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Thursday, December 13, 2012
We had a guest for dinner last night; it was someone we hadn't seen in almost ten years! It was great to catch up and also a great excuse to have some fun in the kitchen. I made a shepherd's pie with chicken, salad, and some rolls (which I'll share with you in the next few days). For dessert, well, you know that's where my true passion lies, I wanted to go all out; I absolutely love baking!
I decided to go with making a chocolate pie. First, nearly everyone loves chocolate pudding, so I feel pretty confident that no one will turn down a chocolate pie when made. Secondly, I like the fact that I can make the whole thing in advance... like a whole day in advance. It's perfect!
This is another one of those "put together" recipes that uses a handful of other recipes that I have already posted to end up with a fabulous new creation.
The first step is to make the crust. I used my new flaky pie crust recipe that I posted yesterday, but you could go with a traditional crust as well, or - gasp - with a store bought crust. (Don't worry, I won't hold it against you if you do use a store bought crust. I don't use them because I don't like the flavor, but if they taste good to you, then why wouldn't you?). Blind bake the empty pie shell (pricked with a fork, lined with foil, and filled with pie weights or dried beans) at 425 degrees for ten minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking until the crust is beautiful and golden. Let the pie shell cool completely at room temperature.
The next component is the filling. I started by making my chocolate pudding recipe. Once the pudding was thickened and off the heat, I added a few extra things. The first thing was about a half cup of bittersweet chocolate chips. I wanted to up the ante on the chocolate-y-ness of this filling. I also added about half a teaspoon of coffee liqueur. Both of these items are completely optional. Fiddle with it at this point as you see fit. You could add mint extract for a mint pie or hazelnut liqueur for a nutty essence. The only change that I made that I strongly recommend making is the addition of some gelatin. This pudding sets up pretty well, but for perfectly cut pieces, it really could use a little added stability. To do this, soften one teaspoon of gelatin in two tablespoons of cold milk. Let sit for 3-5 minutes. When the pudding first comes off the heat, stir in the milk/gelatin mixture. That's all there is to it, but it makes a huge difference. Pour the pudding into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Let the pudding cool completely but not become cold (you don't want it to start setting up yet). Pour the cooled pudding into the pie shell and smooth the top. Cooling the pudding is important for two reasons: first, it keeps the crust from getting soggy, and second, at this point you don't have to worry about a nasty skin from forming. Now you can put the pie in the refrigerator uncovered without any problems.
The last part of this process is the whipped cream edge. Because I wanted to be able to make everything in advance and then have any leftovers keep beautifully (there were only three of us, after all), I used stabilized whipped cream. Follow the recipe exactly and pipe the whipped cream onto the pie in any design you choose. I usually use a rope type border around the edge. I then sprinkled some chocolate shavings on the whipped cream for contrast. Refrigerate for at least a few hours before serving! Cuts beautifully and tastes wonderful!
*Per a commenter's request, I have written up my pudding recipe with the pie filling additions here. As I was writing the recipe, I remembered that I did also add a wee bit of sugar to balance the addition of the chocolate. It wasn't a lot, and you can certainly add some to taste if you find it necessary.*
Chocolate Pudding for Pie
Yield: enough for one pie
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 TBS cornstarch
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 tsp coffee liqueur (optional)
additional sugar to taste, if necessary
1 tsp unflavored gelatin softened in 2 TBS cold milk
Sift the sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and cornstarch into a medium sauce pan. Mix the milk and vanilla. Pour just enough of the milk into the dry ingredients to make a loose paste. Once the dry ingredients are all moistened, pour in the rest of the milk and whisk until well mixed.
Cook over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until the pudding just about reaches a boil and is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate chips and liqueur, if using. Stir to mix. Add in the softened gelatin/milk mixture and stir again until well mixed and smooth. Pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Cool in the refrigerator until cool but not cold (and not set). Once cool, stir and then pour into pie shell, smoothing the top. Pie can now be refrigerated uncovered until served. Pipe a border of stabilized whipped cream, if desired.