Chocolate cream pie is one of those things where if you asked me what I wanted for dessert at a restaurant, I'd probably never order it. It's also one of those things where the thought of it is appealing, but not enough to get me to want to make it too often. Alas, it is also of of those things that when I do make it, it's enough to send me over the edge and I can hardly wait until the dang thing sets and I can eat a huge slice. Somewhere during the pie making process, chocolate cream has the amazing ability to go from a so-so dessert in my mind to the grand master, mac daddy, ultimate rich, most luxurious dessert in history. Maybe this is because every time I've ordered it at a restaurant it's not that good. It's usually too chocolaty with a bland crust and much too sweetened whipped cream. At home though, this dessert rocks out. I have a really good recipe. The grand master, mac daddy, ultimate, most luxurious recipe in history if I do say so myself.
This time I started out with a pre-made frozen pie shell (Marie Calendars). I usually make my own crust, but I had this one on hand and needed a pie on the fly. If this is your case, or if you are the type of person who absolutely would not make homemade pie without a pre-made crust, go this route. I recommend Marie Calendars brand as it has much more flavor and thickness than those sad rolled out refrigerated pie crusts that taste like cork-board. After you bake your pie shell, you let it cool while you make the chocolate pudding. This step requires some whisking over the stove on your part, but it doesn't take long, and besides, it's so satisfying to see the cocoa and milk thicken up all of a sudden so it's worth it. After it's thickened you dump a bunch of chopped chocolate into the pudding mixture to melt and what you are left with is pure chocolate cream loveliness. The thickener I use is cornstarch (instead of a weighty egg yolk and cream custard) and it works like a charm and also makes it very slice-able come serving time. It aggravates me when I slice a cream pie and the filling sags and oozes out. This pie yields nice clean slices while still managing to be soft in texture. I keep calling it "chocolate cream pie" for the association but it is better called "chocolate pudding pie", as it originally is, but the name initially threw me off, and it is essentially chocolate cream, just not as heavy. Don't let what looks like a long recipe deter you. Remember, I'm including two recipes, for the filing and the pie dough. It's simple to make and this pie comes together rather quickly...Think 7 minutes and one sauce pan (after the pie shell is baked)
Chocolate Pudding Pie
adapted from Gourmet, via Smitten Kitchen
One recipe "Perfect Pie Crust" (recipe to follow) baked and cooled, or a Marie Calendars frozen pre-made pie shell baked per the instructions and cooled.
Perfect Pie Crust:
makes 1 pie crust. For double crust pies, double the recipe
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) very cold unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/6 cup very cold vegetable shortening
4-5 tablespoons ice water
Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8-12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. If you need to add another tablespoon of water to achieve this, do it. Dump out onto a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch round, then fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then fold overhang under and crimp edge decoratively. Prick bottom and side of shell all over with a fork, then chill shell 30 minutes. While shell chills, preheat oven to 375 degrees with a baking sheet on middle rack. Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake on a baking sheet until pastry is set and edge is pale golden, about 25 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil, then bake shell on a baking sheet until pale golden all over, 15 to 20 minutes more. Cool shell.
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not more than 60% cacao) finely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chilled heavy cream
bittersweet chocolate shavings for garnish (optional)
Whisk together cornstarch, 1/3 cup sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then gradually whisk in milk (make sure you add the milk slowly to the dry ingredients whisking the whole time to avoid lumps). Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, then boil, whisking two minutes (mixture will thicken). Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate and vanilla until smooth.
Pour filling into cooled shell and chill, it's surface covered with wax paper (if you want to prevent a skin from forming...I skipped this), until cold, at least two hours.
Just before serving, beat cream with remaining two tablespoons sugar ( you can use powdered sugar if you prefer) until it just holds soft peaks. Spoon onto pie plate and garnish with bittersweet chocolate shavings, if you are feeling fancy. You can store it with the whipped cream on top in the refrigerator for up to an hour or two before serving.
This pie is equally good in the Summer months as well as into Fall and Winter. It's cocoa-y and chocolaty and rich but not too sweet. It's cold, but hearty and homey making it the perfect choice any season.