Chocolate Cream Pie

 Oof. Re-entry has been rough.

After a week on Swans Island, Maine, with three of my nearest and dearest, I thought I was ready to get back to my life in NYC. Boy, was I wrong. 

We hit absolutely no traffic on the drive home…until we crossed into the Bronx. By that time, we’d been in a hot car for twelve hours and even though we’d had a great time together, we were all ready to be in our respective apartments with the air conditioning going full-blast. When I finally got home at 10:30pm, I was ecstatic to be back. A week in the middle of nowhere had calmed my usual crazy, and I was feeling refreshed and ready to return to work and blogging. 

But life has a way of bringing you back down to earth, and this week has been nothing short of insanity. It’s the end-of-the-month cake rush, so I have had my oven on near-constantly. We are in the midst of a heatwave and the kitchen is the only un-air conditioned room in my apartment, so I have been overheated for days. Getting back to my day job is hard only because I had gotten accustomed to spending my afternoons laying on the beach and going to the general store. This blog has gone completely silent–something that has rarely happened in its nine-month existence. I’ve thrown myself into bed unusually early every night since I’ve been home, wishing I could still be up there in our little house, sleeping with the windows open so I could hear the ocean. 

So what do I do when everything seems hard? Make Chocolate Cream Pie. Cold, creamy, and chocolaty with a crumbly graham cracker crust and a ton of whipped cream, it’s the answer to all my problems right now. It’s near-impossible to worry about your to-do list when you’re eating pie, right?! 

 This recipe is an adaptation of the Chocolate Cream Pie recipe found in the original 1952 Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book. On my trip to Maine last year, I was lucky enough to find a second-edition copy at a used bookstore in Bath for $6. It’s held together with tape and most of the pages fall out when I open the thing, but I love it so much that I don’t care. It’s a book full of classics (and a few weird things involving gelatin). If you come across a copy, I highly recommend scooping it up while you have the chance. You’ll use it way more than you might imagine.

While I love mixing flavors and textures, some things just shouldn’t be messed with, and Chocolate Cream Pie is one of them. The only changes I have made to this recipe are using a graham cracker crust instead of pastry, adding an extra egg yolk and a bit more vanilla, and topping it with freshly whipped cream instead of meringue. There’s no need to mess with it any further. This classic pie is perfect just the way it is. 

 Chocolate Cream Pie
adapted from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book
makes one 9-inch pie

Graham Cracker Crust:
9 full-sheet honey graham crackers
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Filling:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Topping:
chocolate curls (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Make the crust. Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and process until no large pieces remain. Add dark brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Process until the mixture resembles wet sand, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch standard pie plate and use clean hands to evenly press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Cool crust on a rack while you prepare the filling.

In a large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, pour the milk into the dry ingredients. Continue to whisk until the mixture boils for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low.

In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk egg yolks. Remove 1/3 cup of the warm chocolate mixture from the pot. Whisking constantly, slowly pour chocolate mixture into the egg yolks until completely combined. Add egg yolk mixture to the pot and turn heat back up to medium-high. Continue to whisk until mixture boils for 2 minutes. Remove pot from the heat and whisk in butter and vanilla extract. Pour filling into prepared crust. Press plastic wrap onto the top of the pie and chill for at least four hours or overnight.

Make the whipped cream. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla. Use an electric mixer to whip cream until stiff peaks form.

Remove plastic wrap from pie. If serving the entire pie at once, spread whipped cream over the entire surface of the pie immediately before slicing and serving. If serving at multiple intervals, top each slice with whipped cream as it is served. Top with chocolate curls, if desired.
Pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.

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