Thursday, July 26, 2012

How to make a chocolate cream pie

Posted By on 07.26.12 at 07:35 AM

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We've discussed many fruit pies this week on the blog—mostly rhubarb, the Reese Witherspoon of pie filling—but afforded less real estate to their cream-based cousins. Cream pies often get short shrift, maybe due to their occasional association with Jell-O pudding, but they shouldn't. (Not to say that there can't be good Jell-O-filled pies. This place, for instance.) What follows, a recipe for chocolate cream pie, is the evidence why not. The filling makes slightly more than you'll need for a nine-inch pie, which can't be a bad thing.

Here's the filling:

½ c sugar
3 T cocoa powder, sifted
1 T instant espresso or instant coffee powder
½ t salt
3 T cornstarch
1 c milk (whole milk, for Christ's sake)
2 eggs

2 c milk (ditto)
1 c cream

9 oz chocolate (68-70ish percent), chopped fine
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
4 T butter
2 t vanilla

Put the last four ingredients into a big bowl.

In another bowl combine the sugar, cocoa, coffee powder, salt, cornstarch, 1 c milk, and eggs. Whisk!

In a saucepan heat the remaining milk and cream till scalded. Whisking constantly, pour about half of the hot mixture slowly into the sugar mixture. Dump all of it back into the saucepan and put it back on the stove, at medium heat or a little hotter. Don't stop stirring or whisking or otherwise agitating. Cook till the mixture thickens. Turn up the heat a bit at the end and, stirring constantly, let it bubble a little bit. This cooks off the starchy flavor.

Remove the mixture from the heat and pour it through a sieve over the chopped chocolate. Let it all sit for about 30 seconds. Pause to wipe your brow. Then whisk till the chocolate is melted and the concoction looks like what it is, which is chocolate cream pie filling. Chill completely—it thicken more as it cools.

There is also a whipped-cream component. Recipe: Whip some cream. Like maybe two cups. Add some sugar, but not a lot—like maybe three or four tablespoons. A little bit of vanilla or even rum would be nice, too.

Once the filling is chilled, scoop it into a pie crust.

A recipe for pie crust is below, but let's talk for a minute about pie crust: Pie crust isn't hard to make. Most recipes for it are daunting because they threaten the possibility of fucking it up. You may be tempted to err too far to the other side: Don't overwork the dough, the recipe says, so you hardly touch it. Don't add too much water, you hear, so you don't add enough. Just relax, OK? Things will be fine. Please don't buy a fucking pie crust.

1¼ c all-purpose flour
½ t salt
½ t sugar
4 oz butter, cold, cut into little pieces

Mix the dry ingredients. Dump in the butter and, using your fingers, work it into the flour mixture. Most recipes describe the ideal outcome here as "coarse meal"-like: the fat should be fully integrated into the flour, but some larger pieces should remain. (They're what makes the crust flaky. So, for that matter, does shortening—you could substitute maybe an ounce of shortening for an ounce of butter, if you want.) Sprinkle about 3 T cold water over it and mix nimbly with your fingers or a fork—the dough should start sticking to itself. Add more water, a little at a time, as needed. Form the dough into a ball and refrigerate for an hour.

Get a pie tin. Use a paper towel to spread a little oil onto the bottom of it (or use one of those spray cans, if you're fancy); toss in a little flour too. Roll the dough and put it into the pan. Crimp the edges. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

OK, then: Put the pie shell in the freezer. Heat the oven to about 375 degrees. When the oven's ready, line the shell with parchment paper and weigh it with something that won't cook: dry beans or rice, or coins, or cherry pits. Bake it like this for maybe 20 minutes, until it looks more or less done. Take the weighted parchment out, pierce the bottom of the shell with a fork a few times, and bake five or ten more minutes, until the bottom is just starting to brown. That's your pie shell.

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