Monday, December 17, 2012

Chocolate Pie

Last weekend I was craving something sweet, but not too sweet, rich but not heavy, and decadent yet comforting. What did I come up with? I decided to make a chocolate (chess) pie. What is chess pie? It's a Southern specialty that uses cornmeal (and sometimes corn syrup) in the filling instead of flour. The function of the cornmeal (or flour) is to thicken the filling.

I ended up with my recipe after reading a few recipes from Southern cooks for ingredient inspiration and then went my own way by using heavy cream instead of milk that most pie recipes called for. Even though I wanted something that wasn't too heavy, a lightbulb went off in my head with the heavy cream, which you will see below in the photo diary. It's a delicious recipe that would make a lovely treat for any of the holiday parties you have coming up.

Ingredients [makes 9" pie]:
1 pre-made pie crust (make it yourself or just buy a frozen one like me)
1/2 cup dark chocolate or bittersweet chocolate chips - I used 60% cacao
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 large eggs
Start by docking the pie crust all over using a fork and blind baking it in a 350 oven for 8 to 10 minutes. The crust should be baked through but still pale. While the crust is baking (and then cooling) you can assemble the filling.

Start by putting the chocolate chips and butter in a bowl and putting it over a simmering pot of water. This is called a double boiler and it will provide a gentle heat so that the chocolate and butter will melt but won't burn. Use a whisk to move things around every few minutes so that all of the chocolate and butter can melt. After a few minutes you should have lovely melted chocolate (and butter). Set aside to cool for a bit while you work on the rest of the filling.
In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, cornmeal, vanilla extract, salt, cream, and eggs.
Use a whisk to pop the yolks and give it a good stir but then, switch to an electric beater and start whipping up the mixture until it's frothy. Pour in the melted chocolate and butter (scrape down that bowl so you don't waste anything) and then use the mixer to start whipping the ingredients together. At first it will resemble hot chocolate but then it'll start to thicken up (because of the cream and the warm chocolate mixture cooking the eggs). Keep beating until the consistency resembles whipped cream. I thought incorporating lots of air into the batter would give it a lovely airy texture.
It should look thick like this:
Fill up your blind-baked pie crust with filling and level it out but there isn't any real need to make the top pristine and smooth, as the heat of the oven will do that for you.
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. When you give the pie a shake, the filling should NOT jiggle.
Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool. It looks poofed up and dome-like at first, but most of the air will deflate.
See? It's deflated once it's cooled. Slice it up and serve either slightly warm or room temperature or even refrigerated.
The texture of this pie is pretty amazing. While the pie bakes, the filling forms a crisp but chewy skin but the inside is moist and has a mousse-like texture that's light and airy.
Enjoy!
Here's the recipe page:

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