Oct 31st, 2005
Pies intimidate me. I'm not exactly sure why this is - probably something to do with all the hand-wringing that goes on in cookbooks and magazines over how hard it is to make the perfect flaky pie crust. The butter must be cold! You must dab at it daintily with only the pads of your fingertips! You must hover over the dough ready to slam it into the fridge at the least sign of the dreaded warming! And of course you must roll it out on the chilled marble slab we all keep handy in our luxuriously appointed kitchens - preferably using your silicone coated, lightweight rolling pin.
Whatever. I like things with a bit more margin of error.
So I don't suppose it should come as a surprise that a stroll through my recipe archive should turn up not a single pie recipe. In the nearly two years of feverish cooking documented here, I've apparently made no pies. Now the really ridiculous thing is that in that time I've made plenty of turnovers, galettes, tarts, etc. - which use the savory version of pie crust. Apparently if you don't call it a pie it doesn't scare me. The workings of my brain are a mystery even to me (it's an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a cerebellum).
So it's about time to make a pie, otherwise why all this blithering setup? The occasion for the Kafehaus inaugural pie baking was the annual PieFest held at my work around Halloween. In the past I've sort of half-assed it - one year I brought cookies, using the rationale that people would want another option besides pie, and last year I brought Plum Kuchen, which is sort of like pie if pie were, well, cake. But this year I brought pie! A wonderful, glorious Chocolate Cream Pie!
Not only did I have to make the pie crust for this pie, but I had to blind bake it as well. Blind baking has less to do with stumbling around your kitchen in the dark and more to do with baking the crust on its own before adding the filling. You put some foil over your pie crust and weigh it down with uncooked beans or rice, just something to stop the crust from puffing up which it cooks. You can use any recipe you want for this pie crust, but the trick is that instead of using flour to stop the dough from sticking while you roll it out, you use graham cracker crumbs. You can work in about half a cup of graham cracker crumbs this way, which gives your crust the sweetness of a graham cracker crust, while still retaining the flakiness of a regular pie crust.
The chocolate cream for the pie is made on the stovetop, added to the prebaked crust, and then chilled. I stuck pretty close to the recipe with just one substitution. I am a pie neophyte after all. But I had no brandy on hand, so I substituted Amaretto. I then added a tiny bit of Amaretto to the whipped cream topping as well, just to pick up that slight almond flavor. I must add that I detest Amaretto, someone ditched this bottle at our house during a party some years ago, and I'm delighted to find a use for it. Baking with Amaretto may become my new pastime.
And how did it turn out? Very well, if I do say so myself. The crust wasn't the prettiest in the world, it shrunk a bit during baking and I could use some practice in that area, but it tasted great and was a perfect buttery foil for the silky, rich layer of chocolate and the billowy, slightly sweet whipped cream that topped it all off. I managed to bring a bit home from the PieFest, as there ended up being approximately a half pie per person, and I thought I might have a chance at a final sliver the next day. Jim had declared himself a disliker of chocolate pies so I thought it might be safe. But no, such was the power of this chocolate pie that it lured Jim and Ian into pulling the pie pan out of the fridge, breaking out the forks, and between the two of them polishing off the final quarter pie. Heh, it's good to be a two year old home alone with your dad, big brother at school, and a pie in the fridge.
Chocolate Cream Pie1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 cups 2 percent or whole milk
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz semi or bittersweet chocolate
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1-2 tsp brandy (or amaretto)
1 prebaked pie shell coated with graham cracker crumbs, fully baked and cooled
Whipped Cream Topping
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp amaretto
Whisk sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt in medium saucepan. Add yolks, then immediately but gradually whisk in milk and evaporated milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently at first, then constantly, as mixture starts to thicken and begins to simmer, 8 to 10 minutes. Once mixture simmers, continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute longer. Remove pan from heat, whisk in butter, brandy (or amaretto), vanilla extract, and chocolate.
Pour filling into shallow pan (another pie pan is good). Put plastic wrap directly over filling surface to prevent skin from forming, cool until warm, 20 to 30 minutes. Pour warm filling into pie shell and, once again, place sheet of plastic wrap directly over filling surface. Refrigerate pie until completely chilled, at least 3 hours.
Beat cream and sugar in electric mixer at medium speed to soft peaks; add vanilla and amaretto. Continue to beat to barely stiff peaks. Spread over filling and refrigerate until ready to serve.
*Note - use any single pie crust recipe (I used the one from How To Cook Everything, uses all butter) and when rolling it out, use graham cracker crumbs instead of flour to coat the rolling surface. Work in plenty of graham cracker - about a half cup. Or I suppose you could use a full graham cracker crust.
-Adapted from The Best Recipe