Project Chocolate Cream Pie

by Bryan on October 8, 2009

ccp-sliceSo one of my important culinary goals for a while has been to develop a really good Chocolate Cream Pie recipe. As I sit to write this I am suddenly struck by why I have not tried to find a recipe, but I haven’t. Instead I have decided I need to make one myself.

At the risk of scarring people away, I’ll be upfront with my inspiration. It is the Frisch’s chocolate cream pie. It has always been one of my favorite childhood memories. And although the little plastic monkey and giraffe animals included in the Children’s meals competes, the chocolate cream pie is a clear winner.

Unfortunately the chocolate cream pie is no longer a daily entry on the menu. And frankly, it has either changed, or my memory has elevated it beyond its rightful place. So, if you can get past the inspiration, here is my attempt at the pie of my memories.

Essentially what I planned to do was take a pudding recipe I have, fold in whip cream and then add more whip cream on top. Thanks to the Tamale challenge, I had some lard, so this would also be my first attempt at a pie crust with lard.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Ironically, for an obviously decadent dessert, the pudding recipe I have is one I adapted from Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen: 200 Easy Recipes for Healthy Weight Loss. Oh sweet, sweet irony. I have tweaked it slightly over the years and also increased it 50% for this recipe to have enough for pie filling. I pretty much bake by weights now (thanks to Alton Brown) so you will need a digital scale to follow this recipe.

  • ccp-Ingredients72g sugar
  • 33g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups low-fat or skim milk
  • 45g bittersweet/semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Add milk to first three ingredients and whisk
  2. Cook in Microwave for 2 minutes
  3. Stir mixture and return for another 2 minutes. Repeat until you get the “donut”

    ccp-donut
    It should also be noticeably thicker.

  4. Add the chopped chocolate and stir. For my microwave it usually ends up being 6 minutes, add chocolate and then nuke for one last minute.
  5. Cool 5 minutes, add vanilla

You need to put this in the refrigerator and allow it to cool completely. Overnight probably makes the most sense. If you place plastic wrap on the surface you can prevent a skin forming, which you do not want for the pie.

What I like about this recipe is the opportunity to kick it up, if I want. I used Hershey’s cocoa and Nestle’s morsels this time, but have also done it with Scharffen Berger cocoa and higher end chocolate. This is a killer pudding recipe.

The Crust

The next step is the crust. I highly recommend the pie crust recipe on page 162 of Alton Brown’s book I’m Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking. It makes a great pie crust. I am not going to include the recipe here, because the book contains a lot of very helpful tips you should know for pulling this crust off. This is my favorite baking book.

I am still trying to perfect the aesthetics of this crust. Frankly I am way too conservative about how thin to roll it out, so my crust looked like this:

ccp-Crust

Folding

Once you have a chilled pudding mixture, and a cooled pie shell, you need to fold in the whip cream. My whip cream recipe is pretty simple:

1 Cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

The key technique is to chill the mixing bowl and whisk. I use my trusty Kitchen Aid on high. Since I used the whip cream both to add volume to the pudding, and as a topping, I used a pint of whipping cream (2 cups) but still prepared in separate batches. One cup folded into the pudding, the other put on top.

Folding is an art I am still learning. I won’t go into the technique here, look online for some good instruction. Or better yet, refer to Alton’s “The Art of Darkness” episode. Go to the 4:11 mark here. He is making mousse:

Let’s look at the progress:

The pudding is mixed:
ccp-Filling1

1/3 is mixed into pudding:
ccp-Filling2

The final 2/3’s folded in (1/3 at a time):
ccp-Filling3

Note, there will still be streaks of whip cream appearing in the mixture, that is OK.

Add it to the pie crust:
ccp-Pie1

“Unfortunately” there will be more filling than will fit. I recommend you properly dispose of the extra in a nice bowl with a spoon.

Last step we make up the whip cream for the topping and add with a pastry bag:
ccp-Pie2

Here is the key thing for this pie. It needs time to set. I failed to give it time, so it was not quite the firm cream pie I sought. Next day it looked much better, but was not quite as tall since I cut it too early. Here is a closeup from the next day:

ccp-closeup

You can see it is not as tall as it should have been, you can also clearly see the crust is a little too thick.

How to Improve

Actually I think I would not change much. I could cut back on the pudding, double the whip cream in and out, but I actually liked the looser texture of this pie. I will definitely do it the day before. It made a better presentation the next day.

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