Monday, January 28, 2013

Chocolate Pie, Chocolate Meringue Pie

I have been thinking about pastry.

I hate making pastry. I don't have the patience, the interest, the skill or the cold hands. 

 My mother is the one who told me I had hot hands and I spent years wondering if that was an actual condition. Are my hands actually hotter than the average person? I held people's hands, wondering if their hands were hotter. 

 I never watched my Nana make pastry and I can't remember if she did or if she cared much about it.  I did watch my mother make pastry. She can make pastry in any country, any weather, any time of day or night and it comes out perfectly. Yeah, that bugs me.  It's not a "if she can then I should be able to" it's a "if she can, how can I be such an abysmal failure at pastry...shouldn't there be some genetic mutation that I should at least be able to make a pale comparison?".  Seriously, can hot hands send me into a pie-less future? 

Any time I get kudos about cooking or the alchemy or anything culinary my committee immediately harps on me, "yeah, well you can never make pastry like your mother". Self induced red headed stepchild, culinarily speaking, of the family. I probably cook pretty well, I am confident and when people say I can, I immediately counter with "ANYone CAN, I simply have no fear and DO".

Last time my mother came to see me in Texas, she stood dutifully at the Cuisinart and made me batch after batch of perfect and I mean PERFECT pastry. She divided it into perfect portions and wrapped each in it's official 1 inch thick, 3 inch wide, circle and stacked them neatly in my freezer. I think I need her to rearrange my kitchen next time, she's orderly. I'm chaotic. I remember my Nana would come to visit us and my mother would silently disintegrate at the reorganizing my Nana would do. I wouldn't hate that but then they were both orderly and as I said, I'm most certainly NOT.

All this pastry adoration of my mother's skill and memory lane cruising aside, I wanted to play with pastry today. There are a million website, recipe sites, blogs and YouTube videos of people making pastry. I didn't want to make THEIR pastry, I wanted to master my own. 

After a dizzying hour of online research, I'd had enough of THAT. One of the joys I have at the moment is playing with old recipes and seeing if they (a) still work (b) are timely and doable and (c) are any good at all? I had time today so I went old school. I gathered 5-10 of my most favorite and treasured old lady cookbooks. I have books from 1894 and those up to about 1940 are my favorites. I combed through them and found a pretty consistent 'pat in' pastry. Even someone with hot hands could do THAT I thought so here we go. I made a few batches today and 2 pies and this is my favorite version of the pastry I did and of the pie I did. 

I even emailed this to my mother, the pastry queen, waiting for her input.  I think I may have nailed a pastry that *I* can do and even though mine will always be ugly, I will admit brazenly, this is good pastry! This is crisp and flaky and easier than ANY dessert pie I've ever made.  

I love pie and THIS pastry is going to take to a lot of pie happiness.   Grab a glass of wine, settle in for a read and a look see, this is a goodie.


(Yes, I am taking credit because this is a morph of recipes and processes I found today and some I already did so I combined them and this is my version of it)

PRESS IN Pastry:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tablespoon sugar (omit if you want, for a savory pie)
2 Tablespoons cold milk
1/2 cup flavorless oil (I used vegetable)

Dump ALL the ingredients in a pie plate (I think you should use a glass/pyrex one)
Combine them with a fork until they form a stiff dough
press the dough out to line the pie plate
Prick the bottom with a fork (no need to mess with weights and foil) and bake at 350, on the VERY bottom rack of your oven, for 20-25 minutes for use in recipe that calls for pre-baked pie shell.

You can also use this dough raw and just fill it with buttermilk pie filling :D

Yeah, it's that easy.

Chocolate Pie Filling

1/4 cup cocoa
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk (I use 2% but any will work, not skim though, never use skim... skim is awful)
2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vanilla


2 egg whites (see, saved from the yolks in the filling, brilliant)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar

Quickie instructions:

Pre-bake pie shell, your own or mine.

Combine filling ingredients, EXCEPT butter and vanilla, in a saucepan.
Cook, over medium heat, using a whisk until it's VERY thick, like pudding or custard, actually even thicker. This is the ONLY cooking the filling gets so what you get here is what you get in your pie.
Take off heat and add butter and vanilla.
Put aside, covered.
Whip whites, salt and sugar to thick, glossy, meringue.
Pour chocolate filling into pre-baked pie shell, top with meringue, be SURE to spread meringue to edges of pastry because if there's an opening, the meringue will weep and you won't be nearly as happy as you would have been if you'd have spread your meringue ALL THE WAY to the edges and slightly over the pastry.
Make lovely, swirly points on the meringue
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, just until the tips start to brown ever so slightly.
Remove to rack to cool and TRY not to cut into it while it's warm. It's so VERY VERY good when it's warm but don't do it. Maybe you should just go out.

Slice, eat, watch all your cares and woes float effortlessly out the window, this pie is this good.

Long winded, full commentary, play by play with pictures instructions:

For the filling, just dump it all in the saucepan and whisk it for about 10 minutes.  Truly easy and it's a good chance to have a glass of wine, look out into space and think about things.  You hardly need watch it, it goes from a half lumpy mess to what looks like hot chocolate to suddenly thick and bubbly and like thick custard or pudding.  Just put it aside to rest a moment while we move on.

Here's my fresh from the oven pre-baked shell.  You don't need to bother with those chef-y weights and foil and holding it down and covering and uncovering.  Just prick a ton of holes in the bottom, bake it on the lowest possible rack and you'll be just fine.  Look, no puffing!   I used just the egg whites left from the filling to make the meringue and I'll be honest, it was a little wimpy.  Next time I'll use 4 whites and make a really obnoxious meringue to go on this gem of a pie.  The filling is SO very good that it NEEDS a gigantic meringue.  

ALTERNATIVELY, you could omit the meringue all together and just dollop great voluminous clouds of lightly sweetened whipped cream on this pie and you'd be a rock star.  Your choice.  The shell and filling are already cooked so merely putting them together completes the pie.  The baking of the meringue simply guilds the lily...  well, my lily needed guilding today.  The filling stiffens up waiting for you to make the meringue, just give it a whisk and it's ready to go.

Fill the shell, dollop the meringue on it, spread to the edges and there you go, pie done!

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes and look!! C'mon, you have to admit that's bakery worthy.

I gave the pie away so these are the only shots I have of the enormous (still warm) pieces I cut off it.  It's absolutely delicious, thick, creamy, rich, fudgy, chocolaty, crispy, flaky, soft, pillow-y, yeah, I can't think of enough words to describe this.  Sure, it's sort of ugly today, the edges aren't fluted worth anything and the filling is sort of oozy (because it was too warm) but you HAVE to make this, it's ABSOLUTELY delicious.

Oh look, there's some left, I'll eat it up, for science of course and perhaps we'll make another pretty one tomorrow

Go on, go make this pie, it's waiting for you to make it.  You will be happy forever, truly, 


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