Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Crazy Pie Train: Chocolate Cream Meringue

Following our thorough domination of the world of fruit pies (see Cherry, Strawberry-Rhubarb, and Dulce de Leche Apple Pie), Robin and I took a brief hiatus from the high stakes world of pie making to allow the baking world to catch its breath.  For our long overdue return, we decided double the pieitude was necessary, so we took on the delicious subset known as cream pies with a chocolate cream pie and coconut lime cream pie. Would we mold two incredible desserts to add to the menu of our future award-winning pie shoppe, or would the pressure get to us and devolve into in-fighting and the dreaded pie in the face (a tragic waste of a perfectly good pie)?

Pâte Sucrée
From Flour by Joanne Chang
Servings: 9" pie crust
Time: 2 hours (inactive for one hour)

1/2 cup butter, room temperature cut into 8 pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk

I've never seen anything more circular. Take that, moon!
  1. Get stuck at lunch late forcing your partner to do all the hard work on the crust.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar and salt together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment over medium speed for 2-3 minutes until pale and light. 
  3. Add the flour and mix on low until it is incorporated.
  4. Drop in the egg and mix until a workable dough forms (about 30 seconds).
  5. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  6. Let soften at room temperature for 30 minutes then roll out between two sheets of parchment paper with a rolling pin until you have a 1/2 inch thick disk that is 10-11 inches in diameter.
  7. Place the dough into your pie tin and press down into the bottom and sides well. Trim as necessary.
  8. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax so it won't shrink in the oven (nothing is worse than tense gluten).
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. If the edges start to burn, you can cover them with aluminum foil.
  11. Let cool then add the filling.
After using the same fantastic crust for three straight pies, we wanted to give something else a shot. We were a little concerned about this crust since it only involved one stick of butter (how could it possibly be flaky enough). This new crust with the super fun and fancy name proved to be a splendid surprise, as it tasted just as buttery with half of the artery clogging goodness. It had a nice crispness to go with the creamy fillings, but was a little too crumbly leading to difficulty cutting without destroying it. Most importantly, the crust managed to not get soggy despite the various cold creamy fillings we put in it. Also, we were incredibly thankful that we didn't have to try and form a top crust as well (hmm maybe that's why there was just the one stick of butter).

Chocolate Cream Pie
Pie from Flour by Joanne Chang and Meringue from Alton Brown
Servings: 1 pie
Time: 45 minutes (plus 8 hours to set!)

It didn't seize!
Pâte sucrée (recipe above)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate (62-70 % cacao) chopped
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt

8 oz granulated sugar
4 oz light corn syrup
2 oz water
4 oz egg whites, room temperature (about 4 eggs)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Milk Chocolate, shaved for garnish
All fridges should come standard with pies.
Marshmallow fluff or meringue?
  1. Bake the pie shell as described above. Place 1 oz of bittersweet chocolate on it and bake for an additional 30 seconds until it melts. Paint the chocolate around the bottom and edges and set aside.
  2. Scald the half-and-half and heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat (until bubbles start to form around the edges but before it boils). 
  3. Melt the last 5 oz of bittersweet chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave on medium power in 30 second increments. 
  4. Pour the scalded cream mixture over the melted chocolate and whisk until combined.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.
  6. SLOWLY (you don't want scrambled eggs) and in intervals add the hot cream-chocolate mixture into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. 
  7. Once it is completely incorporated return to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (make sure you get the bottom often so it doesn't burn) for 6-9 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken. You can test if it is thick enough by running your finger along the back of the spoon. If it takes more than 2 seconds for the liquid to fill up, it is ready. Also, once it's ready a steady amount of steam should be coming up. Don't worry if it's still not too thick.
  8. Immediately strain the custard and stir in the vanilla and salt. 
  9. Pour into the prepared pie shell and refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours until set.
  10. When you can't wait anymore, make the meringue. 
  11. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan over high heat. Stir briefly to dissolve then bring the temperature to 240 F.
  12. While waiting for the syrup to reach temp, beat the egg whites, salt and vanilla in a stand mixer on high speed until you get medium peaks (3-5 minutes).
  13. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add in the syrup taking care to avoid the whisk.
  14. Ramp up the speed to high and beat for 10 minutes until a thick meringue forms and it cools.
  15. Eat large amount of the meringue with your finger.
  16. Top the pie with the meringue making cool swirly shapes.
  17. Put under the broiler at 450 F for 1-2 minutes until lightly toasted.
  18. Let the meringue cool (we learned that this is key) then garnish with shaved milk chocolate and serve.
Fun Tim Burton style swirly peaks courtesy of Robin. Creepy shadow courtesy of me.
One thing became immediately apparent as we were laying down the meringue: we were about to create a giant s'more pie (and thus fulfill our childhood dreams). Instead of the recommended whipped cream topping, I decided we should use the much cooler and thicker meringue as made famous in A Baked Alaskan Birthday. This is essentially marshmallow fluff and makes the topping just as exciting and tasty as the perfectly rich center.
Gooey deliciousness
Now let's take a brief moment to discuss that chocolatey filling. It is essentially a thick and powerful chocolate pudding that is the essence of creamy. The bittersweet chocolate had just the right percentage of cacao to keep this from being overly sweet. Instead the bold chocolate blended wonderfully with the sweet meringue and milk chocolate garnish to create quite possibly my favorite pie yet (which is saying something since I'm more of a fruit pie kind of fella). The only downsides to this pie were our inability to cut it into anything resembling an actual pie shape (we really need to invest in a pie server or an assistant who is far more talented in the art of scooping) and the fact that eating it a la mode just makes people think you're disgusting (ice cream snobs!).

Prepare for the grand opening of Terry & Robin's Ugly Pie Shoppe and its spin-off Pie-in-a-Cup!
Since cream pies are a lengthy endeavor (stupid setting in the fridge), we decided to make this a truly crazy pie train with a second pie, the doubly fruity and sweet coconut lime cream pie. Stay tuned to find out if it held its own against the chocolate cream pie or if Swarley and Abbie knocked us down and stole all of our pie.
Swarley refused to come out until we let him try some of the pie.


  1. I totally pinned this and it already has 3 repins. Talk about yuuum.

  2. Oh, oh, make that 6. Okay, I'll stop now.

  3. Luckily, you went with the full pie picture and not the droopy slice. Thanks, Steph!