We celebrated Andrew’s 31st birthday over the weekend! It is crazy to think that Andrew was 21 (a spring chicken!) when we first started dating. Over the years I have baked him various treats to celebrate his birthday—many cakes (in recent years it’s been this cake mentioned in my last post) and several chocolate cream pies. This year I decided it was time for another pie year.
Chocolate cream pie may seem like an odd choice for a birthday, but it was Andrew’s favorite childhood dessert that his mom made. I took up making them for him after we got married. BEST. WIFE. EVER. But really, that’s what he thinks when I make chocolate cream pie.
Sometimes I make a chocolate crust for this pie, but I decided to go with a standard all-butter pie crust this time around. The recipe I used for this crust is slightly different than my go-to pâte brisée recipe (used here and here). I found this pie crust to be flakier and more tender, which I am a fan of, but I also found that the crimped edges on this crust did not hold their shape at all (a common problem with all-butter pie crusts as explained here). I suppose it’s a small price to pay for all that glorious flakiness.
For the chocolate filling, I used a 61% cacao content bittersweet chocolate, but I have used up to 70% cacao content chocolate in the past with delicious, albeit richer results.
The chocolate filling of the pie is what I like to call a pudding-custard hybrid. It is thickened with cornstarch like a pudding, but also uses egg yolks like a custard. There is even a bit of gelatin added to make the pie more sliceable. The result is a velvety smooth, creamy, and wonderfully chocolatey filling.
Once the filling has had time to set in the pre-baked pie crust, all that’s left to do is make some whipped cream and shave some chocolate overtop.
There’s nothing I don’t love about this pie. It’s Andrew’s favorite for a reason, partly because it is nostalgic, but mainly because it is just SO GOOD.
Happy birthday babe!
Pie crust, pre-baked and cooled (recipe follows)
2 1/2 cups milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60-61% cacao), chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Block of chocolate to grate over top
Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and chocolate. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until the chocolate is melted. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add 1 cup of the milk mixture to the cornstarch mixture and whisk until smooth. Add mixture back into the saucepan and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes or until bubbling and thick (about 2 minutes after the mixture comes to a boil).
In a tiny bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons cold water. Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly whisk the hot chocolate mixture into the egg yolks. Add mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium hear, stirring constantly, until custard is thick and bubbles appear in the center, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the softened gelatin to the saucepan and whisk until dissolved. Stir in the vanilla. Cool for 10 minutes, whisking a few times during cooling.
Fill the crust: Pour the custard into the cooled pre-baked crust. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the custard and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.
Make the topping: Whisk the cream until soft peaks for. Add the confectioners sugar and vanilla, and whisk until stiff peaks form. Top the pie with topping and use a vegetable peeler to grate chocolate overtop to garnish.
Makes one 9-inch pie.
All-Butter Single Pie Crust
Adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup ice
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
Make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and use a pastry blender to coat the butter cubes with the flour mixture. Then use the pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour mixture until most of the butter is pea-sized. Work quickly so the butter stays cold and do not over-blend.
In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, combine the cold water, cider vinegar, and ice. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water over the dry ingredients and mix with a bench scraper or spatula until fully incorporated. Add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of ice water at a time and use the bench scraper or your hands to mix the dough until it comes together in a ball with some dry bits remaining. Bring the ball together with your hands and sprinkle any dry bits with additional ice water if needed. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour (preferably overnight) or up to 3 days.
Roll out the dough: Let the chilled dough rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before rolling out. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out with a rolling pin until it’s about 1/8-inch thick, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
Lay the dough over a 9-inch glass Pyrex pie plate and gently fit the dough into the plate without pulling or stretching the dough. Trim the edges of the dough so that there is a 1-inch overhang and then tuck the overhang under itself so that the edge of the piecrust meets the edge of the pie plate. Crimp the edges however you like. Then prick the bottom of the piecrust all over with a fork. Cover and chill the prepared piecrust in the fridge or freezer until firm.
Bake the crust: Arrange the oven racks to the lowest and center position, placing a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack. Preheat the oven to 425. Whisk together the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water, and set aside. Line the frozen pie crust tightly with foil, making sure all the edges are covered. Fill the foil lined crust with beans or pie weights, spreading them so that the edges have more weights than the center. Place the prepared pie plate on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and gently lift out the foil with pie weights. Let the crust cool for a minute and then use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides of the crust with the egg white wash.
Place the baking sheet with the pie crust on the oven’s center rack and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Cool completely.
Makes one pre-baked 9-inch pie crust.