Chocolate Cream Pie
Is there anyone who doesn’t like Chocolate Cream Pie? It’s a true classic, and everyone likes it. You can adjust the chocolate flavour to your taste, by using bittersweet, semisweet, milk chocolate, or any combination of these that you like. Note: it takes a while to cool, so plan on making it the day before you want to serve it.
Don’t let the long recipe scare you. It really isn’t difficult at all. This is made in a similar way to any other cream pie, or even lemon merengue pie, in that the filling is cooked separately on top of the stove, the pie crust is “blind baked”, meaning with nothing in it, and then the cooked and cooled filling is poured into the cooked and cooled crust. It’s always better to make it the day before you need it, as the filling needs to set in the fridge for at least 3 hours, or even longer, before it’s safe to cut a piece without the filling running all over the place. But leave it in the fridge overnight, and you will have picture perfect slices of pie, I promise.
Start by blind baking a single deep dish pie crust. Make sure to prick it all over with a fork before baking, and check it a couple of times during baking to prick any places where the crust is starting to bubble up. You can bake it lined with foil and with pie weights (or dry beans) in it, which ensures no bubbles. I have never done this however, and don’t think it’s really necessary, as long as you keep an eye on it while it’s baking. See my post on basic pie crust if you need further instructions. Also, start heating your 2 cups of milk along with the sugar, stirring occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves.
In a separate bowl, stir together the cornstarch, cocoa powder, instant coffee and salt, and whisk in the 1 cup heavy cream in two batches. Add the egg yolks and whisk till smooth. Once the milk and sugar is hot, pour a ladle-full of hot milk into the egg yolk mixture and whisk well. Do the same with a second ladle of hot mixture into the cold mixture. Then carefully pour the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk on the stove, whisking constantly.
This next stage is what takes the longest. Make sure that the water in the bottom of the double boiler is kept at a constant simmer, in order to evenly heat the milk in the top pot. As it heats up, it will slowly thicken. You will need to stand at the stove and stir very often, if not constantly. The more you stir, the less the chance of getting lumpy filling. Keep stirring to move the filling all around, and to give all the filling a chance to be on the bottom of the pot where the heat is, so that it can thicken evenly.
Once your filling is nice and thick, remove the pot from the heat, and add the chocolate and the butter, along with the vanilla.
Stir this all in well, until you can’t see any butter or chocolate chunks and the filling is smooth. This is where you get to taste it. Yes, you will have to sacrifice yourself for the good of the whole. You need to ensure that the texture is velvety smooth. If it has any nasty little lumps of egg yolk in it, you will have to push the filling through a fine sieve to get rid of them. This is why all that stirring was necessary. Aren’t you glad you followed my instructions and stirred it all that time?
Now it needs to sit at room temperature until it has cooled. Cover the surface with plastic wrap or wax paper to prevent a skin from forming.
Once the filling is at room temperature, pour it into the cooled pie shell. Cover the top of the filling again, and put the whole thing into the fridge for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Try to make sure that you cover the filling only, but leave the edges of the crust uncovered. This way the crust won’t go soggy while it’s in the fridge. To serve, cut the pie into 6 or 8 pieces, and top each piece with a dollop of whipped cream. The recipe has instructions for making your own, or you can just buy a can of spray cream. Another option is to use the three egg whites you have leftover to make a meringue topping. I didn’t do that, so I can’t show you that step. But if you want to do it, just follow the instructions. It won’t be difficult.
A true classic, Chocolate Cream Pie is a favourite of everyone. You can adjust the chocolate flavour to your taste, by using bittersweet, semisweet, milk chocolate, or any combination of these that you like. Note: it takes a while to cool, so plan on making it the day before you want to serve it.
- 1 baked deep-dish pie shell
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups milk*
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder, optional; for richer chocolate flavour**
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 cup heavy cream, divided
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pre-measure the chopped chocolate, butter, and vanilla extract and set aside.
- In the top of a double boiler*** start heating 2 cups of milk with the 2/3 cup sugar. The water in the bottom of the double boiler should be at a low boil to provide constant steam heat to the top of the double boiler. If you can’t see bubbles breaking the surface of the water, you need to turn the heat up. On my stove, somewhere between medium and med-high gives me the right results. Cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until the milk is hot.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, cocoa, espresso powder, and salt. Whisk in ½ cup of cold heavy cream until the mixture is smooth, with no lumps, and then whisk in the remaining ½ cup heavy cream and the egg yolks.
- Ladle some of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking quickly, to temper the yolks. Do this twice. Then pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining hot milk, whisking constantly.
- Bring to a boil, stirring often with a whisk, until the mixture thickens. Because you are using a double boiler, the filling will not boil. To ensure that you have cooked the filling long enough, keep cooking and stirring for several minutes after it has thickened. Stir well to give all the filling access to the hotter, bottom part of the pot.
- Remove from the heat. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl – Straining is optional and I find it necessary only if I have not used a double boiler. Best way to know is to taste it. If you have little lumps of cooked egg in your filling, you will need to strain it.
- Stir in the butter, vanilla, and chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted. Place plastic wrap or buttered parchment paper on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, place pot on a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Pour into the prebaked pie shell, cover filling with plastic wrap, and store in the fridge for at least 3 hours (preferably overnight) before serving. The filling must be cold to hold its shape when you cut the pie into slices.
- Serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top. You can use the canned stuff if you don’t want to whip your own.
- 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.
- 3 large egg whites (reserved from filling)
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
- 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) water
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place the egg whites in a clean bowl with clean beaters. Add the pinch of salt.
- In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Whip the egg whites until they turn white and the whisk begins to leave tracks in the bowl. Slowly add the hot sugar syrup, and continue beating until the whites make stiff peaks.
- Pipe or spoon the meringue over the top of the filled, chilled pie, making sure you cover the filling completely.
- Place the pie in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the top of the meringue is golden brown. Remove from the oven and refrigerate until ready to serve.
1. *You can use whole or 2% milk. But I wouldn’t recommend using 1% or skim as they are too watery. 2. **If you don’t have espresso powder, use instant coffee granules. Crush between two spoons to make a powder. 3. ***You can use a medium saucepan here instead of a double boiler, but you must be extra careful to heat the mixture slowly and to stir constantly. Also, I recommend that you pour the thickened custard through a fine sieve into a bowl before adding the chocolate. This will remove any lumps of cooked egg. This rarely is necessary using a double boiler, which is why I always use one for thickened fillings and puddings like this.