Chocolate Cream Pie

I have a dear friend who is a doctor…an infectious disease specialist to be specific. His birthday is March 31st and you know how I feel about birthdays. He doesn’t care for cake, but as a true Southerner, loves pie. I bet you can imagine what I had planned to do on March 31st.

I called him on his birthday to wish him happy birthday and ask when a good time would be for me to drop off his birthday pie. He said today wasn’t a good day, he had lots of patients coming in and would it be OK if I came by tomorrow? Of course! I told him I’d be making a rhubarb pie and he said, in his most charming accent, “ya know, rhubarb is the onleh pie in the world I don’t care for.”

“No problem, what kind of pie do you like?”

“Honestly anything else. You see I had this girlfriend in college who made me rhubarb pie and I got terribly ill. It was a bad experience for us both.”

We got off the phone and I walked down to Trader Joe’s to pick up some fruit…berries or apples or something a southerner could get behind. The line was wrapped around the block and I thought “nope.” He’s getting a chocolate pie. Remember how I said I stocked up on the essentials: butter, sugar, chocolate? I would make him a chocolate cream pie.

He called to thank me later, “Sall-eh,” he said, I imagined him sitting in his chair, talking at the phone on speaker, “If I were forty years younger and not married I’d propose to you on account of that pie. It was so delicious. I want to thank you…that was so kind.”

I squealed with delight. I’m a feeder, you see, and get no greater pleasure in the world than feeding people. But a marriage proposal for a chocolate cream pie? I guess I’d have to see the ring first. Or maybe the groom. Maybe I oughta move to the South.

Chocolate Cream Pie, adapted from King Arthur Flour

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
  • some ice water

Filling

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup whipping cream, divided
  • 2 cups milk

Topping

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

To make the crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Work in the butter with a pastry blender until it’s in lumps the size of small peas. Add the water 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing with a fork as you sprinkle the water into the dough.

When the dough is moist enough to hold together when you squeeze it, with no floury patches or bits of dry pastry in the bottom of the bowl, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Fold it over on itself three or four times to bring it together completely, then pat it into a disk 3/4″ thick, rolling the disk to smooth its edges.

Wrap the pastry in plastic and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before rolling.

To pre-bake (blind bake) the crust: Heat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9″ pie pan that’s at least 2″ deep.

Roll the pastry into a 13″ circle. Transfer it to the prepared pan, and trim the edges so they overlap the edge by an inch all the way around. Tuck the edges up and under, and flute or crimp them. Put the lined pie pan in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes.

Line the crust with foil, and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and gently remove foil or parchment with the weights or beans. Return the crust to the oven for 10 to 20 more minutes, until it’s golden brown all over. Remove the crust from the oven and cool completely.

To make the filling: Place the butter, chopped chocolate, and vanilla extract in a 2-quart mixing bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan (off the heat), whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt. Add 1/2 cup of the whipping cream, whisking until the mixture is smooth and lump-free. Whisk in the egg yolks.

Place the saucepan over medium heat, and gradually whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup cream and the milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the mixture thickens; boil for 1 minute. The temperature of the mixture will be around 200°F after 1 minute.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture over the reserved chocolate and butter. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Pass the filling through a strainer into a bowl to remove any lumps.

Place plastic wrap or buttered parchment paper on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and chill thoroughly. A shallow metal bowl with more surface area will chill the filling most quickly.

To make the topping: Place the heavy cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip until the whisk or beaters begin to leave tracks in the bowl.

Add the sugar and vanilla and whip until the cream holds a medium peak.

To assemble: Spoon the cooled filling into the cooled, baked pie crust. Level the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Spoon or pipe the whipped cream on top. Note: If you’re not planning on serving the entire pie at once, top individual slices with a dollop of whipped cream just before serving.

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