I’ve had very little cream pie in my life.
The pies of my childhood were mainly of the fruit variety – and when I say fruit I mean apples. My mother was cursed with children who were very picky eaters, and the only pie we would tolerate was the apple kind. On the whole, we are not a pie family.
But I wonder what would have happened if my mother had offered us a piece of the chocolate cream pie I made this weekend. Unlike apple pie, whose fruit filling has a veneer of healthfulness (at least, if you’re a kid), everything about this pie screams “dessert:” a chocolate crumb crust, filled with a silky chocolate pudding filling, and adorned with mounds of whipped cream and chocolate curls.
I was ambitious with this pie – I actually made my own chocolate wafer cookies from this Smitten Kitchen recipe, and then ground them into crumbs for the crumb crust. The wafers may have been more trouble than they were worth – about a third of them burnt, and, while they tasted fine, they lacked that intense, chocolatey, slightly salty flavor of Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers, which I usually use for a crumb crust. For those of you who want to try to make your own wafers, my one piece of advice is to freeze the dough log before you slice it into cookies – I chilled mine in the refrigerator for the recommended one hour, but the dough was still way too soft to slice cleanly.
I ended up making the crust slightly too thick, but it was still satisfyingly crunchy. It was the perfect foil to the creamy, chocolate pudding filling, which had a rich chocolate flavor without being too sweet. The pudding is thickened with cornstarch, giving it a silky, light texture. The whole thing is topped with a layer of whipped cream, which I spiced up with a little Grand Marnier and cinnamon.
Now, you’ll notice this pie looks a little, shall we say, un-pie like. That is because I made this pie in a tart tin, rather than a pie pan. This was not my intention, but I broke my pie pan in the process of making this pie – let’s just say that balancing a glass pan on top of my coffee maker is not the most secure situation.
So, technically, you could call this a tart. But I think you should still think of it as a pie. Its simple, unpretentious, messy soul is much more pie like.
And whatever you call it, it’s delicious. I took this to a pre-Thanksgiving party, where it was promptly devoured.
Recipe: Chocolate Cream Pie
Ingredients for crust:
2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tbs sugar
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chilled heavy cream
2 tbs powdered sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grand mariner
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine cookie crumbs, melted butter and sugar in a small bowl. Pat mixture into a pie or tart pan, so that they evenly cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake crust in the oven until toasted – approximately 15 minutes. Let cool.
In a medium, non-reactive saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolks. Slowly add the milk, whisking until everything is combined. Heat to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly. Cook for 1 minute at a boil – the custard will thicken rapidly.
Strain custard through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Whisk in the chocolate, butter and vanilla. Cover pudding with a piece of buttered parchment or wax paper and let cool completely – about 2 hours.
Spoon filling into pie crust. Let chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered with plastic wrap, until set – around six hours.
Place a mixing bowl and whisk (or the bowl of an electric mixer and the whisk attachment) in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill. Remove from freezer; place cream, cinnamon, Grand Marnier, and sugar in bowl. Whisk to combine, then whisk until the cream hold soft peaks. Just before serving, spoon cream over filling. Garnish with chocolate curls or cocoa powder, if desired.