Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chocolate Cream Pie

Lately, I am on a bit of a pie kick,  Perhaps it's because summertime is rapidly approaching and the season here is all too short so I must have as many light and creamy and fruity pies as I can.  Perhaps it's just because I love pies, irregardless of the season. That's probably more closely related to the truth, smiles.

I've mentioned before that I am not a great fan of chocolate, preferring citrus and vanilla and fruit flavors, but perhaps I should recant that and refine it to say I am not a great fan of bad chocolate, but, then, is anyone.  I have been on a years-long quest to find a really good chocolate cream pie, and so far this one is as close as I've come; it's not perfection, but it is very good and worth the small effort it takes.

I have two chief complaints about chocolate cream pies.  One is that they can be too chocolaty (or worse yet, tastes like watered down chocolate)  for my tastes, and secondly, they do not seem to have that smooth, creamy mouth feel that I am looking for. (When I make those prepackaged hot chocolate mixes, I always add more cream because I know that it's not creamy enough for me.)  This recipe uses a combination of milk and heavy cream and gives the option of adding additional chocolate for a richer chocolate flavor.

Why isn't this pie perfection?  Well, I went ahead and added the extra chocolate (see recipe) and it made it too chocolaty (even for Ole Sweetie-Pi who is the chocolate lover in this house and the reason I made the pie) and it could still do with a bit more cream, so I will change the milk to cream ratio next time.  Then we'll see.  I think I'm onto something here.

However, as everyone has their own idea of what's perfect, so I'm going to share the recipe.

Chocolate Cream Pie
 (From the cookbook The Perfect Pie by Susan G.Purdy)

Prebaked 9-inch pastry shell (I use this recipe)

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon
2 1/2 cups milk**
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed coco, optional
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Blind bake your favorite pie crust recipe.  My current favorite for blind baking is the one from Penzey's that I posted here.

Melt the four ounces of chocolate in the top of a double boiler.

In a medium-sized sauce pan combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt (and the 3 tablespoons of cocoa if you are using it.). 

In a bowl, add the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk and cream.

Slowly whisk the egg-milk mixture into the cornstarch-sugar, taking care to ensure that all the cornstarch is picked up from the bottom of the pan and is dissolved.

Set the pan over medium heat and cook the mixture for about 12 minutes:  Stir frequently the first five minutes using a  wooden spoon,  then whisk constantly for about 7 minutes, until the mixture is thickened and reaches a boil.  You should see fat heavy bubbles work up to the surface and burst.  Boil for 1 full minute while stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in the butter, vanilla, and melted chocolate.  

Strain the cream ** into a bowl, then spoon into the prepared pastry shell.  Cover the hot cream with plastic wrap or dab with butter to prevent a skin from forming.  Set the pie aside to cool, and then chill until shortly before serving.

Top with your favorite whipped topping.

**The recipe only says "milk," but I would be inclined to say "whole milk," especially if you, like me, enjoy a creamier tasting cream pie. 
**I wouldn't bother straining the cream unless I thought there were undissolved lumps.  Otherwise I think this is an unnecessary step.