Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chocolate Pie Perfection

So there are pies, and then there's Grandma Clayton's chocolate pie.  This pie is in a class of its own.  If you want to impress someone, bake this pie.  Its beauty will overwhelm them so much that they will eat the pie out of the palm of your hand.  I have alluded to this pie before here and  herebut never the recipe.  I make it fairly often (lots of people to impress!), but I always feel stressed because everything has to come together simultaneously, and someone has a generally proclivity to stress out. (Who, me?)  

Over Thanksgiving, in addition to doing some crafting, we did some baking. I manned the pies, and miraculously, I stayed out of the weeds and managed to take some pictures of the process.  I hope you enjoy them, and I hope you try out the recipe.  You will need a baked and cooled pie crust. My mom made and froze a pie crust a few days before I arrived. I baked it for 15 minutes at 400 the morning of.  You can use my pie crust recipe here or buy a crust from the freezer section.  

Step 1: Take a deep breath. Prepare for perfection. Preheat the oven to 350. Also, put all your dry ingredients in the iron skillet. (Did I tell you this is a one-pot pie? Well, except for the meringue and pie crust pots, it is!) Dry ingredients are sugar, cocoa, flour, and corn starch. 

Step 2: Stir dry ingredients together in the dry skillet. Might get a bit dusty. 

Step 3: Add in the liquid ingredients (milk, egg yolks, butter and vanilla) and turn the heat up to the medium / medium-high range. Find your favorite whisk.

Step 4: Stir, stir, and stir some more. As it heats up, it will thicken. Clayton family lore tells of a pie my grandmother had to strain because it had so many lumps. If you stir (and stir like you mean it), you should avoid lumps, but know that if it does get lumpy, the pie can be saved.  Just find your favorite strainer. 

Step 5: Once it has the thickness of pudding, remove it from the heat and immediately start working on the meringue. You don't want the filling to get too cold. 

Step 6: Beat three (or four if you want mile-high meringue) egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer, hand mixer, or if you're as strong as an ox, a whisk.  My Aunt Jane (strong as an ox) uses a snowshoe whisk like this.  Just be sure to stretch your whisking muscles first. 

I prefer a hand mixer.  I'm not strong as an ox, and I'm apt to overmix if I use my KitchenAid.  Beat the egg whites until they are stiff, then add in sugar gradually.  Once it is glossy, stiff in vanilla. You can also add in a couple tablespoons of ice water now to prevent the meringue from weeping.  (Beads of water will form on the surface of the meringue the longer it sits out.)

Step 7: Return the filling to heat for a minute and stir it to get out any last minute lumps. Fill the baked and cooled pie crust with the filling. 

It looks really dark because I used dark chocolate cocoa. I recommend the original variety though.
Step 8: Top the pie crust with the meringue. Make sure to have a good seal between the meringue and pie crust. Artfully create peaks in the meringue with a spatula. This is my second favorite part of baking this pie. 

Step 8: Bake in the 350 pre-heated oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until it looks like the most perfect pie. 

Step 9: Pose with your pie. Required. 

Step 10: Slice, admire, and enjoy! This is my first favorite part of baking this pie. 

Here's the recipe: 

1 baked and cooled pie shell

For the filling: 
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 T flour
3 T cornstarch
4 T cocoa (I prefer milk chocolate over special dark.)
3 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
2 T butter
1 t vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients in a dry skillet. Add in milk, egg yolks, and butter, and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Add in vanilla. 

For the meringue: 
3 egg whites (I sometimes use 4 for extra meringue.)
1/4 t cream of tarter
4 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla

Beat egg whites and cream of tarter until stiff. Add sugar by the tablespoonful and continue to beat until it is stiff and glossy. Stir in vanilla. 

To finish: 
Pour the filling in the pie shell, top with the meringue, and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, or until it's golden. 

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