Monday, June 16, 2008
Dark Chocolate Cream Pie
It is with great pleasure I announce that my most recent pre-baked pie shell was successful. As I've mentioned previously, blind baking has never been my forte. Making pies, however, is one of my favorite kitchen tasks, so I have welcomed the challenge. Since I last posted, I've studied up, listened to advice, and experimented. And, as you can see above, I did pretty well. There was just a touch of shrinkage, but I'm still calling this a success.
So, here's the first step to this great pie:
Blind-Baked Pie Shell
First, make the pie dough (recipe here), roll it out, and shape it in a pie dish. Then refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes. This gives the elastic properties in the dough time to relax in the shape you've set it in, so it doesn't want to spring back. Next, place the pie dish in the freezer. I used my deep freezer and had it in there 20 minutes. If you're using a kitchen freezer, go for 30. Line the pie with aluminum foil (this takes two regular-width sheets, perpendicular), then fill the pie one-fourth of the way up with pie weights or dry beans. Don't add more weights than this, or the crust will not bake quickly enough, as they'll pull heat away from the crust. Also, the weights are a benefit to the bottom crust and won't hold up the sides, really, so you don't need a ton of them to do the job. (By the way, I use beans.)
Bake the pie crust in a 450˚ oven for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and foil from the crust, reduce the oven temperature to 375˚, and bake about 15 minutes more, checking after 10, until the crust is perfectly baked. Remove from the oven and cool completely before filling.
Sherry Yard, pastry chef to Wolfgang Puck and author of The Secrets of Baking, says that it's necessary to start the pastry baking at a very high temperature to encourage steaming between the layers of fat and starch right away; otherwise you're just melting the butter first, which will slacken the dough. Because the dough is frozen before baking, I increased the temperature from the usual 425˚ to 450˚, especially since my previous attempt to start at 425˚ didn't work well. Also, I baked it at this higher temperature for a full 20 minutes. It certainly wasn't going to burn, and I wanted the sides to set up really well. I definitely wouldn't go less than 20 minutes unless you're baking in a thin metal pan, and then you might stop at 17 or 18.
Now, onto the reason I was doing this in the first place. Chocolate.
Of all the cream pies, chocolate has to be my favorite. I think. They're all good, actually. Especially banana. But chocolate tops them all when the chocolate filling is just right: decadent, smooth, and firm when set up. You should already know I don't like wimpy chocolate, so trust me on the depth of flavor here. And if you're not sure how dark you like your chocolate, just add more whipped cream to the top of the pie. Or you could substitute bittersweet chocolate for the small amount of unsweetened chocolate. But please don't. Just make the pie like it is, and enjoy it. But leave some leftovers. Like all chocolate desserts, it's even better the next day.
Chocolate Cream Pie
ever so slightly modified from a Bon Appétit recipe, Black-bottom Chocolate Pie
2/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large egg yolks
2 c. milk
1/2 c. heavy or whipping cream
5 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 T. unsalted butter
one baked, cooled 9" pie shell
1 1/2 c. chilled heavy or whipping cream
3-4 T. granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
chocolate curls, for garnish
For the filling, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Stir in the yolks until evenly combined. Whisk in the milk, then the cream. Set the saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it starts to get pretty warm. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue whisking until the mixture thickens and simmers (a full boil isn't necessary) for one minute.
Remove from heat. Add the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in the butter and vanilla until the butter is melted. Pour into a medium bowl. Set the bowl inside another bowl made into an ice bath (ice and water) and stir frequently for about 20 minutes to cool.
Pour the filling into the prebaked pie shell and chill for at least 2 hours, preferably 4.
Whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla until medium to firm peaks form. Top the chocolate pie and garnish with chocolate curls. Keep chilled when not serving.
When I served this the first day, I was anxious, so it wasn't a really solid filling, but by the next day it cut nicely and held its shape well. Even if you ice bath the filling for 30 or 40 minutes, it will still need a couple of hours to chill completely in the refrigerator before serving.