten. Gradually add about ¼ cup of the hot chocolate mixture to the egg, whisking constantly until blended. Whisk the chocolate and egg mixture into the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, until slightly thickened. Do not let the mixture come near a boil or the eggs will scramble. Transfer the custard to a bowl and allow it to cool completely, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cream and vanilla. Refrigerate for about 2 hours, until well chilled.

Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instruction, until frozen but soft and spreadable. Transfer the ice cream to the crust and smooth the top with a spatula. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight, until firm.

Sprinkle the top of the pie with the praline, pressing it in gently to adhere.

**Tis the season to give… to WIKIPEDIA!!  It’s a great service that most everyone uses and it is done out of the goodness of many hearts.  Fill their holiday coffers, won’t you??
Donate a few bucks to keep them going. 

From Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks, an 1869 drink that is a dessert in itself.

Apple Toddy

1 or 2 small baked apple* (I used a lady apple with raisins, butter and brown sugar inside)
1 oz powdered sugar
½ c brandy or brandy and apple brandy (I used Germain-Robin Apple Brandy and Maison Surrenne Cognac )
1 c boiling cider
a little grated fresh ginger
lemon peel
cinnamon stick for apple

Put baked apple in a glass with cinnamon stick, add powdered sugar, cider and brandy.  Grate ginger on top and a squeeze of lemon peel!  If you are making the apples earlier, store them in the cider and warm them together.  Good to serve the apples with a little plate and fork… they are delicious!
*just a note, 150 years ago, most  apples were much smaller... closer to today's lady apple.  I had a very old tree that had small but very flavorful apples... not the style today!

Follow Me on Pinterest


T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

This is great! I didn't know there was Frango Mint Pie, but I know my friends in Chicago still speak lovingly of Marshall Field and Frango mints. I do think Department Store dining is becoming a bit of a dying art, although I am fond of Le Train Bleu at Bloomingdale's which has that same kind of rarefied atmosphere.

Diane said...

Great post as always. That mint pie sounds and looks quite delicious. Diane

La Table De Nana said...

You're a real connaisseur of drinks ! Love all the history..and the pie looks great too!

Not Quite Nigella said...

I remember going into Marshall Fields and seeing how beautiful it was! Stunning and I don't even know if I saw all of those ceiling details. And that apple toddy with the whole baked apple looks amazing! :)

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Thank goodness we can still get Frango Mints at Macys but I really miss Marshall Fields!! Macy's just doesn't excite me like Marshall Fields did. I never knew there was a Frango Mint Pie our Marshall Fields didn't have a nice restaurant like the one in Chicago. It sounds delicious! Your Toddy sounds perfect to warm the soul at this time of year.

Kathy Walker said...

Fun post. I so enjoy mint anything! I will give this one a try. I remember going to the tea room at the department store in town. Not nearly as grand as your experience but I do fondly remember the lunches I got have there with friends.

Tanya said...

I can gladly attest to the amazingly smooth and rich flavor (and texture)of this pie.
Great post about its background, and Marshall Fields.

Also, the toffee on its own was awesome.

From the Kitchen said...

Sob! We put our noses to the window at Marshall Field's (Macy's, of course) and were sorely disappointed last week. The theme is "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus". Very little animation-think a woman (the librarian I suppose) on a ladder that goes back and forth in front of some bookshelves. There's a skater that skates back and forth on a pond. Not much imagination. Not much animation. We did not have to jockey for position at the windows. No themed shopping bags. No more green boxes. Sob!

I did, however, enjoy your memory.


Linda said...

This is such a wonderful post Deana...the pie and drink look fabulous. When I was a little girl my parents took me on a trip to see relatives in Chicago...I remember Marshall Field's well, especially the Steif Monkey puppet I got there...I am pretty sure we also had lunch there with my Aunt. Thanks for the memories...

Jun said...

Ah, this sounds so delicious and smooth... thanks for sharing

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Dearest Deana,

We have been shoveling ourselves out of a huge snow covering that hit last night, but oh how gorgeous it is; all I need is my sleigh and team of WHITE HORSES to get me to where I want to go! I just came back from grocery shopping, but plows kept me from getting home at an appropriate hour! I want to thank you for your visit, but also for this AMAZING RECIPE that I MUST make for my quiet Christmas dinner with my beloved. I so love the old department stores and the class and special feeling they used to present the holidays with. Thank you for taking us on the historical and nostalgic side of food, the sustenance of life, but with your added touch, it is a journey into our humanity.

Enjoy your weekend dearest, Anita

Sarah said...

What a beautiful building! I have never been to Chicago. Interesting about the chocolates. In Winnipeg (which amazingly way back then rivaled Chicago as a hub and is directly north) has a company that is famous for Russian mints that sound almost exactly like the Frango mints. I agree that this would be much better with the praline topping.

Emily said...

I loved reading about your pilgrimages to this wonderful place and could just imagine the Tiffany ceiling, the large tree and the ladies tea room. Sounds like my kinda place. What a pity things don't last and small places get gobbled up by chains. Well done for recreating this pie; I adore anything with mint and your pictures are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Years ago I had the best cheesecake at Altman's department store in Philly. There was a store in NYC also. It was the best cheesecake I've ever had and I would love to find the recipie. Have you heard of it?

tasteofbeirut said...

This pie is next on my list to try; I would have loved to shop at this Marshall Field, what a place!
Also I agree with Wikipedia, it is a great service to all. We need to remember them.

Marjie said...

When my third son was dating a girl from the midwest, she brought me a gift of Frango mints. They were absolutely delightful. I would love to have gone to Marshall Fields just for this pie! And if I ever find more Frango mints, if they live long enough, I'll have to try this pie.

My Man's Belly said...

Oh Frango mints . That's one thing I do miss about the midwest. I used to go to Chicago at Christmas time so that I could see all of the great displays and to load up on those precious little mints. Thanks for the great memories!

Barbara said...

I remember Marshall Field's well! And that pie! How marvelous you gave us the recipe. And how elegantly you have served it. :)

These wonderful old stores...Hudson's, Peck and Peck, even Sanders, where we ate lunch every trip to Detroit, so many are either gone or have been absorbed. You can still find Sanders sauces here and there but their almond tea ring is what I miss the most.
Was thinking the other day of the Statler Hotel, where we used to stay and watch Hudson's Thanksgiving parade. AND eat their Mile High Strawberry Ice Cream Pie. Now that one I have a recipe for!

Chef Dennis Littley said...

you had me at that incredible pie, and I do remember Marshall Field...what a great store, but it went the way of all the old favorites, Lit brothers, Wanamsaker's, Strawbridges, and Gimbles...what history we lost with the closing of those stores...many absorbed by the May group to become soulless Macy's stores...even that store ruined in the process.
That apple drink looks amazing, a whole baked apple in a drink, gotta love it!
Thanks for another wonderful post

Faith said...

Wow, that mosaic ceiling took my breath away! So gorgeous. As is this pie...and I can see how the toffee topping would make it! What a great combo of flavors!

Mary Bergfeld said...

Sorry, I thought I commented yesterday. I just wanted you to know that I enjoyed and shared in your memories of the store at Christmas time. It was part of our Christmas celebration every year until we moved out of state. I still remember my first view of the tree when I was four years old. I remember my daughter's first views of it as well. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Lazaro Cooks said...

Fantastic photos and one great looking pie. Howver, for me, the real winner is the apple toddy. My kind of drink!

Be well

Becky said...

That looks heavenly! And it really brings back memories ... we lived in Chicago briefly when I was a very wee one, and I used to love Marshall Field'!

blackbookkitchendiaries said...

what a lovely looking pie.. i bought my first dinning set from marshall field's after i got married. it really brings me back.

Anonymous said...

I've seen that building in Chicago, but never went in. This pie sure looks wonderful, chocolate and mint is one of my favorite flavor combinations so I would be sure to love it. I like the topping with almonds too. Excellent!

Unknown said...

That looked like one amazing store, such a shame that it's lost its identity to Macy's. It looks like one of the great European department stores.
The pie looks wonderful and easy to make. I am happy that nobody decided to use a horrid green food colouring because its a mint pie (because that's what i'd expect).
*kisses* HH

Sue said...

The pie sounds gorgeous . . . as does the Apple Toddy (one of my weaknesses are hot toddys, punches and mulled wines). Thanks for another beautifully written and illustrated post Deanna!

Joanne said...

Your pictures of that pie look so incredibly sultry and inviting. It sounds mindblowing.

elpi said...

what a wonderful post. .I like the photos and the christmas tree, it's christmas already! yahooo the pie and the apple toddy, I suddenly felt so hungry

Anonymous said...

I'm a native Chicagoan, Frango Mint Pie, and the Field's Special Sandwich will always be two of my favorite gastronomic favorites from the store. I will being trying out this recipe on my siblings, they'll love it!

Jeanne said...

I made Frango Mint Pie for Thanksgiving last week using your recipe. OMG! It was EXACTLY like I remembered. Back in the day, it was a shopping ritual for my mother and I to have lunch at Marshal Fields in Milwaukee. And we always topped it off with a slice of this amazing pie. My mother passed away recently -- far too young. Making the pie for the holiday was like a tribute to her. Thank you for bringing back the memories!

Nancy said...

Amazing post! I love your blog! I love the pie too! Thank you very much for sharing your recipe :) I am going to try this one! Love it :)

DanSwanson said...

This has the instructions for the hazelnut praline also

cropmom66 said...

Thank you for this recipe for Frango Mint Pie. It was always my favorite thing to get at Marshall Field's. So many good memories. I remember when I was young, my aunt would take my brother and I for the weekend at Christmastime. We would go and pick out her tree and then she would take us to Marshall Field's (at Hawthorn Mall) for lunch/dinner. It was always such a treat. I would almost always get the pie, but they also had Santa sundae's and their hot fudge sundae's were the best! You would get a dish of the best vanilla ice cream, and the hot fudge was served in a little silver pitcher so you could pour it over the ice cream yourself. Love, love, loved it! Have been for lunch at the Walnut Room many times too. Chicken pot pie, Frango Mint pie and a wonderfully delicious hot cocoa. There is nothing like it at Christmas...nothing! Oh, and if you are lucky, the Christmas fairy would come to your table and you could make a wish while she sprinkled you with pixie dust.