Chocolate Heaven Pie & Tools of the Pie Trade

Friday, October 30, 2009
I'm including this post in Michael's Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum. Thanks for hosting Michael!

Quick reminder to get entered in for my giveaway...only a few short days left.

Chocolate pie was a staple in my grandma's holiday baking. Everyone loved her chocolate pie...especially my Uncle Ricky. Grandma didn't keep recipes or even own a cookbook and no one really knows how she made those fabulous pies. Whenever I see a recipe I am always compelled to give it a try. Usually there is no measuring up but this recipe from Farmhand's Favorite Pies is pretty close. The authors note is that the better the chocolate you use, the better your pie will be. I used the Scharffen Berger chocolate that foodie son give me for my birthday last month. The pie lived up to it's name and my memories.

Chocolate Heaven Cream Pie

¼ c Dutch-Processed Cocoa
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2/3 c granulated sugar
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¼ tsp salt
3 cups milk
2 eggs

1 c heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
Chocolate shavings or cocoa powder

1 prebaked pie shell

In a medium-heavy gauge saucepan mix together the cocoa, cornstarch, sugar, salt, and milk. Over medium heat bring mixture to a full boil. Remove from the heat. Add ¼ cup of the hot cocoa mixture to eggs, mix together, and add back into the saucepan. Cook until mixture returns to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolates, butter, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture through a strainer. Pour into the prepared pie shell and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate.

Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla. Spoon over the cooled chocolate filling. Sprinkle the chocolate shavings or cocoa over the whipped cream.

Makes 1 9-inch pie.

Tools of the Pie Trade

Pastry Blenders – A pastry blender or cutter is a hand powered kitchen tool used to cut hard fats into flour in order to make pastry. I grew up in a home where one was never used. My Mom has this technique of using a large meat fork to affect the same result. My husband’s grandmother showed the joys of using a pastry blender. I also use mine to chop boiled eggs for egg salad, avocado for guacamole, etc. In my opinion it is one of those low tech tools that earns it’s drawer space. Many people have replaced this gadget with the food processor. I’ll have to take their word that the food processor does as good a job. I don’t have one.

Pastry Boards – I remember my Mom having this plastic mat contraption made by Tupperware that you rolled out and then rolled your pastry on. She hated it and that experience really tainted my view of pastry boards. After all, isn’t the floured countertop good enough? I never used a pastry board until a few years ago when my husband bought me one made by Bethany Housewares. I’m not quite sure what possessed him to buy it and I was totally prepared to hate it, but alas, I love it. It really makes rolling pie crust (and lefse) a breeze. I know a lot of people swear by marble pastry boards and they sure would help keep everything cold but I’ve never tried one. I notice that Pampered Chef now has one of the mats (reminiscent of that Tupperware mat of my Mom’s) available. I also have never used one of them either (maybe someone who has will chime in here). In my very limited experience, I really like the cloth covered pastry board that I use but also acknowledge that a well floured countertop is just about as good.

Rolling Pins – What type of rolling pin you use will vary by your personal preference. There are lots to choose from, from ice-filled glass pins to wooden, metal, marble, nonstick, plastic and silicone rolling pins. The good news is: You can have success with any of the above and turn out pastry that everyone will enjoy. The trick is not to use too much flour when you are rolling pastry. If you've used the same type of rolling pin and you struggle most of the time to achieve perfect pastry, a change in type of rolling pin may solve your pastry problems. I've used a wooden pin for eons and could not imagine using anything else. My husband prefers a heavy one and mine is very petite compared to his. One tip for your rolling pin…if it is wooden, don’t let water EVER touch it. Just wipe it clean and try hard to not think about germs.

Tins & Pie Plates – For optimum results (and we all want optimum results), use a glass or a dull-metal pie pan. Avoid shiny metal or disposable aluminum pans, which reflect heat and prevent your crusts from browning well. Dark pans may cause crusts to brown too quickly. Avoid pans with holes in the bottom.

Pastry Shields – Nothing is more frustrating than making an otherwise perfect pie with an overly browned crust. This is really common in long baking custard type pies…like pumpkin. Fortunately, avoiding the over-cooked crust quandary couldn’t be easier. The solution? A simple pie shield. A pie shield is a lightweight reusable aluminum ring fits snugly atop a homemade or frozen crust without sticking to the dough or damaging fluted decoration. It prevents over-browning on the edges and encourages rising in the middle. The result? One picture-perfect pie with a lovely golden crust! Pastry shields are pretty inexpensive and readily available at kitchen specialty shops but a well placed piece of foil will give the same results. Nice to have but not a necessity in my book.

Pie Birds – Pie Birds or Pie Funnels as they are called in England are "steam vents" that have been placed in the center of fruit and meat pies (while cooking) since Victorian Times. Pie Funnels were used in baking pies and prevent the pie from boiling over in the oven by allowing the steam created when the fruit filling or other contents are cooking to escape from inside the pie. They also supported the pastry crust in the center of the pie, so that it did not sag in the middle. They are made from ceramic. Pie birds are very collectable and although I like them and own a few, I tend to not use them much for actual pie making.