My brother doesn’t like pie.
Well, I should clarify. I have four younger brothers, a pack of big lovable brutes, and the oldest of the four (who turns 21 next weekend, oh-em-gee) dislikes pie. If we are all having pie and ice cream, he will just have the ice cream, even if the pie is Mom’s perfectly cooked apple pie, for which she is famous.
The only pie that turns this brother on is chocolate cream pie. It makes sense-it’s sort of like chocolate ice cream in pie form, something between cheesecake and pudding, both of which he does enjoy. Our family holiday tradition has been to include a chocolate cream pie every year at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. In years past this has meant standing over a saucepan stirring boxed pudding mix into milk, and then pouring into a prebaked pie shell. But I knew I could do better than that. With my foray into the world of real food and slightly more sophisticated cooking, I could leave the pudding box with its ingredient list of scary chemicals in the dust.
So I did some searching through recipes and blog posts and finally decided to try a decadent-looking mousse recipe from Orangette. Molly knows her chocolate, and I figured the mousse would do just as well in a pie shell as in a teacup. I tinkered with the recipe a little, to give it my own flair, and just to gild the lily a bit I brushed the baked pie shell with chocolate ganache, which I then chilled before spooning in the mousse. It’s a little thing, but it takes the whole package right over the edge.
Despite the multiple steps, this is actually a very simple and easy recipe, and depending on the quality of chocolate you get, it’s not too unhealthy. There is very little added sugar and the focus is on the chocolate, eggs, and cream. While I wouldn’t recommend it as an everyday menu item, if you use good ingredients you can certainly enjoy this as part of your next celebration, without too much guilt.
Chocolate Cream Pie
1 1/4 c flour (I use 3/4 c whole wheat pastry and 1/2 c all-purpose)
1/2 tsp each salt and sugar
1 stick cold butter + 2 Tbls lard (or just more butter)
1 Tbls liquid whey (optional, but it helps break down the flour, making it more tender and digestible)
1/4-1/2 c cold water
A food processor makes pie crust easy: Pulse flour, salt, and sugar with the butter and lard until fat is pea-sized. Then mix whey into 1/4 c cold water and add slowly, pulsing until dough starts to come together. Use more water if needed. Form dough into a disk, wrap, and chill overnight. The next morning, roll out, press into pie plate, and bake 15-20 min at 375 or until golden.
Mix about half a cup of chopped chocolate-dark, semi-sweet, or bittersweet-with about 1/4 c heavy cream. Melt and stir until smooth, then spread on the baked pie crust. Chill while you prepare the mousse.
8 oz bittersweet chocolate (the first time I made this, I only had semisweet chocolate chips on hand, and it turned out fine. But the second I used a nice Callebaut baking chocolate, and the difference was worth it)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp instant espresso or very finely ground dark coffee
1/4 tsp cinnamon
5 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp bourbon (Molly uses whiskey or brandy, but we only ever have bourbon and scotch around here)
2 pastured eggs, separated
2 tsp sugar, divided
1/8 tsp salt
1 c plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream
Combine chocolate, cocoa, espresso, water, and bourbon in a double boiler or a glass bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water. Melt chocolate, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth and glossy.
Remove from heat. Whip egg yolks with 1 tsp sugar and 1/8 tsp salt until slightly thickened, about a minute. Combine egg yolks and chocolate slowly, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. When chocolate is again smooth, set aside and turn to the egg whites. Beat them with the other 1 tsp of sugar in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Molly recommends detaching the whisk and bowl from the mixer and using the whisk to scrape up any unbeaten egg whites from the bottom, then using the whisk to mix about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate. Then use a large spatula to gently fold in the rest of the egg whites, until they are mostly incorporated and only a few streaks remain.
Using the same bowl and whisk, beat the cream in the stand mixer to soft peaks. Again, use a spatula to gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate, until fully incorporated. The mousse will be very soft and have turned a lovely light chocolatey color. Spoon into the pie shell and chill, at least two hours but overnight is best. Serve with lightly sweetened whip cream.
There you have it-a much tastier and healthier answer to the desire for chocolate cream pie. Next year I’ll have to tackle the other pie that used the boxed pudding: lemon. I’m sure with some fresh lemon juice and pastured eggs we can turn that one into a real food dessert as well!